At the same time! How to treat a migraine effectively is somewhat of a mystery even to doctors. A doctor can tell us how to reduce the pain with medications, a change of lifestyle promises a cure … but what happens in reality?
Will we ever really be migraine free?
Every single one of us will experience headaches in our lives here and there.
I don’t think anyone can escape headache, or perhaps even a hangover at some point in their lives.
But migraines are different.
They are not just headaches, in my opinion, even though that is the classification they fall under.
They are complex neurological conditions that need proper medical treatment. If you can get rid of your 'migraine' using an over the counter pain killer, then it is most likely not a migraine.
The best thing I ever read about how to treat a migraine was from Dr. Christiane Northrup. She was a migraine sufferer herself, so she can advise patients the best way to treat a migraine and hopefully abort it before medications are needed. It involves using ice and heat at the same time.
I have learned different things at different times, and I can tell you with great relief that this really works quite well.
1. Take action at the first sign of neurological disturbance which typically involves the eye(s) – pressure, blurry vision, zig zags in the air, lightning bolts in your peripheral vision.
This is the time to take
your prescribed abortive medication or over the counter pain killer (if
you take them) and go to bed in a very dark room or use an eye pillow to
cover your eyes comfortably.
2. Put a hot water bottle on your stomach and rest your hands under it. It is essential that your hands are warmed.
3. Put an ice pack behind your neck. It is essential that your neck is iced.
4. Also keep your feet warm with a blanket.
Dr. Northrup says that “cooling the blood traveling to the brain
through your neck and warming your hands helps prevent the powerful
vasoconstriction and rebound vasodilation that results in headache
pain.” Doing these things all at the same time has the potential to
abort your attack. But you must act at the first sign your body gives
She also says that the most widely used effective medications are
“sumatriptan nasal spray or rectal indomethacin.” Indomethacin is
classed as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and it “works
by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body."
The nasal spray and rectal methods are more effective because they bypass the slow digestion and work regardless of how nauseous you are and if you experience vomiting.
Educate yourself at the Migraine World Summit. You will never be able to talk with over 30 doctors in any other arena. Have a look.
Education and information will provide you with effective options as you travel along this pain journey.
Avoiding food triggers is an everyday thing that most migraineurs are aware of if they have food triggers.
I have avoided chocolate for over twenty years, and no one had to tell me twice not to eat it. I watch the world eat it, and I just think no thanks – I have enough migraine attacks as it is.
Taking high quality supplements might help you. The two most
highly recommended supplements thought to help with migraines are
magnesium and fish oil. Both of these must be taken in slightly higher
doses than for a ‘normal’ body.
1. Magnesium – with its calming effect on nerves has been shown
to help prevent migraines. As per Dr. Northrup the dose is between 400 –
800 mgs per day. As per the Nutrition Almanac a safe dose is 1000 mgs
2. Fish Oil – with its anti-inflammatory effects has shown a “significant reduction of headache” when taken in these high doses daily for 3 weeks. As per Dr. Northrup the dose is a combination of 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA. The Nutrition Almanac recommends taking ginger with the fish oil to help reduce nausea and aid digestion.
The Nutrition Almanac (1998) says that this kind of migraine help in the form of vitamin therapy can take from 6 months to 2 years in some migraine sufferers to become effective at reducing episodes.
Besides the above acute treatment using ice and heat, let’s keep how to treat a migraine nice and simple:
1. Keep a migraine journal – and not just a food list. When you get a
migraine, write down who has been around you the last three days. Who
visited, or who made you angry at work? Did anything bother you? Did
anyone bother you? Keep track and you might see a pattern emerge.
2. Keep regular eating and sleeping routines. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, and yes – even on weekends – no sleep ins.
And eat regular and nutritional meals. Snack on 2 pieces of fruit
each day between meals to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Never
skip meals. You might like to read our article on migraine headaches nutrition.
3. Practice relaxation techniques. Keep it simple. Exhale as
much as you can and let the breath come back in and take a full, deep
breath. Hold it for 5 – 10 seconds, don’t let stress happen, just let
it be comfortable, and then slowly breathe out. If you can, repeat this
up to ten times and close your eyes. I can recommend these CD's:
If you are at work, make sure to
take regular breaks from the computer or repetitive tasks, or hide in
the bathroom and do your breathing. Walk around the block if you can.
Make sure you breathe deeply everyday. Herbert Benson, M.D. has written a
fabulous book called
The Relaxation Response
if you are interested in learning more.
4. Try biofeedback training. The aim is to help you learn to
relax. I know this may sound nothing like migraine help, but stress
raises levels of norepinephrine in the blood which can trigger a
migraine in us susceptible folks. So biofeedback helps prevent the
neurotransmitter changes that can trigger a migraine.
5. If you haven’t already – stop smoking. Smoking is known to cause blood vessel constriction. Nasty mix for migraineurs.
6. Walking or moderate exercise on a regular basis can help
reduce migraines. Exercise is known to create good endorphins – the
feel good hormone – and stimulate pain regulating hormones in our
brains. This is a cheap and easy form of migraine help. Walking is
7. As acute treatment – have a short black coffee. If you are not already a coffee drinker this may abort your migraine. It is a paradox in the headache world. Too much caffeine can give you a headache, as can withdrawal from it. But if you don’t drink it on a regular basis then one or two short blacks has the potency to abort a migraine.
Studies have revealed that both aspirin and ibuprofen are
more effective when combined with caffeine, so if you don’t have the
right medications on you, wash an ibuprofen down with a cup of coffee. I
used this approach for years, until I became a coffee addict.
8. The thing I hear doctors say the most about how to treat a migraine is to get some rest. I know if you are a mom, this is not always possible. But if you can, get home asap to your dark room and sleep it off.
Have you found an effective way to stop your migraines in their tracks? If so, please share your discovery in the Facebook comments box below.
This combination works for me, give one a try:
How To Treat A Migraine References:
1. Drugs.com (2012) indomethacin [Online], Available at: http://www.drugs.com/mtm/indomethacin.html Accessed March 25, 2012.
2. Kirschmann G. and Kirschmann J. (1998) Nutrition Almanac (4th Ed.). McGraw Hill International Editions: Singapore.
3. Northrup, C. M.D. (2012) Migraines [Online], Available at: http://www.drnorthrup.com/migraines/ Accessed on Feb 2, 2016.
4. Wikipedia (updated 10 Jan 2012) How to Treat a Migraine [Online], Available at: http://www.wikihow.com/Treat-a-Migraine
Migraine Treatment Options
How to Treat a Migraine with Ice and Heat