Steps to Beating a Migraine Every Time

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.

Migraines cause pain as real as the pain of injuries — with one difference: Healthy habits and simple nonmedical remedies sometimes stop migraines before they start.

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 pain but two recent studies did find that ice bands around the neck 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.

Walking (yes, walking).

“I walk about six to eight miles a day. It helps my body, but it also helps reduce my stress levels so I can stave off a migraine. I use a health app on my phone to track my steps, and for a while I was very competitive-I’m not competitive with other people, but I am with myself-and I’d be thinking, Oh I can make nine miles today if I made eight yesterday! Lately, I’ve been slacking down to six miles or so a day, but it’s great therapy.”

Hydrate

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.

Yoga.

“I’m a little erratic with yoga, because I like to have a good 90 minutes to be able to do the full practice the way I like to do it. I practice usually by myself, but I also love to be with a teacher whenever I can. And when I can’t do the full 90 minutes, it’s important to get a good stretch in-even just a morning or evening sun salutation; whatever you can do to keep your spine supple. As long as your spine is healthy, the rest of you is healthy too.”

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.

Meditation.

“Meditation helps me a lot in terms of stress. I meditate before bed. It’s been born out of my yoga practice and teachers I’ve had over the years. I have to leave my day in the day, and I don’t want to take it into my dreams-I do a lot of work in my dreams! So I want to be clear-minded when I go into that state.”

Medication. “I went to my doctor and found a medication that works for me; it’s called Treximet. I’ve teamed up with them to get the conversation going so other people know there are options out there. It may not be right for everyone, but people suffer in silence and are often stigmatized-like, oh, it’s just a headache, take an aspirin. But migraines are a different beast; the World Health Organization lists migraines as one of the 20 most debilitating illnesses. Treximet has changed my whole life.”

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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.

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.

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

Diet.

“I’ve been a vegan since 1988. I was at college and they plated a breast of chicken strangely and it looked like my mom’s dog! That allowed me a perspective that made me realize that my heart and my head and my body were all on the same page. I also used to have terrible cystic acne and it completely went a way when I stopped eating meat.”

Takeaway

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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