While there is no known cure for migraines, there are ways to manage and treat symptoms to get relief from migraines. And for those who experience migraines, anything that relieves the pain and symptoms of them or reduces their frequency is welcome.
Nothing works for every patient, but here are some ideas to consider:
1. Try Moderate Cardio Exercise
With regular, moderate cardio workouts (three times a week for three months) you may notice that your migraines become less frequent. The endorphins produced during exercise may serve as natural painkillers, and the exercise could help eliminate stress.
Spending 40 minutes cycling, swimming or jogging may be at least as effective as taking prescription topamirate drugs—and without the side effects, such as tremors, depression or cognitive problems.
If you try cardio exercise, keep your workouts slow and steady and your heart rate below 150 beats per minute. As a rule of thumb, your workouts should not have you panting.
As with anything health related, if incorporating exercise into your daily regimen is new to you, it’s always best to consult your physician for advice before beginning.
2. Eliminate Migraine Triggers
Certain foods, additives, environmental conditions and activities can trigger migraines. The trick is to identify your particular triggers because they are different for every migraine sufferer. To help you and your healthcare provider isolate your triggers, keep a journal of foods, environmental factors and activities that precede your migraines.
For many patients, trigger management is an effective way to avoid migraines. Some of the more common triggers suggested are the meat tenderizer MSG, nitrates in meats and smoked fish, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, aged cheeses and red wine.
Possible environmental triggers include bright lights, loud noises and changes in weather or altitude. Finally, irregular sleeping patterns and poor eating habits are also potential triggers. So, sleeping and eating better may be a solution to better manage your migraines.
3. Manage Hormones
The reason more women get migraines than men may be hormonal. When estrogen levels drop before a menstrual period, some women suffer migraines. You may want to discuss low-dose estrogen or holistic treatments with your gynecologist.
4. Begin BOTOX® Treatment
Botulinum toxin (BOTOX®), approved for cosmetic treatment almost 15 years ago, is now an FDA-approved migraine treatment. For some patients, it is proving to be effective in reducing the frequency of migraines and preventing the headaches. Treatment requires 31 shots in seven locations on the head and neck, injected every 12 weeks.
If this is something you want to consider, you’ll need to consult with your physician to understand the risks and potential outcomes.
5. Pierce Your Ears
Not all types of ear piercing will work, but a specific technique, called Daith, pierces the midline external ear cartilage toward the front of the ear and near the opening of the ear canal. While this treatment doesn’t work for everyone and results are anecdotal, at the least you’ll have a small hoop earring to show off. The logic behind Daith piercing is that the location is an acupuncture spot. If you get good results from the traditional Chinese treatment, Daith may work for you.
6. Stick It to Your Headache
Acupressure and acupuncture both may provide long-term benefits—and with no side effects. Squeeze the web of your hand between thumb and forefinger; it may help relieve migraine pain. Research on acupuncture, however, suggests some promising, if not conclusive, results.1
7. Treat Your Migraine to an Aromatherapy
Essential oils, including peppermint, lavender and basil oils, might do a lot more than smell good. They may help ease your migraine by relaxing the muscles and nervous system around the skull and regulating vascular blood flow. Essential oils should be diluted in a carrier—such as sweet almond or apricot kernel oil—before applying them topically to your temples and around your hairline. You also can use essential oils in aromatherapy treatment. Peppermint and basil oil are not recommended, however, for pregnant women or patients with seizures, inflamed gallbladder or reflux disease. Check with your physician before trying them.
8. Supplement Your Migraine
Several vitamins, herbs, micronutrients and minerals are thought to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. While they may be effective, supplements are not always safe for pregnant women or taken in conjunction with other medications. Before trying any of these, consult your healthcare provider. Some of the more common supplements include:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) to protect cells from oxidative damage.
- CoQ10 for blood vessel health.
- Butterbur to support healthy blood flow in the brain.
- Magnesium for nerve function. One study recommends treating all migraine patients with magnesium.2
- Feverfew and white willow bark to reduce frequency, intensity and duration of migraines.
- Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils and flaxseed.
Finding Your Migraine Relief
If you want to relieve your migraines or reduce their frequency, talk with your doctor about what might work best for you. Since effectiveness of each option varies for each migraine sufferer, finding your path to relief may take a little experimentation.
2 Mauskop A, Varughese J. “Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22426836. Accessed April 4, 2016.BOTOX® is a registered trademark of Allergan.