Migraines are one of the most common causes of headaches. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, about 12 percent of people in the United States have migraines. Migraines are most common in women; but they also occur in men and children.
Typically, migraines involve one-sided pounding head pain. But what may be surprising to some people is that migraines are not just headaches. Migraines also include symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, nausea, and numbness in the face or extremities.
Migraine symptoms often last anywhere from a few hours to three days. Depending on the severity of symptoms, migraines can be debilitating. In many cases, the problem is chronic, and some people have several migraines each month.
The exact cause of migraines is not known. But there are several factors that may contribute to the headaches, such as lack of sleep, stress, and certain foods. Hormonal changes may also lead to migraines in some women.
Traditional Migraine Treatment
Migraines can interfere with work, school, and decrease quality of life. But treatment may be hit or miss. Not all treatments work for everyone.
Migraine treatment traditionally involves medication. Medication to treat symptoms as well as prevent migraine attacks is available.
Different classifications of medications are used to treat migraines including non-steroidal medications, triptans, and opioids.
Non-steroidal medications may help treat mild migraines, but they tend to be less effective with severe pain or migraines that last for several hours.
Triptans work by blocking pain receptors and constricting blood vessels in the brain. Triptans are often effective, but because they constrict blood vessels, they are not suitable for everyone.
Usually, opioids are only prescribed when other medications have not worked. Opioids can be addictive and should be used with caution. They are usually only used short-term until another treatment is found.
A Natural Approach to Migraine Relief
If medication is ineffective or you prefer to try a natural approach, there are several things you can do to treat migraines. Consider the following natural remedies for migraines:
Scientific research is limited regarding the effectiveness of massage therapy for migraines; however, limited studies do not mean massage is not helpful for migraines—it just means there has not been a lot of research completed.
What we do know is that massage is an excellent way to decrease tension and stress—both of which may play a role in migraines. Massage may increases blood flow and helps with muscle relaxation. A shoulder, head, and neck massage may reduce muscle tension. As muscle tension decreases, there is less pressure on the blood vessels and nerves, which may reduce pain.
Although it may not be effective for everyone, acupuncture may help decrease migraines in some individuals. According to the American Migraine Foundation, a review of 22 clinical trials indicated that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of headaches in individuals who have migraines. In other studies, acupuncture also decreases nausea associated with migraines.
Biofeedback for Migraine Relief
Biofeedback involves learning how to control bodily processes, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. The theory is that by controlling blood pressure and muscle tension, it’s possible to decrease pain. Biofeedback therapy can take several sessions to learn how to do, and it is not effective for everyone. But it is a treatment option without the use of medication, therefore, adverse effects is not an issue, making it a good natural alternative.
Lifestyle Changes to Treat Migraines
In some instances, lifestyle changes can decrease the frequency of migraines. Consider the following suggestions:
Avoid Triggers: It may be useful to keep a headache diary and record factors, such as what you ate and drank on the days you have a migraine. Certain food and drinks can trigger migraines. Once you determine the cause, you may be able to decrease migraine triggers. Common food and drinks that trigger a migraine include peanut butter, chocolate, and meats with nitrates, such as hot dogs and bacon.
Get Enough Sleep: Sleep disturbances are a common migraine trigger. For example, if you don’t get enough sleep each night, it may lead to a migraine. But it’s not only a lack of sleep that may cause problems. Migraines can also be caused by a change in your sleep schedule. For instance, if you normally wake each morning by seven and sleep several hours later, it can trigger a migraine. Even if your migraines are not caused by a lack of sleep, getting enough rest can help you cope better and feel less stressed.
Consider Supplements: Certain supplements may help decrease migraines. For example, low magnesium levels have been found in individuals with frequent migraines. Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, high doses of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may decrease the frequency of migraines.
Before taking any supplements, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.