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“Alternative Therapies For Headache Treatment. The National Headache Foundation.”
If you’re one of the 29.5 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know how bad these throbbing headaches can get.[ref]Migraine. National Institutes of Health.[/ref] You might experience nausea, vomiting, and an increased sensitivity to sound and light if you have this condition. Some people see flashing lights or spots as well before they get a migraine – this is the migraine aura.
Keep a headache diary which records when you get migraines, how long they last, what you ate in the 24 hours before the attack, how long you slept the night before, and where you were and what you were doing when the attack started.
A variety of factors known as “triggers” can set off a migraine. Common migraine triggers include weather change, hormonal change, certain foods, stress, environmental factors like strong smells, loud noises, and bright lights.[ref]Migraine. National Institutes of Health.[/ref]
Migraine painkillers are not without side effects. And taking them frequently can actually make migraines worse as your body gets used to these medicines.[ref]Migraine – Treatment. National Health Service.[/ref] So prevent and manage your migraines by identifying your triggers. Ideally, you should avoid triggers, but you can also work around them. For instance, wearing sunglasses that are tinted green or blue can be helpful if you find that sunlight triggers your migraines.
Once you already have an attack under way, try the following migraine home remedies:
1. Use Hot Or Cold Packs
Both heat and ice can be used to reduce pain in headaches. Usually people with migraine find that cold packs work better for them, while those who suffer from tension headaches seem to prefer heating pads. But there’s no hard and fast rule, you can check out what works best for you.
Heating pads should be applied on the back of your head and your neck, while cold packs should be applied on your temples and forehead. And remember to alternate your cold pack on and off – keep it on for 15 minutes and leave it off for 15 minutes. Also make sure that your heating pad’s not too hot or it can cause muscle spasms or burns.[ref]Hot and Cold Packs/Showers. National Headache Foundation.[/ref]
2. Get A Massage
Getting a relaxing massage may help you deal with migraines. One study found that people who got massages had fewer migraines and better sleep quality compared to the control group which didn’t get massages. Massages were also found to help with stress. During the massage session, participants experienced a lowering of anxiety, heart rate, and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.[ref]Lawler, Sheleigh P., and Linda D. Cameron. “A randomized, controlled trial of massage therapy as a treatment for migraine.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 32, no. 1 (2006): 50-59.[/ref] This is particularly important as stress is a known trigger for migraines.
3. Apply Peppermint Oil On The Forehead
Peppermint has been traditionally used for migraines and other headaches for ages. Though we don’t yet understand exactly how peppermint works, it is thought that it can relax muscles around the skull when it’s applied to the skin. It’s also possible that its characteristic aroma may relax the nervous system.
Dilute peppermint oil with a bit of alcohol and apply on your head as soon as a migraine starts.
One study found that when menthol, a component of peppermint, was applied to the forehead, it gave relief from pain and also alleviated nausea and vomiting in people suffering from migraines.[ref]Borhani Haghighi, A., S. Motazedian, R. Rezaii, F. Mohammadi, L. Salarian, M. Pourmokhtari, S. Khodaei, M. Vossoughi, and R. Miri. “Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, crossed‐over study.” International journal of clinical practice 64, no. 4 (2010): 451-456.[/ref]
According to experts, it’s best to dilute peppermint oil with alcohol if you want to use it to treat migraines as pure peppermint oil doesn’t penetrate skin as effectively. It’s also best to use it as soon as a migraine starts as it might not be strong enough to help once the pain gets really bad.[ref]Can Mint Make Migraines Less Miserable?. The Wall Street Journal.[/ref]
4. Rub Basil Oil On Your Forehead
Basil oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve migraines. Take a drop onto one of your middle fingers and rub both middle fingers together to transfer the oil to your other hand. Now massage the oil neat on your temples and the base of your skull to treat a migraine.[ref]]Downes, Karen, and Judith White. Aromatherapy for Men: A Scentual Grooming and Lifestyle Guide for Every Male Using Essential Oils. Balboa Press, 2011.[/ref]
5. Drink Chamomile Tea
Apply chamomile essential oil or drink chamomile tea.
