Caffeine, massage, ginger, and over-the-counter pain relievers are just a few of the methods used to help ease migraine pain. Identifying your triggers — and taking other medications — may even help prevent the pain altogether.
A migraine is more than just a headache. It’s a complex neurological condition that can cause a variety of symptoms.
If you have migraine, you know how painful the condition can be — and how difficult it can be to make a migraine headache go away. Prevention and early action when a migraine strikes are key to keeping this condition under control.
Here are 12 tips you can try to help treat your migraine early and keep it from getting worse.
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1. Apply a cold compress
If you’ve ever put an ice pack on an injury or a heating pad on a sore back, you know the power of temperature therapy. This can also help when you have a migraine.
Cold therapy has been used to treat migraine for more than 100 years, but there are few scientific studies to suggest why it can help relieve pain for some people. Some theories have suggested that cold therapy can help constrict blood vessels or slow the nerve signals involved with migraine pain.
Even recent studies haven’t pinpointed exactly how cold can help relieve migraine painTrusted Source, but two recent studies did find that ice bands around the neckTrusted Source, or ice packs applied at the onset of a migraine could significantly reduce the perception of migraine pain.
You may need to experiment to decide what feels best for you. Some people find that an ice pack applied to the head offers soothing, numbing relief. This is particularly helpful if sun or heat brought on your migraine.
2. Find a quiet, dark place to relax
Sensitivity to light and sound is one of the most common migraine symptoms. Get away from these things if you can. This can help you find relief from your pain and can alleviate stress.
Lie down and pay attention to your breathing. Try taking slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm. Feel your stomach rise with the inhale and fall with the exhale. This can help you relax.
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Dehydration can cause headaches and even migraine, but new research shows hydration can reduce and possibly even prevent headache pain. In the study, people who drank their recommended daily water intake had headaches that were:
- less frequent
- less severe
- shorter in duration
If you don’t regularly drink enough water, increasing your intake may both help reduce your migraine pain and prevent repeat attacks.
4. Try caffeine
A cup of coffee may help stop a migraine. Many over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine because it can enhance the effects of the medication.
Just make sure you don’t drink toomuch. Drinking more than one cup of coffee could set you up for a caffeine withdrawal headache later.
People with migraine who use caffeine more than 3 days per week may develop a dependency. This can lead to more headaches. Moderation is key with caffeine, but it helps many people find relief.
5. Address teeth grinding or excessive chewing
People have to eat to survive, and chewing is an important part of eating. However, studies suggest that excessive chewing might be linked to more headaches and even migraine. Researchers focused on gum-chewing for the study and found that tension headaches and migraine were more common in people who chewed gum frequently.
While you can’t avoid eating, you may want to rethink chewing gum if you regularly experience migraine. You may also want to consider if you clench or grind your teeth while sleeping, as this could have a similar effect.
Things like extreme stress, a change in sleeping habits, and even strenuous physical activity have been linked to migraine.
While deep breathing and relaxation exercises alone may not cure a migraine completely, these techniques have been shown to lower stress levels and may shorten the duration and severity of migraine pain. Regular meditation and stress-reduction strategies can also help prevent migraine from developing in the first place.
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7. Get a massage
A massage might be a good way to relax and practice self-care, but it can also help relieve tension and may even prevent headaches and migraine. One study found that 8 out of 10 people had their headache pain cut in half with just one massage treatment, and most reported nearly immediate relief.
Where you get a massage can play a role, too. Research on pressure points and reflexology in managing headaches suggests that even massages on the feet, hands, and earlobes may help relieve migraine pain.
8. Eat ginger
Some foods can trigger migraine, but others can help get rid of them. Ginger is one of these foods. A new study found that ginger was able to reduce migraine pain significantly in 2 hours, as well as reducing the nausea and vomiting that might be associated with migraine.
While most of the studies used ginger powders, there are all kinds of products that might offer relief, including teas and candies.
9. Take medication
Medications are the first thing many people look to when they have a headache, and migraine headaches are no different in this sense. There are many products that can help relieve migraine pain. These can include over-the-counter pain relievers and more targeted prescription therapies.
