It only takes one or two full-blown migraines to make a person ready to try just about anything to make them go away.
In the United States, more than 37 million people suffer from migraines. Almost 5 million experience at least one migraine attack per month, while more than 11 million blame migraines for causing moderate to severe disability.
A migraine is a strong, pounding headache on one or both sides of the head. Among the many factors that cause migraine headaches, changes in the amount of a chemical called serotonin in your body is a prominent one.
When serotonin levels are high, your blood vessels shrink. When serotonin levels are low, your blood vessels swell. This swelling can cause pain and other problems.
A 2015 study published in the American Headache Society reports that the prevalence of migraine headaches is high, affecting roughly 1 out of every 7 Americans annually.
Migraines and headaches are among the leading reasons that people see a doctor, including outpatient and emergency department visits. It remains an important public health problem, particularly among women during their reproductive years .
Also, a 2016 report by World Health Organization notes that half to three-quarters of adults 18 to 65 years old worldwide have had a headache in the last year and, among those individuals, 30 percent or more have reported having a migraine .
Apart from a strong headache, migraines also cause symptoms including sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, visual aura, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
Living with migraine headaches can be really tough. While medications can help treat migraines, you can keep migraines under control with healthy habits and simple non medical remedies as well.
Here are the top 10 ways to deal with migraine headaches.
1. Use Cold Therapy
When suffering from a migraine headache, apply cold compresses to your head and/or neck. Ice packs have a numbing effect, which may dull the pain.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2006 reports that cold application alone may be effective in some patients suffering from migraine attacks. However, its combination with conventional drugs should be investigated in future studies .
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean towel.
- Place it on your temples, forehead and/or the back of your neck for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat as needed.
Caution: Never apply ice directly on the skin, as it can cause frostbite.
2. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger can help ease headaches caused by many conditions, including migraines.
Its anti-inflammatory nature helps block prostaglandins, which are chemicals that promote muscle contractions, impact hormones and regulate inflammation in blood vessels in the brain.
A 2014 study published in Phytotherapy Research indicates that the effectiveness of ginger powder in decreasing migraine severity and duration was statistically comparable to the prescription drug sumatriptan, and with fewer side effects .
Drink ginger tea up to 3 times throughout the day until you get relief. To make ginger tea:
- Add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger to 1½ cups of water.
- Bring the water to a boil, then cover and let it steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain it and add a little raw honey and lemon juice.
3. Get Massage Therapy
You can also try massaging therapy to prevent and treat an oncoming migraine.
Massage helps ease migraine headaches by blocking pain signals sent to the brain. It also boosts serotonin activity and stimulates certain serotonin receptors, which in turn ease the pain as well as reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
Massage even improves sleep quality and improves perceived stress and coping skills.
A 2006 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that massage therapy helps in the treatment of migraines .
- Apply some warm mustard or olive oil on your forehead.
- Using your fingers, gently massage in a circular motion the middle of the forehead and temples.
- Massage for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat as needed.
4. Take More Magnesium
Magnesium can help reduce migraine attacks. It is particularly beneficial when a migraine is related to a woman’s menstrual period or in people who have abnormally low levels of magnesium.
A study published in Headache in 2001 shows that 1 gram of intravenous magnesium sulfate is an efficient, safe and well-tolerated drug in the treatment of migraine attacks .
A 2013 study published in Headache reports that taking daily magnesium supplements can be effective at preventing menstrual-related migraines .
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, researchers found that a magnesium deficiency may be present in up to half of migraine patients, and treatment with oral magnesium is beneficial .
- Include food in your diet that naturally contains magnesium. Some foods rich in magnesium are dark leafy greens (spinach and chard), pumpkin seeds, almonds, mackerel, tuna, low-fat yogurt, black beans, lentils, avocados, figs, bananas and dark chocolate.
- You can also take magnesium supplements. For the correct dosage, consult your doctor first.
5. Have Acupuncture/Acupressure
Whether acupuncture or acupressure, both these techniques can help deal with migraine headaches.
In acupuncture, fine needles are used to apply pressure to specific points on the body to relieve pain and other symptoms. In acupressure, fingers are used to apply the pressure.
A 2012 study published in CMAJ found that acupuncture is at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy for migraines, and it is safe, long-lasting and cost-effective .
Another study published in Pain Management Nursing in 2014 reports that acupressure has been shown to be effective for relieving a variety of pains in different populations .
Some of the acupressure points, which when stimulated can reduce headache pain, include Joining the Valley (L 14 or He Gu), Third Eye Point (GV 24.5 or Yin Tang), Drilling Bamboo (B2 or Bright Light), Bigger Rushing (LV 3 or Great Surge), Above Tears (GB 41 or Zu Lin Qi) and Wind Mansion (GV 16 or Feng Fu).
6. Drink Coffee
A cup of strong coffee may be all you need to get relief from migraine symptoms. The caffeine in coffee restricts blood vessels and blocks certain receptors that could be causing the pain. In fact, caffeine is present in some migraine medications.
A study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain in 2017 provides evidence for the role of caffeine as an analgesic adjuvant in the acute treatment of primary headache with over-the-counter drugs, caffeine doses of 130 mg enhance the efficacy of analgesics in tension-type headaches and doses of ≥100 mg enhance benefits in migraines .
However, when it comes to coffee, you need to drink it in moderation. Too much caffeine may actually cause a migraine. It may also lead to a severe caffeine withdrawal headache. Do not take more than one or two cups of coffee a day.