The Mighty Logo

How to Stop a Migraine: Effective Strategies for Relief

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Understanding Migraine

Migraine is a severe neurological condition that affects many people. These are not just regular headaches but can make you feel so bad that you must lie down. They often come with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.

To learn how to handle a migraine, it helps to know what they are, what they feel like, and what can cause them. Migraine triggers can include changes in your body’s hormones, stress, eating certain foods, or things around you like bright lights or strong smells.

Immediate Steps to Stop a Migraine

When you feel a migraine coming on, it’s natural to start searching for immediate relief. Here are some steps you can take right away:

Find a Quiet and Dark Place

Doing this helps because a migraine often makes you sensitive to light and sound. Being in a dark, quiet place can give your brain a break from these things that make migraine worse.

  • Go to a dark, quiet room.
  • Close the curtains to block out sunlight.
  • Turn off any loud noises, like TV or music.
  • Rest in a comfortable chair or lie down in bed.

Use Cold Therapy

Cold can shrink the blood vessels in your head, relieving pain. It can also numb the feeling of pain, giving you some relief.

  • Put an ice pack or cold compress on your forehead, neck, or temples.
  • Keep the cold pack on for 15 minutes, then take a break and do it again if needed.

Take Over-the-Counter Medication

These medicines can reduce inflammation and pain. Taking them early on can sometimes stop the migraine from becoming full-blown.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen can help.
  • Follow the instructions on the package for how much to take.
  • It’s best to take these as soon as your headache starts.

Prescription Medications

Prescription migraine medications can stop a migraine in its tracks. They are specially made for migraine headaches and can be very effective.

  • If you have them, take prescription migraine medicine as your doctor has told you to.
  • Medicines like triptans or ergots are stronger and work differently than over-the-counter pills.
  • These drugs work best when taken right as the migraine symptoms begin.

Drink Water

Staying hydrated is good for preventing and easing a migraine. Dehydration can be a migraine trigger or can make a migraine worse, so drinking water can be beneficial.

  • Sometimes, dehydration can cause or worsen a migraine.
  • When you feel a migraine starting, try drinking a glass of water.
  • Keep sipping water throughout the day.

Try Natural Remedies

Essential oils work in different ways. Peppermint oil can make you feel cooler and less in pain. Lavender oil is good for stress and can help you relax, which might ease the migraine.

  • Some people use essential oils like peppermint or lavender for relief.
  • You can rub the oil on your temples or smell it.
  • Peppermint oil can cool and soothe. Lavender oil can relax and calm you.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation can lower stress, which is a common migraine trigger. These techniques can calm your body and may reduce the severity of your migraine.

  • Try deep breathing exercises. Breathe in slowly, hold it, and then breathe out slowly.
  • You can also try muscle relaxation. Tighten and slowly relax each muscle group, starting with your toes and moving to your head.
  • Meditation can be helpful, too. Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath.

By taking these steps, you may be able to stop a migraine before it gets worse. Remember, these tips are to provide you with immediate help. If you often get a migraine, see a doctor. They can give you a long-term plan to manage your headaches.

Lifestyle Adjustments to Prevent Migraine Attacks

Changing how you live can make a big difference in preventing migraine. Your habits and choices can either make migraine more likely or help keep them away. Let’s look at how to change your eating, exercise, and sleep to prevent migraine.

Diet and Nutrition: What to Eat and Avoid

What you put in your body can affect migraine. Some foods are known for making migraine more likely:

  • Stay away from old cheese, alcohol, things with a lot of caffeine, and food that comes in packages or has a lot of salt.
  • Eat less chocolate, soy, ice cream, and sour cream.
  • Foods with a lot of flavor enhancers can also cause trouble.

But it’s not just about avoiding trigger foods. Eating specific foods can help, too:

  • Try to eat more greens like spinach and kale. They have magnesium, which is good for your brain.
  • Seeds, nuts, and whole grains are also full of magnesium.
  • Fish with lots of fat, like salmon, can be good because they have omega-3 fats, which help your brain.

Eating well-balanced meals at regular times also helps. Skipping meals can trigger migraine, so don’t go too long without eating.

Regular Physical Activity

Being active is good for preventing migraine. When you exercise:

  • Your body releases chemicals that block pain signals to your brain.
  • It helps you sleep better.
  • It lowers stress.

You don’t have to run a marathon. Even walking for 30 minutes a day can make a difference. But remember, too much intense exercise might trigger a migraine for some people. So, start slow and find what works for you.

The Importance of a Regular Sleep Schedule

Sleep is a big deal when it comes to migraine. Too little or too much sleep can bring on an attack. To keep your sleep steady:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark when you’re going to sleep.
  • Don’t look at your phone, computer, or TV before bed. The blue light can make it hard to fall asleep.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t stress about it. Try reading a book or listening to calming music instead.

Creating a bedtime routine tells your brain it’s time to wind down, which can help prevent migraine by keeping your sleep on track.

By looking after what you eat, making sure to move, and getting enough sleep, you can set up a good defense against migraine. These changes might not stop migraine attacks entirely, but they can reduce how often they happen and how bad a migraine attack is when it does happen. Remember, small changes can lead to significant improvements over time.

When to See a Doctor

Knowing when to get help from a doctor is vital to taking care of migraine. Sometimes, the signs are clear that you need more than home remedies.

Signs You Should See a Doctor

Here are some reasons to see a doctor:

  • You get a migraine more than once a week.
  • Your migraine feels different than they used to, like they hurt more or happen in new ways.
  • The ways you tried to stop your migraine don’t work anymore.
  • Your headaches start right after activities like lifting weights, having sex, or being active in other ways.
  • You get other symptoms you didn’t have before, like trouble seeing, speaking, or moving.

If these things happen to you, a doctor can check out what’s happening and advise you on what to do next.

Advanced Treatments for Severe Migraine Cases

Sometimes, a migraine doesn’t go away with the usual treatments. Then, you might need something stronger:

  • Botox injections can relax the muscles in your head and neck. This might stop a migraine from coming on.
  • Nerve stimulation uses devices to send mild electric shocks to your nerves. This can interrupt the pain signals that cause a migraine.

These treatments aren’t the first step. You only try them if other treatments don’t work. A doctor will tell you if they’re right for you and will help you use them safely.

Taking Control of Your Migraine

You can handle your migraine by knowing how to ease the pain fast, changing your daily habits, and following a plan over time. Keep in touch with doctors to make sure your plan works well. With these steps, you can reduce migraine’s impact.

Originally published: November 27, 2023
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home