It’s not just a headache. Migraines are severe, painful headaches that are often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The symptoms and pain caused by migraines can last for hours or even days.
Migraines affect nearly 25 percent of women and 14 to 20 percent of men, and even children can get them. In most cases, the migraine headache affects one side of the head with pulsating pain that lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Migraines are often so debilitating that the sufferer is bedridden with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
It’s hard to put down on paper the exact symptoms of a migraine. I’ve suffered with migraines since my early twenties. They started a few months after I was in a car accident. For me, it starts with some blurriness in one eye. I describe it as feeling like I’m in a tunnel. Everything is magnified and my sensitivity to sounds and smells increased.
There are many “migraine triggers” and no two people have the exact same triggers and symptoms. Fluorescent light bulbs, coffee, dehydration, sugar, smoking, MSG, prescription drugs including blood pressure medication and oral contraceptives, lack of sunlight (vitamin D), molds, artificial food additives (preservatives and colorings), mineral imbalances, food allergies, vitamin B deficiencies, and alcohol abuse can all trigger migraines. Foods high in tyramine such as aged cheeses, nuts, soy, chocolate, processed meats, wheat, and many processed foods can trigger migraines as well.
Easing Migraine Pain and Symptoms Naturally
There are many over-the counter and prescription drugs with migraines, but if at all possible, it's best to try and limit the amount of medication you're taking. Below you will find all natural aides to help prevent and ease the pain and symptoms of migraines.
This herb treats migraine pain by interrupting its main cause: inflammatory reactions in your head that aggravate nerve endings and cause the blood vessels to expand. You can take it every day as a preventative, or chew on feverfew leaves during the migraine itself.
For many women, migraines occur during their menstrual cycle. If your progesterone level is too low in relation to estrogen it can cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate. Chasteberry is an herb that helps regulate hormones and prevent large drops that would cause a migraine.
I’ve been told many times that I need to drink more water. Doesn’t everybody? Dehydration can lead to headaches abd migraines. Keeping your body well-hydrated with 6-8 glasses of water each day may ward off migraines due to dehydration.
Caffeine—The Double-Edged Sword
Caffeine can both help and hinder migraines. My neurologist told me to quit caffeine altogether. While I wasn’t a coffee drinker, I’ll admit an afternoon Diet Pepsi hit the spot. While caffeine can trigger headaches for some people, if you have a caffeine free diet, you can actually drink a caffeinated beverage during a migraine to gain some relief. But it only helps a migraine if your body is relatively caffeine-free (not for the all-day coffee drinker). Caffeine can restrict blood vessels, it can lessen pain, it’s a constituent of some pain over-the-counter pain medicines, but it can also trigger headaches for some people.
As silly as it seems, this practice is an ancient headache remedy. Simply tie a headband or bandana snugly around your head. Many people swear the pressure from the band helps relieve the headache. My chiropractor uses a similar technique by pushing on my head, and I’ve gotten a lot of relief from this.
The wonderful aromatic properties of peppermint oil make it a great remedy for relieving headaches. It’s available in essential oil form, and also several different kinds of creams and balms. You can apply a few drops directly to your temples, or wherever your head is hurting.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
A new study confirms that supplementing with high-dose vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may help prevent migraines, according to the European Journal of Neurology (2004;11:475–7). In doses of 400 milligrams a day, vitamin B2 can also act as a preventative for migraines. It can cause some people to urinate more frequently or have darker urine, so the individual dosage may have to be adjusted.
Cold (or hot) compress
When all else fails, a dark room with a heated or cold compress may be just the thing to help. With my migraines, I get a baseball-sized lump directly at the base of my skull. The only thing that helps loosen it is a heating pad. At the same time to relieve my ocular symptoms, I place an ice pack over my eyes. The combination of the two really helps reduce the pain.
Because people react differently to hot and cold, give both options a try to see what provides the most relief.
Monitor Your Migraines
Whether you try one or all of these at-home remedies, it's a good idea to keep a “headache diary” to monitor what works and what doesn't, and mostly importantly what triggers your headache. This information will assist your doctor in treating you.
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