Migraine Headache Remedies Beyond the Doctor’s Office
Making Sense of Migraine Headache Remedies
There will be times when even the best prescription medications for migraine headaches will not work. Remember that you are only 45% likely to respond to anyone medication for migraine headaches. So the question remains, what to do for a migraine headache?
There may also be times when your doctor suggests a medication holiday, or perhaps you want to avoid putting those chemicals in your body in the first place. You will need to know migraine headache remedies. In this article, we will discuss all the options there are for treatment today, as well as the best home remedies for migraine headaches.
Acupuncture, the Eastern Meets West
A traditional treatment that is used to treat nearly all medical conditions in Eastern medicine is now making a strong foothold in the West as people seek alternatives to putting chemicals in their bodies. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be quite effective as both an acute or prophylactic measure.
Acupuncture is a Chinese treatment for many different ailments that have been in use for thousands of years. Fine needles are placed in pressure points throughout the body that corresponds to treating different diseases or areas of the body.
Activating these pressure points is believed to unblock the energy that runs through the body which in turn triggers the release of chemicals in the body that is thought to promote healing and balance throughout the body. The points in the head and neck are thought to be particularly useful in treating migraine, though practitioners tend to take the full body approach.
Having a treatment during a migraine, if you can arrange it, is effective in relieving the pain, while regular treatments are believed to prevent a headache in the first place.
You should search for an acupuncturist who is trained in relieving headaches. You should also make sure that they use sterile needles and that they are properly licensed according to your state’s regulations. Acupuncture is even covered by many insurance companies and that number is growing.
There are also products on the market that apply pressure to some of the pressure points used in acupuncture. They are “Wearable” and you can use them when you experience the first hints of a migraine headache attack.
Aromatherapy, the Nose Knows
If you can tolerate smells during your migraine, you might want to consider this option. Aromatherapy is another alternative medicine that is growing in popularity.
The smell of certain substances, like plants, are believed to aid in the release of chemicals in the body that promote relaxation and they may also stop the release of the chemicals that contribute to migraine headache attacks.
These substances are steeped in essential oils to produce the aromas. These oils are either used in diffusers or small amounts are dabbed on the temples, the neck or under the nose.
Lavender, ginger and peppermint oils are the most common essential oils used for treating migraines, though there may be others that can help. Good quality oils are recommended and it is helpful to consult with someone who is familiar with the use of essential oils to treat physical ailments.
Essential oils and diffusers can be purchased at retailers such as the Migrastil Migraine Stick is a great option that combines three of the five top plant extracts used for migraine relief.
To get relief that is convenient enough to be used wherever you are
Behavioral Therapy, More Than Just Talk
The first image that comes to most people’s minds when they think of Behavioral Therapy is that it’s talking through your problems, but it has evolved to much more than just that. When you change the way you think, you change the chemicals that are being released into your brain. Behavioral therapy and the mind over matter techniques that are taught can be very powerful not only for preventing migraine attacks but also for stopping them in their tracks.
- Biofeedback is a therapy in which electrodes are hooked up to different parts of the body to record bodily functions such as temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. The patient is then taught to use the power of thinking to change these factors. Relaxation of pulse rate and blood pressure and temperatures brings about the release of chemicals in the brain that triggers chemicals that bring about the decrease or cessation of pain. Biofeedback has been used for many years to treat migraines and to reduce stress. Using the techniques taught in biofeedback on a regular basis has been found to reduce the number of migraines a person experiences and can also be used during an attack to reduce the pain.
- Cognitive-Based Therapy (CBT) Again using mind over matter, the patient is taught to change the way they perceive pain. It is also used to treat factors that bring about migraine headache attacks such a sleep patterns, personal stressors at home or at work and addiction issues (such as to opiates, alcohol and even caffeine. Short term CBT is great for those who are adverse to using medication by eliminating negative thoughts and turning them into more productive, stress relieving thought. CBT relieves anxiety and decreases stress which can bring on migraine headaches.
- Relaxation Therapies such as meditation and self-hypnosis can relieve stress when used on a regular basis and can help the person to “remove” themselves from the pain by concentrating on something else. This can be achieved by working with a therapist, however, there are may good CDs available to train you in these techniques. Click Here!‘ Here is one good program.
BreatheEasy Migraine Device
This device is similar to a Netti Pot in that you insert it into the nose to use it. The BreatheEasy does not push water through your nose though. Instead, it blasts a concentrated amount of Carbon Dioxide into your nose which stimulates the vagus and trigeminal nerves which are touted to bring almost instant relief. The carbon dioxide comes from a half-full bottle of soda pop that is attached to the opposite end from the side that you place in your nose. The BreatheEasy device has been FDA approved for a while but has only been mass-produced recently. To get relief in seconds:
The Cephaly devices are FDA approved devices that attach to the forehead by electrodes. It uses magnets to send micro-impulses to the trigeminal nerve which in turn decreases the frequency of migraine headache attacks. The Cephaly device is covered by most insurance companies in the United States with a prescription for it from your migraine specialist or neurologist.
