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5 tips for instant migraine relief

January 26, 2024
4 minutes
Your Health
Chronic Conditions

If you've ever had a migraine, you understand that the pain associated with the condition can be incapacitating. Thankfully, there are options that may help you ease a migraine at home. Here, we'll take a look at options you can try to get quick relief from migraines.

Understanding migraines

Migraines are not fully understood, but researchers have several theories on why the condition occurs. Current migraine researchers believe that certain chemicals and hormones, including estrogen and serotonin, contribute to migraine pain. Today's migraine theories suggest that waves of brain activity trigger chemicals (like serotonin and estrogen) to narrow the blood vessels. This narrowing of blood vessels may result in migraines.

Serotonin-based migraines can occur for both men and women, while estrogen-based migraines only occur in women. 

A migraine with aura is known as a complicated migraine, while a migraine without aura is known as a common migraine.

Symptoms of common migraines include:

  • A drilling or throbbing headache that lasts between four and 72 hours
  • Pain that begins on one side of the head and spreads to the other side
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Mood changes
  • Speech changes
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

About 20% of people who experience migraines have a migraine aura that happens before the pain begins. A migraine aura is often confused for a stroke. The condition can last for up to an hour, and may cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • Blind spots in vision
  • Seeing bright flashing lights, sparkles, or wavy lines
  • Tingling skin
  • Changes in speech
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Changes in sensory perception, especially in smell and taste

Some people experience a condition called silent migraine. When a silent migraine occurs, a person may only experience the debilitating effects of a migraine aura, such as visual, language, sensory, and/or speech disruption. While less painful than a standard migraine, silent migraines can still be debilitating. Silent migraines typically last less than an hour.

Some people also experience a postdromal phase of migraines. This phase occurs after the headache has subsided. People who experience a postdromal migraine phase may feel fatigued, mentally foggy, and experience aches throughout the body. This phase typically lasts for about six hours following the end of a migraine.

Migraines can be extremely painful, and can make it impossible for you to move through your daily activities. Thankfully, there are some home remedies you can try to alleviate your pain and help your migraine symptoms subside.

An important note: While most migraines will go away on their own with home treatment, this isn't always the case. If you or a loved one experience a severe and sudden headache, a headache that you would describe as the worst of your life, a fever with a stiff neck, signs of dehydration, visual changes that are not related to a migraine aura, seizures, or you've recently experienced a head injury, it's important to go to the emergency room. It's also important to seek emergency medical care if your migraine has lasted for more than 72 hours.

5 tips for instant migraine relief

Try these simple at-home remedies to get the relief you need when you feel a migraine coming on.

Use a cold pack

Placing a cold pack on your head can help reduce migraine pain. The application of a cold pack provides you with a mild numbing effect, which can make it easier to feel comfortable. Applying a cold pack can also help decrease swelling, which can help to relieve pain.

Turn the lights down

A 2017 study by Harvard Medical School showed a pathway that connects the eyes to the brain's areas of heightened activity during a migraine. Light can make this pain worse, as it can activate the areas of the brain that are already working overtime. Relaxing in a dark, quiet room can help minimize stimulation to the brain, providing you with pain relief. If you need to be out and about (to make it to a doctor's appointment for treatment, for example), it's important that you don't drive, and that you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Use a heat pack

Sometimes, heat can help with migraine pain, especially if your migraine has been triggered by stress or muscle tension. It can take some time to discover whether hot or cold therapy is a better fit for alleviating pain. Placing the heat pack on tense areas of your body near your head--such as your neck, upper back, or shoulders--may help your muscles relax and allow your migraine symptoms to dissipate.

Hydrate

Dehydration can trigger migraines. Many people who suffer from migraines find that drinking plenty of water can help lessen the number of migraines they get, as well as lessen the pain they feel during a migraine. In addition to drinking water, you may want to try drinking an electrolyte solution that can help your body rehydrate faster. If you're experiencing severe dehydration, you may need to head to the emergency room to get IV fluids.

Essential oils

Essential oils are plant-based liquids that are highly concentrated and give off a strong scent. Some people who deal with migraines find that diffusing essential oils or applying them topically using a carrier oil can help to provide migraine headache relief. There are several essential oils that are known for helping with migraine headaches, including peppermint, rosemary, lavender, and chamomile. Less is more when it comes to essential oils--start with just a few drops, as the smell of oils can be quite strong.

If you get migraines frequently, it's smart to talk with your doctor about solutions that can help you experience the condition less frequently.

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