How to prevent migraines?

10 Ways to Stop a Migraine Before It Starts

Patients can track their symptoms and spot patterns or triggers.

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Do migraines wreak havoc on your life? They do for more than 38 million Americans, or 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

Migraines are defined as intense, pulsing, or throbbing pain in one area of the head. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to both light and sound, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. If that sounds bad, the American Migraine Foundation notes that chronic migraine, which affects four million people in the United States, is defined as 15 or more headache days per month with eight of those days meeting criteria for migraine.

Maybe you get a migraine the day you plan to entertain out-of-town guests. Or perhaps your migraine invariably starts on a holiday weekend, on the first day of a new project, or at the start of a family vacation. Migraines happen abruptly, are unpredictable, and can disrupt even the best-laid plans.

There are ways to lessen your chance of migraine if you are aware of your migraine triggers. While the causes of migraine are not well understood, researchers know that genetics and environment play a role. Knowing your migraine triggers can allow you to change those you can control, helping to reduce the impact of migraine on your active life.

A number of factors may trigger migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic, including:

  • Changes in Sleep-Wake Pattern Getting too much sleep or not enough will trigger a migraine.
  • Changes in the Environment A change in the barometric pressure or weather can lead to a migraine.
  • Drinks Alcohol, especially red wine, and highly caffeinated beverages, even coffee, may trigger migraines.
  • Food Additives The sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in many beverages and foods, are both migraine triggers.
  • Foods Aged cheeses, salty foods, chocolate, and processed foods may trigger migraines.
  • Hormonal Changes in Women Women with a history of migraines often report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major drop in estrogen.
  • Medication Some drugs, such as vasodilators and oral contraceptives, can aggravate migraines.
  • Sensory Stimuli Bright lights, strong smells (even fragrances), the glare of the sun, and loud sounds can trigger migraines.
  • Stress Stress on the job or at work can cause migraines.

While you can’t change your family history or your age, knowing your personal migraine triggers can help you take preventive steps to make sure you’re managing your migraines instead of adding fuel to the fire.

Here are 10 things that you can do:

1. Keep a Headache Diary

“Keeping a headache diary is a good way to figure out the association between migraine triggers, your lifestyle, and headache,” says Robert Cowan, MD, professor of neurology and chief of the division of headache medicine at Stanford University in California. “With a headache diary, you’ll start to see a pattern, such as you get migraines on weekends or in the afternoon. If you take migraine medication, you record this in your diary.”

Dr. Cowan recommends using a free headache diary app to keep track of migraines and triggers. He and two colleagues created the free app BonTriage, which is available in the App Store.

2. Have Consistent Lifestyle Habits

“Migraine is a problem between you and your environment,” says Cowan. “And my migraine patients who do the best take their lifestyle habits seriously.”

“This means eating meals the same time every day and going to bed and waking up at the same time,” Cowan adds. “Be regular and consistent with your exercise. These are the things that set the patterns for the brain to know what’s coming: sleep, wake up, eat, exercise.”

Migraines hate change. Being consistent reassures your brain that everything is okay.

3. Use a Multidisciplinary Approach

“I also tell my patients they have to take a holistic approach to managing migraine,” Cowan says. “I believe it takes a village to raze a headache, and this means using a multidisciplinary approach.”

One way of doing this is to pay attention to your life. Cowan recommends, “Don’t let the clutter pile up. If you didn’t sleep well one night, avoid wine that day.”

He also adds, “You can’t live in a cave with migraine. You take the precautions you can, and then live your life.”

4. Eat Natural Whole Foods

It’s important to eat natural whole foods to prevent migraines.

Meredith Barad, MD, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University, recommends “Minimizing caffeine and sugar. Minimize processed foods in your diet, and avoid chemical triggers like MSG and nitrites, which may trigger migraine in some people.”

Additionally, Dr. Barad says, “Stay away from carbs and sugar. Instead, eat a protein and veggie when you’re hungry. And if you don’t recognize an ingredient on a food label, do not put it in your body!”