Chiropractic care Is the adjustment of the spine to reduce pain and discomfort. The primary benefit of chiropractic care is stress reduction. It is not generally recommended for the treatment of a migraine. Some people have found it to be helpful though, and it is being covered more and more by insurance companies. Should you choose to try it, you should seek out a Chiropractor who is well versed in the treatment of migraine headaches and who is gentle with the neck.
Daith piercings are all the rage right now. Daith piercings are the piercing of the smallest fold of the ear where the top of the ear connects to the inner ear. Some people find the getting this piercing keeps them from having migraines. The idea is to pierce a pressure point, or nerve, that runs through this area which applies pressure to the nerve, thus having it in a continual state of having pressure on it. Studies show that the perception of migraines decreasing in frequency and severity is a placebo effect.
The best advice for someone who is considering getting this piercing is to find an acupuncturist who is not only an expert at treating migraine but is also very familiar with your pressure point. You take the acupuncturist to the person doing the piercing or find an acupuncturist who is talented in doing body piercings as well.
Remember, this is piercing a small piece of cartilage. It heals very slowly and is prone to infections that take a long time to heal as well.
Your diet can be the key to controlling the number of attacks you have. First of all, you should try to identify what foods or food additive trigger migraines for you and then avoid them. Eliminating triggers from your diet is the least you should do though.
Since being overweight can contribute not only to migraine headache attack but also to conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes, you should also adopt a diet that helps to control weight and avoid sugar.
There are many diets that are popular today: Atkins, South Beach, Ketogenic, etc. When deciding on a diet for you, you should weigh the ease of use along with how easy it will be to avoid triggers. Diets that require regular fasting probably aren’t going to work, as skipping meals can trigger migraines, for example.
In general, it is good to develop healthy eating habits. Skipping meals is not a good thing to do for any number of health conditions, but is our case, migraine headaches, it is particularly bad. Our brain needs the fuel it gets from the foods we eat. If we are not feeding our bodies correctly, we are not serving our brains very well. It’s like putting leaded gas in a Lamborghini and letting it run on empty.
Exercise is another factor that will not only help decrease the number of migraine headache attacks that you have but will benefit you in many other ways. But be warned against strenuous workouts as strenuous physical activity is also a migraine trigger.
You don’t need to concentrate on a boot camp style exercise plan that will make you buff in a short period of time, or train for a marathon, you just need to get up and move more. Any aerobic exercise that increases circulation on a regular basis such as walking, swimming, and cycling. In fact, walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Gradually work up to more strenuous activity, like weight training if you want to be buff.
Heat is another thing that is very helpful when you have a migraine headache attack. When you have a migraine, your neck and shoulders tend to tighten up, which only serves to aggravate the pain you feel. Placing a heating pad like this one will help relax those muscles. When you are using heat remedies, remember to use it in a 15-minute on/15 minutes off pattern. It’s NOT recommended that you place heat directly on your head, though. Heat therapy soothes aches and tension in the neck and shoulders, migraines, and tension-type headaches. For heat that combines aromatherapy that is great for the neck and shoulders:
Herbal remedies are among the treatments that superseded modern medicine. They can be used either in the form of a supplement, or the leaves can be used to make a tea. The following are herbs used to treat migraines:
- Butterbur root is used in extract form to relieve fever, coughs, asthma and stomach ulcers. This may be a particularly useful treatment if you find that your migraines coincide with your seasonal allergies, On the other hand, it is not recommended for those who have ragweed allergies, as it is in the same family as ragweed. Butterbur can have side effects such as itchy eyes, diarrhea, upset stomach, fatigue, drowsiness and allergic reactions.
- Feverfew is used by some people to prevent migraine headaches. In fact, studies show that it can decrease the occurrence of attacks. It comes as supplement and teas as well as extracts that can be taken directly as drops of used to make a tea. It is also used to treat fever, irregular menstrual periods, arthritis, psoriasis, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Parthenolide is a chemical contained in feverfew that is shown to decrease factors in the body that cause migraine headache attacks.
Homeopathic remedies have also been around for centuries. If you chose to explore homeopathic remedies, I recommend that you find a person well versed and certified in Homeopathic medicine to consult with. A homeopathic pharmacy should be able to help connect you with someone, or you could always take a certification course yourself.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy controls your hormone levels, particularly that of estrogen, which has shown to be effective in preventing migraine headaches. Your gynecologist or endocrinologist should be able to do the test needed to determine your hormone levels and be able to prescribe the correct amount of hormones needed to achieve balance. There is also the risk of certain cancers with HRT, so be sure your doctor knows your family history.
