Are you a migraine sufferer? If you’ve clicked on this link, you probably are. I hope I can help!
I have been a migraine sufferer for about 30 years now. They occur almost weekly. Raising 5 kids for 24 years and homeschooling for 20 means life doesn’t just slow down because my head hurts. Finding relief has been an ongoing project! I have found, over the years, a few ways to manage migraine pain. Notice I did not say “get rid of” the pain, although that does happen sometimes, too.
My headaches tend to hurt on one side of my head, neck, and shoulder and down to the mid-back (but not always the same side). I experience dizziness, eye strain, and nausea with occasional vomiting. They can be triggered by many things, including stress, food, lack of food, pollen, heat, hormones, sudden movement, etc. I’ve done food diaries and sleep journals and have not narrowed the causes down to anything particular.
Both of my teenage daughters experience migraines, but they are usually caused by and relieved by different things than mine.
I believe that migraines respond to different treatments for different people, so I do not claim to have a cure. However, I have found a few things that shorten the duration of the headache. My oldest daughter and I actually have different methods that work for us.
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My go-to pain reliever is Excedrin. I’ve tried all OTC and many prescription medications in my life, and this one has the most success. The key for me is to take it at the first sign of pain. I believe the caffeine is what helps, although drinking a caffeinated drink alone does not help.
Occasionally, in the midst of a really bad migraine, I will alternate Excedrin with Ibuprofen (Advil). Liqui-Gels are best, as they work quickly.
I do not like to take lots of pain relievers, but a migraine makes me forget all about healthy habits and BEG for relief.
There is nothing like COLD to sooth pain. Especially migraine pain. It has a sort of numbing sensation for me. I find this relief in several ways.
My BFF is peppermint oil. We keep a bottle at home, and one in all our purses. I rub it full strength on my temples, scalp, neck, and sometimes my back. We also use it in the shower. My method is to wet the hair, apply the oil to my scalp using fingertips, wait a few minutes, and then let the water run over my head again. The soothing peppermint sensation helps lessen the pain for a time.
If you’re not used to using the straight oil, it can be strong. I almost always get it too close to my eyes, and my eyes water. I’m used to it, but my friends think I cry a lot. : ) My family and closest friends know I have a headache by the scent of peppermint. Hey, there could be worse smells!
Everyone pretty much has their favorite essential oils brand, but if you don’t, here’s my recommendation: the strongest peppermint oil I have found (and trust me, I’ve tried them ALL) is the NOW brand. It’s the best for fighting headache pain. For all other essential oils, I use Plant Guru. I have found them to be extremely affordable and comparable to Young Living (which I love and which I used to use exclusively).
In the 28 years I’ve had these headaches, ice packs have been my consistent companion. These have taken many forms, but in the last decade I’ve used this kind the most. The gel pack is also very nice. I wrap it in a cloth and actually lay the painful side of my head on it. When I’m away from home and a headache comes on, I will hold a cold drink to my head or turn the car’s air conditioner on high.
Heat relaxes muscles, reduces inflammation, and increases blood flow. These are all beneficial in reducing migraine pain.
I have always avoided heat therapy because I do not like to be hot! However, in desperation a few months ago, I found that it actually reduced the duration of my migraine by almost half! By lying on an electric blanket (exposing the painful side of my body to the heat), I could fall asleep with muscles relaxed and wake up almost pain free in a short time. This was revolutionary for me! My typical migraine can last 18-24 hours, and this method was reducing them to 6-8!
Occasionally (because I don’t usually want to stand up more than necessary during a migraine) I will take a very hot shower and let the hot water target my head and neck. A hot shower with peppermint oil is a great combination.
This used to be the only way I would find relief. And that meant waiting until bedtime and taking a PM pain reliever or taking it in the middle of the day and leaving my family to fend for themselves. Again, the muscle relaxer in the PM helped a lot, but deep sleep seems to be necessary for some.
My oldest daughter takes Valerian root with great success. She will take it at anytime of day, get a really good nap (even if only for 1-2 hours), and wake up feeling much better. (If I took Valerian root during the day, you would not see me again til tomorrow! Everybody’s different.)
Hydration and Vitamin C
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, and is easy to fix. DRINK MORE WATER. It’s amazing how easy it is to become dehydrated, and how it affects the entire body. I’ve also had good results with high doses of Vitamin C during a migraine, especially if I catch it early. I like to use EmergenC, one packet every hour for 3-4 hours.
Update: I have discovered that the combination of ibuprofen softgels and EmergenC can actually take away the headache completely, in about an hour. It’s worked successfully several times in a row, so I thought it was worth sharing with you. I don’t know the science behind it, but I love it when the pain disappears completely!
This method seems to help with stress headaches. I fill a dishpan or other similar-sized tub with very hot water and a bit of Epsom salt. I’ll add rosemary and/or peppermint oil, too. I sit on the couch with my feet in this water while I put an ice pack on the back of my neck or on my head. I’ve done this often with the Vitamin C/ibuprofen combination and had great results with complete migraine relief.
Now, this is not scientific, but I’ve had other migraine sufferers confirm this method! It may depend on what triggered the headache, but sometimes a combination of processed cheese snacks (like Cheez-Its or Doritos), a caffeinated soda (Dr Pepper, of course!) and some chocolate will make a huge difference. It’s not healthy, but neither is excess use of pain medicine; if you’ve ever suffered a migraine, you aren’t typically worried about anything but pain relief.
Allergies and Essential Oils
There are a few things that make me feel good, but don’t necessarily get rid of the pain. I love essential oils, and keep several on hand at all times. Rosemary and Lavender are both great for aromatherapy during a migraine. I will pour several drops of both (and peppermint) right on my pillowcase when I lie down. I use whatever brand of oils I can get my hands on at any given time, but I will tell you that the better quality oils actually DO a better job. Young Living was my top choice for a long time, but when I discovered Plant Guru, I switched with excellent results.
In just the past two years I discovered that springtime pollen can cause me some excruciating migraines. I have never experienced typical allergy symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, etc.) but I finally decided to track the daily pollen counts at weather.com alongside the migraine frequency. It turns out that there are a couple of trees that set me off. Those migraines tend to be the worst! I tried daily allergy medication for a time, but it did nothing. What I discovered was an essential oil combination taken internally and externally: 3 drops each of Lemon, Lavender, and Peppermint oil in an empty gel capsule, and Cedarwood oil applied on my sinuses. I also use Rosemary on my sinuses if I have it. (Only use a quality food-grade essential oil for internal use.)
I hope these tips will help some of you find new things to try. I’d love to know what works for others! Please comment below if you have a trick that works, and share with your fellow migraine sufferers!