5. Manage Your Stress

“Migraine is a chronic medical condition that’s not going away, so you have to live as healthy of a lifestyle as possible,” says Barad. “Along with understanding your migraine triggers, learning how to cope and manage stress is vital,” she adds. She recommends eating and sleeping right, and psychotherapy, which can be more effective than a pill for treating depression and anxiety with migraine.

6. Consider Complementary Medicine Therapies

Cowan suggests trying acupuncture, herbal remedies, and moxibustion, a therapy that involves burning herbs on targeted parts of the body. “If you use traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), make sure the physician is certified and licensed. While Western medicine has been around for just 250 years, TCM has been around 2,500 years and Ayurvedic for 5,000 years in India. Just be smart and check credentials.”

7. Try a Migraine Device

For frequent migraines, your doctor may prescribe a neuromodulation device as a way to reduce the attacks. Lisa Coohill, MD, a neurologist for Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, suggests a device such as Cefaly may be used to prevent migraine.

“Cefaly is a trigeminal nerve stimulator,” Dr. Coohill explains. “Using this 20 minutes before bedtime and during a migraine may help with headache management.”

Other neuromodulation devices that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the American Migraine Foundation, include the sTMS, or single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulator, and the gammaCore, which stimulates the vagus nerve.

8. Use Natural Dietary Supplements to Prevent Migraines

Coohill also suggests trying natural dietary supplements to reduce migraine frequency. “You can try riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, coenzyme Q10, and melatonin.”

Natural dietary supplements, such as those indicated for migraine by the University of Michigan, are available over the counter at most pharmacies. It is best to discuss with your primary care doctor or neurologist before starting supplements for long-term use.

9. Try Preventive Therapies

If there are migraine triggers you can’t change, such as a sensitivity to weather or barometer changes, talk with your doctor about preventive medicines.

According to Coohill, the newer preventive migraine drugs can be life-changing. “Especially if your migraines are frequent, these medications may ease the pain and frequency of migraine.”

Coohill adds, “We typically use medicine for people who have a migraine a week or more. It’s important not to take acute migraine medication daily as that can lead to rebound headaches.”

10. See Your Doctor

If you’re in doubt about your migraine triggers, symptoms, or treatment, talk to your primary care physician or neurologist. Your doctor can prescribe acute or preventive medication and talk to you about your personal health history and migraine triggers.

6 hacks for stopping a migraine in its tracks, according to experts

“The ice can decrease the inflammation and swelling in the blood vessels, which can also help,” Hutchinson said. ” lying down can help with stress reduction, which can further help a migraine that has started.”

2Bathe in epsom salts

If you’re at home, Hutchinson recommends bathing in Epsom salts. They contain magnesium, which can help soothe an oncoming migraine and prevent future occurrences. Plus, the relaxation that often accompanies bathing can also help ease or stop the migraine.

3Drink a large glass of water

Hutchinson explained that staying hydrated every day can help prevent migraines. But when you feel a migraine coming on, reach for a large glass of water immediately—especially if you’re dehydrated or the weather is hot.

4Take your medication

Finding the right medication or combination of medications can involve a period of trial and error, because this type of treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. “Most people will start first with an over-the-counter pain medication including acetaminophen, or an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, plus aspirin,” Dr. Darria Long Gillespie told HelloGiggles.

If you’ve found that OTC options aren’t enough, Gillespie recommended talking with your doctor about prescription migraine medications. If your migraines are accompanied by severe nausea or vomiting, there are even options that you can give yourself either subcutaneously or intra-nasally.

But there’s one type of medication that you should never take for migraines.

“Particularly in today’s age of the opioid epidemic, it bears repeating that narcotic medications are not helpful for migraines,” Gillespie said. “As an ER doctor, I’ve taken care of many a patient with such a severe migraine that they had to come to the ER, and we have many ways of stopping a migraine without narcotics. In fact, studies show that narcotic mediations actually increase the risk of developing chronic migraine, only making the problem worse.”

