A migraine is a neurological condition that causes moderate to severe recurring headaches and related symptoms. They affect about 38 million Americans each year.
The duration and frequency vary widely. You may have multiple headaches each week or one or two a year. They can last for a few hours or several days. Most patients also experience nausea and visual sensations called an aura that usually starts before the headache.
The causes are still unknown, but migraine headaches may be partially hereditary. They can occur at any age, but often begin during adolescence, and peak between 30 and 40.
There is no known cure, but medical treatment and home remedies can help make your symptoms less frequent and severe.
Learn more about living with migraines.
There are many medical options that can help with migraines. That includes major advances in the past few years, such as new drugs with fewer side effects that block a brain chemical called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) to prevent severe headaches.
- Get diagnosed. There is no lab test to determine if you have migraines. However, your GP or a neurologist can discuss your family history and rule out other causes.
- Relieve pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be enough. However, if you take them too often, they may cause rebound headaches and other side effects. Your doctor can prescribe safer prescription alternatives if needed.
- Consider other medication or medical devices. Migraines can be treated with a wide range of pharmaceuticals. In addition to CGRP drugs, that may include triptans, antidepressants, and medicines for nausea and seizures. There are also a variety of devices that work by stimulating your nerves.
- Seek urgent care. Migraines rarely cause lasting harm, but some headaches require immediate attention. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if the pain is debilitating or you have neurological symptoms, like slurred speech and blurred vision.
You may also want to try natural methods for additional relief. For example, it’s especially important to manage stress that can make your symptoms worse.
- Rest before and after. Avoid physical activity during an attack. You may also be sensitive to light and sounds, so try to lie down in a dark, quiet room. When youâre back on your feet, ease back into your regular activities.
- Apply heat or ice. Place cold or warm compresses on the back of your neck or across your forehead. Cold temperatures numb the area, while heat relaxes stiff muscles.
- Massage your temples. Gently rubbing the area between your eyes and ears can loosen your muscles too. Go slowly and stop if touching the area makes you feel worse.
- Inhale soothing scents. You may find that some odors trigger an attack while others help. Experiment with lavender and mint.
- Change your diet. Certain foods can also be troublesome. That may include aged cheeses, baked goods with yeast, chocolate, and anything with MSG, nitrates, or aspartame.
- Drink water. Dehydration will aggravate any headache. Sip water or herbal tea, and steer clear of alcohol for a while.
- Work out. While moving around during an attack will make you feel worse, itâs important to exercise in between. Physical activity builds your strength and helps fight inflammation.
- Be consistent. Stick to a regular schedule. Youâre more likely to get adequate sleep and avoid skipped meals if you establish daily routines.
When it comes to migraines, it can take time to discover a treatment plan thatâs effective for you. Follow your doctorâs recommendations and let them know about any other methods you use to avoid any harmful interactions.