If you suffer from migraines, you know how debilitating they can be. One in seven people experience migraine headaches, ranking the affliction among the top ten causes of disability. While there are many different types of migraines, and many triggers that have been identified, there is really no specific cause for migraines, and they are often misdiagnosed or go unrecognized by those who suffer from them.
The condition seems to spring from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is not just a headache: A migraine often is accompanied by disabling symptoms like nausea and vomiting, difficulty speaking, and an aversion to light and noise. The headache can be throbbing and last for hours or days.
Until recently, there was little we could do to prevent migraines. The first new class of prescription drugs was approved last month by the FDA, but these may only reduce the frequency of headaches.
For a more holistic approach to treating your migraines, try some of these home remedies:
1. Put an ice pack on your forehead, scalp, or neck to get pain relief. Experts aren't sure exactly why it works, but reducing the flow of blood might be part of it. You can also try a frozen gel pack or a wash cloth that's been rinsed in cold water.
2. Try over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. They cut down the inflammation that makes your head hurt. You can also buy migraine remedies that have a mix of acetaminophen and aspirin.
3. Caffeine - This ingredient in coffee and some other foods and drinks may give you some mild relief. It could also help your body absorb some migraine drugs faster. Be cautious, however, as you can easily become dependent on your caffeine jolt, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms like fatigue and more headaches.
4. Find a dark, quiet room. Bright light and loud noises can make your headache worse. So find a spot away from the action and pull down the shades when you've got a migraine. It can help speed up your recovery.
5. Regular exercise while feeling well may help prevent the onset of migraines, as exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that fight pain. Exercise also eases stress and helps you sleep better. During a migraine episode, however, you should avoid exercise as it can exacerbate your pain.
6. Ingest magnesium. You can find this mineral in dark-green veggies, whole grains, and nuts. It won't help while you're having a migraine, but some studies show it could prevent one. You can also take it in pill form, but always check with your doctor before you take supplements.
7. Sleep well. Too little sleep can trigger headaches and lower your threshold for pain. Experts suggest 7 to 8 hours per night, and try to maintain the same bed and wake up times daily.
8. Yoga. Exercise that gets your heart pumping can prevent migraines, but it can also be a headache trigger for some people. Yoga, however, with its slower movements, is a safe alternative. Research shows that regular yoga sessions cut the number of attacks you get and make them less intense when they do happen.
9. Take Vitamin B12, also called riboflavin, found in milk, cheese, fish, and chicken. You can also take it as a pill. Studies show it may help you prevent migraines.
10. Manage your triggers: Your migraines are sometimes set off by the food you eat or the conditions around you. Find out what brings on your pain and avoid it. Some common trouble spots on the menu are red wine, aged cheese, and cured meats. Bright lights, staying at a high altitude, and strong odors can also be issues.
11. Butterbur- People have used this plant for years to treat pain and researchers have found that taking the extract reduced the number and intensity of headaches for some people.