5Get a massage

If you prefer to treat your migraines without medication, Gillespie recommended head massages.

“Just choose methods that are more gentle, as opposed to vigorous vibration and tapping, particularly around the head and neck, since that can aggravate your discomfort,” she said.

6Drink ginger tea

Rebecca Lee, registered nurse and founder of the natural health resource, recommended a homemade ginger tea.

“Ginger contains over 200 powerful substances in its oils and has been around for over 2,000 years,” Lee told HelloGiggles. “Among many uses, ginger calms muscle contractions and inflammation, which is great for combating migraine pains.”

Here’s Lee’s preferred recipe for ginger tea:

  • Wash and peel off the brown skin and boil the sliced up root with some lemon and lemon rind.
  • Lightly sweeten with honey, or add sliced pear while making the tea, for taste.
  • Boil for 30 minutes.

The next time you begin to experience a migraine, try one or all of these hacks. They may not be miracle cures, but they can certainly make the pain far more manageable.

  • By Caitlin Flynn

If you’ve ever experienced a migraine before, you know why people are so anxious to stop the pain before it even starts. Fortunately, due to all the time and effort that have gone into dealing with migraines, some excellent ideas have emerged about how to stop them before they ruin your day.


1. Steps to Prevent Migraines

For the best way to stop a migraine before it can take hold, take steps to prevent the migraine. Now, there may not be a sure-fire way to completely prevent migraines, but there are healthy habits you can develop to greatly reduce the conditions that often lead to migraines.

  1. Establish a regular pattern of sleep that also allows you to get enough sleep. At the end of each day, set a time to start winding down. If you have trouble falling asleep, engage in some quiet activity that will help make you drowsy.
  2. Schedule regular meal times. Consistency is the key with eating. Don’t skip meals, and stay clear of foods you’ve already identified as triggers for migraines.
  3. Schedule a time each day for exercise.
  4. Keep stress at a minimum. Develop a plan to deal with stress, including actions that will bring you back to a calm state when you feel agitated. Try to implement a daily routine of meditation and relaxation techniques to use when you start feeling stressed.

Related: Are You Drinking Enough Water? Probably Not!

2. Take Preventative Medications Regularly

Up to 38 percent of those who have migraines could avoid them by taking preventative medications, but less than a third actually take advantage of these treatments. It’s generally accepted that this happens because the drugs must be taken daily to be effective, but most people only experience a migraine intermittently.

Current evidence suggests the more often a person is required to take a medication, the less likely they are to take it consistently. The more they skip a dose because they don’t experience any symptoms, the more likely they will continue to skip doses. Also, the cost of medication may cause a person to drop out of compliance. The key, of course, is to take medication consistently if you want to experience the benefits.

Related: The Real Cost of Generics: The Pros and Cons of Generic Drugs

3. Know and Understand Drugs that can Prevent Migraines

These drugs are effective for preventing migraines:

Antiepileptics: Depacon, Depakot, and Topiragen are all antiepileptic drugs. Anti-seizure medication calms the neurons in the brain, preventing migraine episodes.

Beta-Blockers: Used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, drugs like Blocadren, Lopressor, Toprol XL, and Inderal have proven effective in preventing migraines

Antidepressants: Drugs used to treat depression, like Elavil and Effexor, are shown as effective migraine blockers.

Botox: Botox is a toxin that paralyzes muscles. Though frequently used to treat wrinkles, it has proven very effective for some people in treating chronic migraines. It inhibits the release of chemicals that help transmit pain signals.

Related: 8 Bad Habits That are Surprisingly Good For You

Whatever treatment you undertake, be sure and discuss it with your doctor. He may very well have other excellent suggestions to help you stop a migraine right as it starts.

7 Tips to Ease Migraine Pain

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You take prevention medication and steer clear of your known triggers — but still, you’re hit with a migraine. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. So, what can you to do relieve the pain?

Once an attack begins, you can take medication to help ease pain, says Janine Good, MD, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. And beyond taking migraine medication, you may want to give a few home remedies a try.

