Migraine is one of the most common conditions in the world and causes debilitating symptoms in its sufferers, so it’s no surprise that there have been considerable efforts to find effective home remedies to treat the condition
I always stress to my patients that while home remedies can help, they cannot be relied on alone and should always supplement professional treatment.
Migraine is one of the most common conditions in the world and causes debilitating symptoms in its sufferers, so it’s no surprise that there have been considerable efforts to find effective home remedies to treat the condition. While there are many effective prescribed medicines for migraine, some of my patients do like to supplement professional treatment with some home remedies that they have found to help.
However, it’s important to note that patients often have adverse reactions to different treatment methods. There is no “blanket fix,” so migraine sufferers should always consult a doctor to develop a tailored approach.
In addition, I always stress to my patients that while home remedies can help, they cannot be relied on alone and should always supplement professional treatment. People should always consult a doctor to rule out more dangerous causes of headaches.
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Applying an ice pack or a cold compress to the neck or head area can help with migraine pain by decreasing inflammation, slowing nerve conduction and constricting blood vessels. In a study of 28 women, applying a cold gel pack to the head reduced migraine pain significantly.
Acupressure is essentially applying pressure to specific parts of the body to release muscle tension and alleviate pain. For example, a popular pressure point for migraine and headaches is to squeeze the “meaty skin” between the thumb and the pointer finger. While this may cause pain initially in the area, it can help to alleviate the headache pain.
A study of 40 people that had migraines without aura found that pressure on the acupoint three fingers up from the base of the wrist on the inside of the arm proved effective in reducing nausea and vomiting associated with a migraine headache.
Magnesium is an important mineral that’s found in many greens, nuts, seeds, and grains, and is known to help reduce migraine frequency with few side effects, as it binds to specific receptors in the brain that are involved in migraine.
Either by eating more magnesium-rich foods or by taking a supplement, sufferers of migraine and menstrually-related migraine can help to reduce the frequency of the condition.
Typically, my patients take 400mg a day as a supplement. Magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate tend to have less side effects on the stomach.
Butterbur is an herbal remedy that has shown to help reduce migraine frequency in three placebo-controlled, randomized studies. A daily dose of 150 mg of butterbur was effective in reducing the frequency of migraines when taken for 90 days or more.
However, there have been some safety concerns around butterbur as it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), a toxic substance that causes hepatotoxicity in humans. So, the extract must be manufactured diligently to remove these PAs.
As a general method to relax and decrease pain and stress levels, yoga is very effective. Taking up the practice also has the potential to relieve headache frequency in migraine patients. One study on 60 chronic migraine sufferers found that headache frequency and intensity reduced more in the group receiving both yoga therapy and conventional care, compared to the group receiving conventional care alone.
Another study found a significant reduction in frequency, severity, and association symptoms of migraine in a group of people that practiced yoga for three months, compared to one that did not practice yoga.
While not strictly a home remedy, biofeedback (or biological feedback) is a method that migraine patients can be trained to practice at home to reduce the frequency of migraines. According to the American Migraine Foundation, biofeedback training can yield a 45% to 60% reduction in headache severity and frequency.
However, as a technique to reduce migraines it requires effort and commitment on the part of the patient, in the form of multiple weekly training sessions over the course of several months. Biofeedback itself uses an instrument that monitors a bodily response like skin temperature or muscle tension, which are two indicators of stress or strain. The idea is then to observe and modify your body’s reaction to responses that indicate stress. Then after enough training with the instrument, you will be able to recognize and reduce tension in your body without the help of the equipment.
For migraines and tension-type headaches, Electromyogram (EMG) is normally used, with an EMG machine that monitors skeletal muscle tension. The three most common muscles that are monitored are the frontalis in your forehead, the masseter in the jaw, and the trapezius, which hunches your shoulders. Biofeedback machines that you can buy and use at home can be found here.
Many of my patients often report that a strong cup of coffee can prevent or reduce the severity of an attack. This is not surprising: As an occasional acute treatment for migraine, caffeine can aid the absorption of some medicines, cause the blood vessels in the brain to narrow which causes a pain-relieving effect, and often makes people generally feel better and more alert. In fact, when caffeine is added to the combination of acetaminophen and aspirin, it can relieve the pain by 40%.
I recommend to my migraine patients that if they must have caffeine, they should limit it to one serving per day. They should also keep track of how much caffeine they drink. It doesn’t take much to cause a rebound headache or a caffeine withdrawal headache.
However, more than occasional use as a treatment for migraine can backfire and cause rebound headaches if a patient develops a tolerance for the drug. Then, withdrawal from the drug when the brain is expecting another hit can be accompanied by an even more intense migraine, fatigue, or nausea. So, I do not advise my patients to use caffeine to treat headaches if they regularly consume caffeine already.