Polyphenols and flavonoids found in chamomile essential oil are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Traditional Persian Medicine describes a formulation where chamomile extracts are boiled in sesame oil and applied topically for pain relief. This formulation has the added benefit of sesamine, an anti-inflammatory component found in sesame oil.[ref]Zargaran, Arman, Afshin Borhani-Haghighi, Pouya Faridi, Saeid Daneshamouz, Gholamreza Kordafshari, and Abdolali Mohagheghzadeh. “Potential effect and mechanism of action of topical chamomile (Matricaria chammomila L.) oil on migraine headache: A medical hypothesis.” Medical hypotheses 83, no. 5 (2014): 566-569.[/ref]
You can also try some chamomile tea the next time you feel a migraine creeping up on you.[ref]Chhater, Singh, A. K. Jain, Agarwal Kshitij, and Verma Santosh. “NATURAL THERAPY OF MIGRAINE.”[/ref]
6. Have Feverfew Tea
Don’t have feverfew if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Feverfew leaves are a popular remedy for migraines. A large leaf or 3 smaller ones (about 4 cm long) taken every day can be helpful. Chop them up and add to a salad or have the leaves by themselves. They do taste bitter, so you may like to take them with a little sugar or honey. You can also steep the leaves to make a feverfew tea. However, do keep in mind that feverfew can cause mouth ulcers and skin irritations in some people. It’s also not advised during pregnancy and lactation.[ref]Feverfew. The Migraine Trust.[/ref]
7. Chew On A Piece Of Ginger
If you thought ginger’s only good for spicing up your food, think again. According to a study, ginger powder can decrease the severity of a migraine attack within 2 hours of use. Its effectiveness is comparable to that of sumatriptan, a medication used for treating migraines.
It is recommended that you take 500 mg of ginger at the onset of a migraine. Repeat every 4 hours with a maximum limit of up to 1.5–2 g of ginger per day for 3–4 days to tackle a migraine.[ref]Maghbooli, Mehdi, Farhad Golipour, Alireza Moghimi Esfandabadi, and Mehran Yousefi. “Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine.” Phytotherapy Research 28, no. 3 (2014): 412-415.[/ref]
8. Inhale Lavender Oil
According to research, applying capsaicin, which is an active ingredient found in cayenne pepper, inside the nose can work as a treatment for migraine. However, since this can cause a burning sensation, it is best to check with a doctor before use.
Lavender essential oil has been used as a mood stabilizer, a sedative, and a pain-relieving agent. One study found that when people suffering from migraine headaches inhaled the aroma of lavender essential oil for 15 minutes, their headache severity was reduced.[ref]Sasannejad, Payam, Morteza Saeedi, Ali Shoeibi, Ali Gorji, Maryam Abbasi, and Mohsen Foroughipour. “Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial.” European neurology 67, no. 5 (2012): 288-291.[/ref] Essential oil diluted with a vegetable oil can also be rubbed on the forehead and temples for relief from pain.[ref]Chhater, Singh, A. K. Jain, Agarwal Kshitij, and Verma Santosh. “NATURAL THERAPY OF MIGRAINE.”[/ref]
9. Try Ayurvedic Therapies Like Nasya And Jala Neti
According to the dosha theory of body types, people with vata and pitta doshas are more prone toward migraine. The symptoms and treatments also vary depending on the dosha dominance. Nasya, shirodhara, jala neti, paranayama, and yoga nidra are some of the common Ayurvedic remedies for migraine.
10. Try Fish Oil
Fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA has been found to reduce the symptoms of a migraine headache. It is thought that fish oil works by affecting prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that play a significant role in inflammation.
11. Get A Shot Of Caffeine
For some people, having a caffeinated drink like coffee or tea can ease a migraine. This could be because caffeine can narrow your blood vessels and counter the dilation of blood vessels which leads to the throbbing pain typical in migraines. However, do keep in mind that caffeine is a known trigger for migraines too. So make sure it isn’t your migraine trigger.
12. Try Breathing Exercises
Relaxing your muscles and easing tension can help relieve headaches. Many breathing techniques can help you do this. Check them out and choose what works best for you, but remember that these therapies work when you practice them consistently, preferably daily.
Take deep, long, slow breaths where you expand your abdomen rather than your chest can be useful in calming your mind. This method helps you disengage from distracting sensations and thoughts and may ease headaches. But you might want to try another technique if you have breathing difficulties.
13. Meditate To Relax
Meditation is a relaxation technique that distracts you from the pain. But it has to be a consistent practice. Otherwise, you will find it tough to meditate on the day of a migraine attack.
Sit comfortably with your mind aware of the present moment. You could train your mind to focus on something specific like your breath or a flame or by passively observing the thoughts and emotions passing through your mind without judgement. This can help deal with stress as well as pain.[ref]Zeidan, Fetal, J. A. Grant, C. A. Brown, J. G. McHaffie, and R. C. Coghill. “Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain.” Neuroscience letters 520, no. 2 (2012): 165-173.[/ref]
14. Visualize Happy Memories
Conjuring up soothing places, experiences, or scenes in your mind can help you relax as well as focus your mind. Make sure you visualize imagery that has personal significance for you.[ref]Alternative Therapies For Headache Treatment. The National Headache Foundation.[ref] [ref]Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress. Harvard Health Publications.[/ref]
Use these remedies right at the onset. Migraine can be a incapacitating experience when the attack has reaches its peak. You may not even respond to some of these. Also be prudent about preventing migraines.