“There aren’t a lot of studies to show they are definitively effective,” Dr. Good says, but many of her patients do say they help.

Tips to Relieve Migraine Pain

Rest in a quiet, dark room. Many people with migraines report sensitivity to light and sound. Make your bedroom dark and quiet, and you may be able to sleep, Good says. “Not all headaches respond to sleep,” she notes, but the chemicals released in your brain during sleep may help ease your pain. Also, she says, if you’re sensitive to sounds, blocking them out could help.

Apply a hot or cold compress. Place the compress across your forehead or the back of your neck. “Many of my patients prefer a cold compress,” says Lawrence C. Newman, MD, director of the Division of Headache at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and a board member of the American Migraine Foundation.

Ice can have a numbing effect. “It detracts the brain from the migraine,” says Good. “You’re stimulating other nerve endings where you’re putting the compress.”

Some people may prefer a warm compress, Dr. Newman says. Heat can help relax tense muscles. You may also try taking a warm bath or shower.

Try mindful meditation. Take time to sit and be in the moment. Concentrate on your breathing. This type of mindful meditation can sometimes ease physical pain, according to the American Migraine Foundation. In a review published in September 2016 in Cephalalgia, researchers found that mindfulness may produce effects comparable to medication alone in people with chronic migraine and medication overuse. The findings were preliminary, however. Like other home remedies, mindfulness is a distraction that can help ease pain, Good says.

Smell the lavender. The scent of lavender may help you relax. You can sip some lavender tea, or inhale lavender essential oil, which is available in pharmacies and health food stores. A small study published in European Neurology in 2012 evaluated the use of lavender essential oil in people experiencing a migraine. In the trial, those who inhaled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes reported greater reduction of headache severity than those who did not.

Stay hydrated. Dehydration is often a migraine trigger, and replenishing fluids can restore your body’s balance of water and electrolytes, the National Headache Foundation says. Have trouble drinking enough water? Try this trick: Add a slice of lemon or lime to make your water taste better so you may drink more. And limit caffeine, which can be dehydrating in large amounts, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Massage your temples. Massage can help your muscles relax, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Yet whether this helps you is a personal preference, Newman says. Some people experiencing a migraine may be extremely sensitive to touch, and a massage can make them feel worse. Others find that rubbing their temples stimulates circulation and helps them to relax.

Exercise. Though it may seem counterintuitive, taking a brisk walk may help ease your migraine pain. This is because aerobic exercise gets your blood flowing and reduces stress, notes the AAFP. Exercise gets your body’s natural feel-good hormones flowing, Good adds. If you’re looking for a low-impact exercise option, the Migraine Research Foundation suggests yoga or tai chi.

The Bottom Line

When used together with medication, these home remedies work for many people, Newman says. If they don’t ease your pain, however, you may consider talking to your doctor about a change in medication.

7 Steps to Avoid Your Triggers

  1. Watch what you eat and drink. If you get a headache, write down the foods and drinks you had before it started. If you see a pattern over time, stay away from that item.
  2. Eat regularly. Don’t skip meals.
  3. Curb the caffeine. Too much, in any food or drink, can cause migraines. But cutting back suddenly may also cause them. So try to slowly ease off caffeine if it seems to be one of your headache triggers.
  4. Be careful with exercise. Everyone needs regular physical activity. It’s a key part of being healthy. But it can trigger headaches for some people. If you’re one of them, you can still work out. Ask your doctor what would help.
  5. Get regular shut-eye. If your sleep habits get thrown off, or if you’re very tired, that can make a migraine more likely.
  6. Downsize your stress. There are many ways to do it. You could exercise, meditate, pray, spend time with people you love, and do things you enjoy. If you can change some of the things that make you tense, set up a plan for that. Counseling and stress management classes are great to try, too. You can also look into biofeedback, where you learn how to influence certain things (like your heart rate and breathing) to calm down stress.
  7. Keep up your energy. Eat on a regular schedule, and don’t let yourself get dehydrated.

