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Doing What Works for Migraines. But What Works?

Written and verified by Holly Hazen

Doing what works for migraines, to stop them in their tracks, can be hard to map out when you're desperate for immediate pain relief. And alternative therapies that claim to work for migraine relief seem to be everywhere.

So what really works effectively for your throbbing, crushing, stabbing, splitting migraines?

Let me share some top things that DO work.

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Symptoms like blurred vision and speech, intense pressure around your eyes, vomiting, unrelenting pain, and feeling like your head will explode are tell tale signs that a migraine attack is on its way.

"Kill me now!" One of my clients says when her pain scale moves from 8 to 9! Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it and her.

Does any of this sound familiar? 

I hear this time and time again. Currently the most widely recommend complementary therapies are biofeedback, CBT and acupuncture. And the most effective medications are triptans and GCRP's. What happens if none of those things are within reach?

Try these things to feel better... FAST.

Here are 10 things to help get rid of your next migraine @migrainesavvy #migraine #migrainereliefWhat works for migraines... effectively?

How Do You Get Rid of A Migraine Fast?

According to WebMD [3] and me:

  1. Try a cold pack, ice cubes, bag of frozen peas, cold shower. Put on forehead or under your neck. 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. Repeat.

  2. Use a heating pad or hot compress. Good for tension headache. Put on the back of your head and neck.

  3. Dim the lights or wear sunglasses.

  4. Use anti-glare screens on phones and computers.

  5. Drink some caffeine.

  6. Learn to relax. Stretch, yoga, meditate, listen to soothing music or just chill out.

  7. Have a massage or get physiotherapy.

  8. Take 1/8 – 1/4  teaspoon of ginger asap.

  9. Drink water that’s hydrating. Add salt.

  10. Take your medication as soon as you can. ( Don't have meds yet... scroll down for a list of options).

Do What Works Between Migraine Attacks

Lifestyle choices matter. Doing what works for migraines between attacks is important.

Besides meditation and guided imagery to calm me down whilst my painkillers kick in, I use biofeedback and a technique called focusing in between attacks.

Focusing helps me to understand my emotional extremes caused by this soul destroying illness.

I also find using ice and heat therapy beneficial. The exact method I use is below... scroll down. 

Here's a short introduction to focusing so you can start to use it right now.

Here's One Way to Help You Listen to Your Body

Learning to tune in and then tune out has been a godsend. Over the years I consistently have good results using Dr. John Eaton's Reverse Therapy Approach® and a similar method called focusing. Eugene Gendlin invented Focusing.

Gendlin’s method helps us to ‘tune in’ to the sensations that they are noticing in their body when they were having signs and symptoms of say a migraine or emotional trigger.

For example, a client might experience tightness or tension in their jaw, throat, chest that would arise with the memory of the excruciating pain.  It might be easier to start with some small pains first when you are migraine free.

Then you might like to, if it feels right, (using Focusing language) go through the process of simply asking "what wants your awareness now?" and allow the symptom state or the 'cellular memory' to reply.

You might like to, if it feels right, say 'hello' to that feeling and acknowledge it’s there and then perhaps ask your body or symptomatic body part:

  • What are you trying to tell me?

  • What do you need?

  • What are you trying to protect me from?

  • What can I learn from you?

  • What would you like me to do now?

It is not advised to do this process during a migraine attack. Just tune in when you are comfortable for the between the pain phase or long enough before it starts in case you need to take your abortive.

The focusing technique is what I use with most of my clients. I have personally found this the most useful tool to help manage the added stress and anxiety before an attack.

First You Must Find The Right Acute Medications

Doing what works for migraines means finding the right acute and or preventive medications.

I hate to admit this because I still struggle with taking pills. But don't put this part off... you will need a good pain management strategy.

Don't wait until you are writhing in pain and reach for something that doesn't work. You could risk an overdose... my course covers this - Migraine Pain Management Course.

The only thing that really works for me is taking my prescribed Naratriptan abortive with 400 mgs of Ibuprofen at the first warning signal or symptom. I spent an absolute fortune (I estimate the price of a house easily) on alternative therapies where each practitioner was confident that what they practiced would shift my migraines away for good. Perhaps the promise of a cure was too optimistic.

As I said, the most effective strategy I have found to work for me is taking acute drugs for migraines from the triptan family of abortives and an ibuprofen.

Here is a list of the more natural migraine headache remedies I also use in my pain management strategy. And remember what works for migraines ...

Migraine is not one-size-fits-all. Be prepared to experiment... it can be trial and error.

Using both ice and heat is the most effective way I have found yet to help abort a migraine attack or at least calm it down right away and shorten the duration.

You might like to read my article on easy migraine home remedy alternatives or a long list of my failed migraine pain medication just in case you have similar problems with side effects.

As there are currently no migraine headache cures finding what works and then doing what works means we can find a way to make it all more bearable.

