Migraines are one of the most common and debilitating medical ailments. The American Migraine Foundation estimates that migraines affect up to 148 million people worldwide. More than 37 million people live with this condition in the U.S. alone. Migraine research and treatments are complex because they stem from a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle-related factors (including sleep, diet, and stress). Keep reading to learn more about migraine remedies you can try at home.
What are Migraines?
Migraines are headaches that can cause severe pain that usually affect one side of the head and feel like pricks or throbbing. Migraines often cause nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last for hours or even days, and the pain can be so intense that it often interferes with a person's ability to carry out daily activities.
What Causes Migraines?
The neurological mechanism that causes migraines still isn’t fully understood by scientists. While the root cause of migraines is unknown, there are certain factors that often trigger migraines. Among these, the most common are:
- Certain foods and beverages. In many cases, red wine and other types of alcohol, aged cheeses, and chocolate can cause migraines.
- Certain food additives. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates and nitrites (used in sausages and cured meats), and some artificial sweeteners can trigger migraines.
- Sleep disturbances. Migraines can also be caused by irregular sleep patterns, or too little or too much sleep.
- Hormonal changes. Migraines are more common in women. Birth control pills and natural hormonal fluctuations induced by menstrual periods, pregnancy, or menopause are other common causes.
- Emotional distress. Stress and anxiety can cause migraines in people who are prone to them.
- Dehydration. Dehydration is a common trigger of migraines, which is why it’s important to drink enough water every day.
- Environmental factors. Strong smells, bright light, loud noises, and sudden temperature changes are known to trigger migraines.
Can Migraines Be Prevented?
Prevention is always the best route. The best approach to treating a migraine is to prevent it from happening in the first place. These headaches often occur when certain triggers are activated, making it important to avoid them as best you can. Here are some ways you can prevent migraines.
Maintain a Healthy and Balanced Diet
In addition to avoiding foods that can trigger migraines, eating a balanced and healthy diet is essential for your overall health. Avoid skipping meals, since fluctuating blood glucose caused by irregular eating can trigger a migraine. To determine if something you eat is a trigger, try keeping a food diary. When you have an attack, look at what you ate the day before and look for a pattern. Keep in mind that some foods may cause a migraine immediately while others may have a delayed effect of up to 24 hours.
Drink Enough Water
Dehydration is one of the most common migraine triggers, so it’s essential to drink enough water to prevent an attack. This is because when the body is dehydrated, it activates a series of reactions to retain water. One of these is the contraction of blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to the brain and cause a migraine episode. Drinking enough water every day is vital for your health in general.
Avoid Stressful Situations
According to the National Headache Foundation, stressful situations can also trigger migraines. That’s why avoiding stress is so important. If this isn’t possible and you’re going through a tough time, try using the coping techniques in this article.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Improve Your Sleep Habits
Sleep disturbances are another common cause of migraines. Too much or too little sleep can be problematic. When you’re suffering from a migraine, this may prevent you from sleeping properly. Consider taking the following steps to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
- Do relaxation exercises before bedtime
- Avoid using electronic devices in bed
- Don’t eat or drink too much before bedtime (avoid alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon and evening)
- Exercise daily but not right before bedtime
- Don’t take long naps in the afternoon
Exercise can be an excellent way to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine symptoms as well as the duration of attacks. Any type of physical activity can help prevent a migraine, but some studies have shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most effective.
Avoid Strong Odors
When most people’s olfactory systems sense a strong odor for a prolonged period of time, the nervous system often reacts by decreasing the perception of the smell. However, some people are hypersensitive to certain smells. Rather than their perception of and response to the strong odor decreasing over time, their brain activity increases, sometimes causing migraines.
Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine where practitioners insert single-use stainless steel needles into specific points on the body to stimulate nerve endings which influence certain ailments. Studies indicate that this practice is effective in reducing the symptoms and frequency of migraines in some patients.
5 Home Remedies for Migraines
There are many types of medications that can be used to treat a migraine. These medications help relieve pain and help with other symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Consult your doctor before taking any of them.
In addition to medications, there are other home remedies that don’t involve the use of drugs and can help reduce pain and discomfort. Here are the most effective migraine remedies you can use at home.
1. Apply a Cold Compress
One of the most commonly recommended migraine remedies is applying a cold compress. These can be placed on your temples, the back of your head, or the back of your neck. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to your head or neck causes a temporary numbing effect, which can dull the sensation of pain. To make a reusable cold pack at home, follow the instructions in this video.
2. Avoid Light and Noise
Migraines can be exacerbated by exposure to light and sound. Try to take a break from screens and rest in a quiet room with the curtains closed. Spending some time away from these stimuli can do wonders for your headache and speed up recovery.
3. Take Vitamin B2
Eating foods rich in vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, can help relieve and prevent migraines. This vitamin is found mainly in milk, eggs, leafy green vegetables, organ meats, barley malt, and yeast.
4. Take Butterbur Supplements
Butterbur (petasites hybridus) is a plant that’s been used since ancient times to relieve headaches. Some recent studies have shown that this natural supplement appears to alleviate pain caused by migraines as well. You can find butterbur capsules or tablets online or at many regular or naturopathic pharmacies.
5. Drink an Infusion with Feverfew
Feverfew (tanacetum parthenium) is an herb that’s been used to treat headaches and migraines for centuries. You can drink a cup of this herbal tea when you feel a headache coming on. You can also find feverfew in capsule or pill form to take as a dietary supplement.
Still Having Trouble with Migraines? See Your Doctor or Specialist
Migraines generally aren’t a serious condition that require immediate medical attention. If they impact your daily life and prevent you from doing what you need to do, it’s important to visit your healthcare provider for help creating a plan of action.
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Take Control of Your Migraines!
We hope you find the information provided helpful in preventing and handling migraines. Living with this condition can be tough, but with proper treatment and care, migraines can be manageable. Do you have any tips or techniques that have worked for you that aren’t included in this article? Share your experiences with us on our Facebook page! The core purpose of our community is to help one another.