How to Get Rid of a Migraine: A Step-by-Step Guide

A migraine is much more than your typical headache. It can cause extreme pain, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The throbbing pain can quickly ruin your day and interfere with your life.

But you don’t have to sit back and wait for a migraine to end. As long as you know how to deal with it, you can tackle it from all sides and get back to your daily life.

Take note of these simple steps, and you’ll be prepared the next time a migraine strikes.

Step 1: Have a treatment plan

A solid plan can give you the power to relieve a migraine before the pain becomes severe. This may be the most important weapon you have against future migraine attacks.

Your plan will likely include taking medications when you feel a migraine coming on. Knowing which medication to take can lower your stress level because it removes some of the guesswork of what you should do. Your plan may include over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, or some combination of the two. You should work with your doctor to develop a migraine treatment plan that’s right for you.

Step 2: Treat it early

Timing is everything when it comes to relieving a migraine. Take your medication as early as possible. The American Headache Society recommends taking your medication during the prodromal phase of the attack. A prodrome is a warning sign that a painful migraine is coming next. This gives you the best chance of getting relief. Don’t wait and see if you’re getting a full-blown migraine.

The key is to recognize your prodrome quickly so you can take action. Prodromal signs can vary widely between people, but they often include symptoms such as:

  • sensitivity to light or sound
  • mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, or euphoria
  • trouble concentrating
  • food cravings, usually carbohydrates
  • fatigue or yawning

If you’ve had migraines for a while, you may be able to easily spot your prodromal symptoms. This allows you to be proactive, not reactive, in treating the pain. You may need to keep your migraine medications with you at all times so you can take them as soon as you recognize the early stages of your attack.

Step 3: Consider what caused it

If you can determine the cause of your migraine, you may be able to take additional steps to find relief. For instance, are you getting a migraine because you haven’t had enough to eat today? Some migraines can be triggered by a lack of food, which can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. If you think your headache is triggered by hunger, eat something that’s easy on the stomach such as saltine crackers. This, in combination with your medications, may give you additional relief. The National Headache Foundation says some people may crave carbohydrates just before a migraine hits. If this is the case, listen to your body and have a snack.

Dehydration can cause headaches too, and may make your migraine worse. If you haven’t had enough fluids today, get a drink of water. Sip slowly to avoid triggering nausea or vomiting.

Step 4: 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.

Deep breathing and relaxation exercises can help shorten and relieve migraine attacks. They may also help you prevent some migraines from happening.

Step 5: Caffeine can help (sometimes)

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 migraines who use caffeine more than three days per week may develop a dependency on the caffeine. This can lead to more headaches. Moderation is key with caffeine, but it helps many people find relief.

Step 6: Try hot or cold therapy

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. 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.

Other people find a heating pad or hot shower to be therapeutic during an attack. It’s worth trying hot or cold therapy when your next migraine hits. It can safely and effectively complement your medication.

Choose your tools to fight migraines

Treating a migraine is often more complicated than taking a simple pain reliever. Migraines are complex, so you may need several different tools to treat your symptoms quickly and effectively.

Use these steps the next time you feel a migraine coming on, and you may find success in managing the pain. Over time, you can develop the best treatment plan for you.

New ways to manage migraines

Sufferers now have more options than ever to ease the pain or even ward off attacks.

Published: January, 2018

Image: © YakobchukOlena/Thinkstock

If you’ve ever experienced a migraine, you know it’s no ordinary headache. Not only does it cause throbbing pain, typically on one side of your head, but it may also cause vision changes, sensitivity to light, and nausea. It’s the type of headache that makes you want to retreat to a dark, quiet room and stay there until it goes away. Recovering from a migraine can take time; the headache can last for hours or days. Migraines affect an estimated 28 million women in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation (AMF).

The World Health Organization says that migraine headaches rank in the top 10 of disabling conditions. These headaches result in lost work days, lost productivity, and high health care costs. And of course, they can cause you to miss out on pleasurable activities and time with family.

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