Here is what the University of Michigan Medical School has on their Migraine Treatment page, a fabulous resource for us. Look at this nice long list of your options... feel free to copy and paste for your doctor.

Abortive Migraine Medication Options

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen / Aspirin / Caffeine (Excedrin, Excedrin Migraine)

Acetaminophen / Butalbital / Caffeine (Fioracet)

Aspirin / Butalbital / Caffeine (Fiorinal)

Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin, Ecotrin)

Acetaminophen / Isometheptene / Dichloralphenazone (Midrin)

Almotriptan (Axert)

Caffeine / Ergotamine (Cafergot)

Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)

Dihydroergotamine (DHE 45)

Dexamethasone (Decadron)

Eletriptan (Relpax)

Frovatriptan (Frova)

Ibuprofen (Advil)

Isometheptene / Dichloralpherazone / Acetaminophen (Midrin)

Indomethacine (Indocin)

Ketorolac (Toradol)

Methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol)

Metoclopramide (Reglan)

Naratriptan (Amerge)

Naproxen (Aleve)


Prochlorperazine (Compazine)

Promethazine (Phenergan)

Perphenazine (Triavil, Trilafon)

Prednisone (Deltasone, Prednicot, Sterapred)

Rizatriptan (Maxalt)

Sumatriptan (Imitrex)

Sumatriptan/Naproxen (Treximet)

Zolmitriptan (Zomig)

Prophylactic Migraine Medication Options

Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin, Ecotrin)

Acetazolamide (Diamox)

Atenolol (Tenormin)

Amitriptyline (Elavil)

Baclofen (Lioresal)

Doxepin (Sinequan)

Imipramine (Tofranil)

Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Methysergide (Sansert)

Methylergonovine (Methergine)

Propranolol (Inderal)

Metoprolol (Toprol)

Nadolol (Corgard)

Timolol (Blocadren)

Verapamil (Calan)

Nimodipine (Nimotop)

Nifedipine (Procardia)

Losartan (Cozaar)

Topiramate (Topamax)

Carbamazepine (Tegretol)

Divalproex (Depakote)

Levetiracetam (Keppra)

Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

Gabapentin (Neurontin)

Cyproheptadine (Periactin)

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Fluoxetine (Prozac)

Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Trazodone (Desyrel)

Lithium (Eskolith)

Prophylactic Migraine Supplements

Tanacetum parthenium L. (Feverfew) - no published trials with acute episodes

Petasites hybridus (Butterbur, Petadolex)

Ubiquinone (Co-enzyme Q10, Co Q10, Vitamin Q)

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)


Delivery methods are also important. According to NSW TAG "Intranasal sumatriptan was found to be more effective than placebo in two studies. Partial headache relief was achieved in 40-60% of patients treated with sumatriptan versus 29-35% of patients treated with placebo. Intranasal sumatriptan appears to have the same efficacy as oral sumatriptan, but a quicker onset of action."

How To Abort Your Migraine Using Ice and Heat Simultaneously 

Doing what works to abort your migraines might just be to use ice and heat at the same time.

Dr. Christiane Northrup says how to treat a migraine is with ice behind the neck and a hot water bottle for your hands is the most effective way to assist aborting your migraine. 

 The most effective way to abort a migraine is to put ice behind your neck and a hot water bottle on your hands.

Finding what works for migraines can be difficult, long and draining. But persevere with this ice and heat treatment it really will make a difference.

I used to use a hot water bottle behind my head because it felt nicer and I was freezing (a common migraine symptom is cold hands and feet) .... NO NO NO! I guess it made them much worse, but who knew.

Now I know to use ice. It's much more effective.

Some find having a hot bath to work too, but make sure you use the ice too. Have a couple in the freezer so you can change back and forth when they melt.

Doing What Works for Migraines – Calming Down and Resting

Doing what works for migraines, your migraine, becomes somewhat of an art form. You will develop a strategy to help reduce the pain over time. 

Once I have taken my medications, got my ice pack and hot water bottle, and put on my favorite guided CD, I lay down all warm and safe, and comfortable in my bed and try to fall asleep.

It takes 2 hours for my Naratriptan to take effect. I can suffer a fair bit before they kick in, if I don’t pay attention and act asap (know your warning symptoms).

Doing what works for migraines, your action plan, will also help reduce anxiety. See the link to my course below for a step by step formula.

Until next time, stay strong,


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Doing What Works for Migraines References:
1. Eaton, J. Ph.D. (2006) M.E., Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia: The Reverse Therapy Approach®. Authors OnLine Ltd: Hertford, England UK.
2. NSW Therapeutic Assessment Group TAG (2002) Migraine. [Online], Available at: Accessed 1 May 2014.
3. WebMD (2020) 10 Ways to Get Rid of a headache. Available [online] at: Accessed 02 Feb. 2020