Below is a list of medications that are used for treating acute migraine pain:
- acetaminophen (Excedrin, Tylenol)
- diclofenac (Cataflam)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- naproxen (Aleve)
- almotriptan (Axert)
- eletriptan (Relpax)
- frovatriptan (Frova)
- naratriptan (Amerge)
- rizatriptan (Maxalt, Maxalt-MLT)
- sumatriptan (Imitrex)
- sumatriptan and naproxen (Treximet)
- zolmitriptan (Zomig)
- metoclopramide (Reglan)
- prochlorperazine (Compazine)
- promethazine (Phenergan)
- dihydroergotamine (DHE-45, Migranal)
- ketorolac (Toradol)
Other medications may also be used, but the goal of these medications will be to prevent migraine rather than to treat them. Examples include:
- divalproex (Depakote)
- metoprolol (Lopressor)
- propranolol (Inderal)
- timolol (Istalol)
- topiramate (Topimax)
- atenolol (Tenormin)
- nadolol (Corgard)
- naratriptan (amerge)
- vanlafaxine (Effexor)
Which of these medications — or combination of medications — you use will depend on your individual health, other medications you’re taking, the severity of your migraine, and your symptoms. For migraine prevention, avoiding triggers is key.
10. Recognize triggers
If you suffer from regular migraine, talk to your doctor about how to prevent them from happening. One of the best ways to do this is to identify and avoid things that can trigger your migraine.
Many doctors recommend that their patients with migraine keep a journal of what they ate or what they were doing when they developed a migraine to look for patterns. Everyone has different triggers and these can range from sleep patterns to certain foods. Even a lack of food, and the low blood sugar or hypoglycemia that results, can lead to a migraine.
If you have identified your triggers, try to avoid them. If you haven’t, consider keeping a headache diary to track your triggers. There are even appsTrusted Source available that can help track and analyze your triggers.
11. Treat it early
When it comes to treating your migraine, timing is everything. Waiting too long to address your migraine symptoms or take preventive steps can increase how often —and how severely — a migraine strikes.
Some people get warning signs called auras that tell them a migraine is coming. The American Migraine Foundation recommends taking your medication during the prodromal phase of the attack. A prodrome is a warning sign that a migraine is developing. Treating your symptoms in the early stages is your best chance at avoiding a more severe migraine.
One challenge of early treatment is knowing the signs. Prodromal signs can vary widely between people, but they often include things like:
- sensitivity to light or sound
- mood changes such irritability, anxiety, or euphoria
- trouble concentrating
- food cravings, usually carbohydrates
- fatigue or yawning
If you’ve had migraine headaches for a long time, you may be able to easily spot your prodromal symptoms. This will help you be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to treating your pain. If you have migraine headaches frequently or without much notice, you may want to keep your migraine medications with you at all times so you can take them as soon as an attack begins.
12. Make a treatment plan
Developing a good relationship with the doctor who is helping you manage your migraine is important. Review your symptoms and triggers with your doctor. Together, you can create a treatment plan that will not only help you manage the pain when a migraine happens, but keep them from developing in the first place.
A good treatment plan should include:
- identifying the type of migraine you have
- identifying triggers
- avoiding triggers
- taking steps to promote good overall health, including getting enough sleep and eating well
- staying hydrated
- identifying medications and other strategies to help prevent migraine
- establishing a plan for acute migraine treatment
- talking to your doctor about when to seek additional help
When to call your doctor
The intense pain that comes with a migraine can be intense and debilitating. Talk to your doctor about when to seek emergency treatment.
Intense pain isn’t usually considered an emergency, but if that pain is interfering with your ability to complete your daily tasks, it’s definitely a situation that requires more care. If you can’t get an appointment with your doctor, you may want to consider emergency or urgent care services.
You should seek treatment immediately if you have an intense headache that causes things like:
- uncontrollable vomiting
- loss of consciouness
- seizures or convulsions
- blurred vision or other vision changes
- loss of balance or coordination
- a pounding in your chest or high blood pressure
There are many things you can do to prevent and treat migraine pain, but not there isn’t one treatment that works all the time for everyone.
The key to treating migraine is to know and avoid your triggers, treat symptoms early, and find medications or therapies that work best to relieve your specific type of migraine pain.
You should also develop a support system to lean on when a migraine strikes. You may be limited in what you’re able to do while dealing with migraine pain, and support from others is a powerful coping tool.
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