Ice is recommended by most doctors and Migraine Headache Specialists. It can be used directly on the pain. Some believe that the ice actually reduces the inflammation, while others believe that the ice interferes with the pain signals that are being sent out. Personally, it is one of my “go-tos” when I have a migraine headache. There are even wearable ice packs that have been designed specifically for headaches. To get your own wearable ice pack that is reversible and long lasting:
Interventional medicine is growing in popularity as people dealing with pain issues look to find alternatives to treating pain without the use of narcotic pain relievers. It is aimed at reducing face, neck and head pain by using anesthetics and sometimes steroids to stop the inflammation by doctors trained in such medications, such as pain management doctors These injections can last for weeks, months or even years. These injections are well tolerated by most and are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Interventional medicine also offers several methods to treating migraine pain.
- Nerve Blocks used in migraine treatment are the peripheral nerves in the occipital (base of the skull) and trigeminal nerve branches (in the temples and near the eyebrows). You may experience numbness across the skull or face for several hours after the injections. If the nerve blocks (which can last several months) are well tolerated and bring relief, the patient may be a candidate for Radiopathy (the use of extreme cold to accomplish nerve ablation) to disable pain impulses which can last six months to three years.
- Trigger Point Injections can be done in the muscles in the neck and back where tension tend is built up. When a trigger point is pressed upon, it produces a twitch in the affected muscle(s). This tension can cause pain in the muscle and extending area (known as referred pain) contributing to the headache attacks. Trigger point injections generally last for several weeks.
- Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block (SPG) is achieved by placing an anesthetic to the bundle of nerves behind the nose that are linked to the trigeminal nerve. This also works for cluster headaches and autonomic cephalgias and Facial Pain Syndrome. There are three SPG devices on the market that are FDA approved. They work by placing a tube up each nostril to deliver the numbing agent. This takes 20 – 30 seconds on each side with relief occurring anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours after the treatment. Treatments are done twice a week for 6 weeks.
Massage, including craniosacral therapy and dry cupping, increases the blood flow to the back, neck, and head which relieves stress is believed by some to prevent migraine headache attacks, though clinical trials have not shown much promise.
Oxygen which is generally used in the hospital can be prescribed for home use if the patient finds it to decrease the headache pain.
Social support is a very important factor in dealing with migraine. Friends and family that are supportive and are willing to do things for you lie prepare meals, run errands, take care of your children, run interference between you and the world, or take you to the emergency room when other treatments fail can bring you much-needed peace of mind. Like any other illness, it is important to have supportive people in your life to help you. Many times, you just need to know that someone understands. Joining Support Groups can also be of benefit. Other members may know of therapies that can be of help because no one understands like those who experience the same thing.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS therapy has long been used by physical therapist and has been prescribed by doctors for many years to treat moderate to serve or even chronic pain of all types. A prescription may be covered by your insurance company, but is no longer needed to purchase a TENS Unit which generally consists of 2 to 4 electrodes attached to a controller which generates and controls the intensity of the electrical charge. The electrical charge. TENS Therapy can be used on the neck and shoulders during a migraine headache attack to help relieve the pain by stimulating nerves that can help bring relief.
Therapy animals have been shown to reduce stress and lessen depression, which is known to increase the instances of migraine headaches and other health issues that contribute to a migraine. Besides the usual costs to own an animal, purchasing one that is or could be trained for this purpose is generally prohibitive.
Vitamins (and other Supplements)
Supplements have been found in some clinical trials and practical applications to be helpful both in abortive and prophylactic efforts. Here are some examples:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 400mg daily
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 400+ mg daily
- Coenzyme Q10
- Magnesium 400-600mg per day abortive, or given through IV at the hospital
- Melatonin 3-10mg nightly to help support good sleep patterns
Yoga has been practiced for centuries in the Far East is a good way to keep stress levels in check. It is also helpful to teach meditation and breathing techniques that may help you learn to cope with migraines. Yoga teaches good mind/body awareness and techniques. The same can be said of Tai-Chi and other forms of Eastern exercise and combat programs
As you can see, there are many different migraine headache remedies that may help you achieve freedom from migraines. It has been my experience that what works wonders for me, may fall flat when you try it. I encourage you to try different migraine headache remedies and different combinations of them to build an arsenal of ways to fight the beast!
In the future weeks and months, I will be bringing you further information in the way of product and service reviews. It is my sincere hope to help you find what works for you. I hope you will come back often as you endeavor to find your freedom!
If you have any question, comments or suggestions, leave them in the comments section below and I will gladly get back in touch with you so that we can continue the conversation!