Dealing with Migraines: It’s More Than Just a Headache

As more than 36 million Americans know, the process of preventing, treating, and managing migraine headaches is one of the most onerous health problems anyone can face. Calculated annually, migraines cost an estimated $20 billion dollars last year in medical expenses and lost productivity, making it clear that they have an extensive impact on daily life, both professional and personal. 

While there are no guaranteed short, quick-fix answers to migraines, there are ways to get rid of a migraine fast. There are several keys to speedy relief: (1) understanding what migraine headaches are and how they work (2) knowing the specific individual symptoms and the best ways to deal with them (3) employing an array of effective treatment options.

So what exactly is a migraine? Simply put, migraine headaches are episodes of intense throbbing or pulsing sensations in one area of the head or body, with that basic symptom commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light, sound or both. Left untreated, they usually last anywhere from 4-72 hours, with a severity level ranging from mild to extremely debilitating.

Migraines can be divided into several categories, some very broad and others quite specific, and knowing which kind of migraine you’re experiencing is one of the keys to quick relief. The two most basic categories of migraines are common migraines and classic migraines.

Common migraines, which are sometimes also known as probable migraines, are often more severe versions of normal headaches, with some migraine symptoms. Classic migraines, meanwhile, always include some level of the key migraine symptom, which is known as an aura symptom.

In lay terms, aura symptoms can be described as a series of sensations and feelings that normally start anywhere from 10-30 minutes before the migraine itself. They include seeing flashing lights, jagged lines or blind spots, along with having a disturbed sense of smell, taste or touch. A lack of mental acuity may also occur, which victims often describe as feeling “fuzzy.”

These aura issues affect 1 in 5 migraine sufferers, and they are sometimes accompanied by a variety of other pre-migraine symptoms, such as constipation, food cravings, hyperactivity, irritability, neck stiffness, or uncontrollable yawning.

Why are aura symptoms important? If they are severe, they can also indicate the presence of more serious problems, such as brain stem bleeding, that obviously require immediate medical treatment. And if aura symptoms aren’t as serious, they provide a warning that a migraine sufferer has encountered a so-called trigger and should seek some kind of immediate relief.

With regard to the more specific types of migraines, those that last for 15 days or more are referred to as chronic, and people who suffer from this type of migraine frequently have aura symptoms that can last for a week after the attack itself. (Postdrome symptoms are the other type of symptom that can occur after a migraine, producing a feeling of being drained or “washed out.”)

To get even more specific, retinal migraines include visual symptoms along with the usual aural issues. Perhaps the most controversial diagnosis is abdominal migraines, which tend to affect children and often begin with a stomachache that is frequently cured by a nap. Many of those who experience abdominal migraines as children go on to have either classic or common migraines as adults, but the diagnosis of abdominal migraines has yet to be backed up by a conclusive body of research.

The first actual step in finding quick relief is to know your triggers. There are three basic groups of migraine triggers:

o Food triggers. These typically include aged cheese, soy products, hot dogs and lunch meats, caffeine, and alcohol, most frequently red wine. Skipped meals can also be a trigger, along with certain food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

o Environmental triggers. These include sudden weather changes, the presence of bright lights, different pollutants, and certain odors. Obviously, there are a lot of individual variations in this category.

o Physical triggers. Fatigue is the most commonly cited physical trigger. Many migraine sufferers experience a feeling of being run down before a migraine, and too much sleep can sometimes be just as much of a problem as too little. Menstrual-related hormonal changes frequently trigger migraines for many women as well.

When it comes to getting quick relief, triggers serve two important functions. They provide warning that a migraine is about to happen, often helping the victim to get to a less stressful environment and start implementing whatever treatment options work best.

Treatment is more complicated, and is based to some extent on knowing more about the causes of the migraine itself. Genetic and environmental factors obviously play a significant role, and intense physical activity can cause migraines as well.

Migraines can also  be caused by a neurovascular disorder in which blood vessels become enlarged, particularly the temporal artery, which is one of the largest blood vessels in the brain area. When this happens, chemicals are released from nerve fibers that are coiled around the blood vessels, causing pain, inflammation and further enlargement.

Chemical changes in the brain itself can also cause migraines. One of the most frequent causes is overproduction of serotonin, a key brain chemical. This can occur naturally for some individuals, but it can also be caused by overuse of drugs used to treat migraines. Anti-depressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, etc. are the most frequently cited examples of drugs that can cause serotonin buildup.

Finally, another purely medical cause involves chemical or physiological changes in the brain stem itself, which can affect the operation of the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway in the brain.

The path from diagnosis to treatment usually starts with a blood test. Blood tests are used to determine whether there are problems in the blood vessels themselves. They also help doctors detect or rule out the presence of infections in the spinal cord, or the presence of toxins in the body or the brain.

CT scans are often the next step in the diagnostic process if more specific information is required. These scans can also be used to rule out or detect the presence of tumors, infection, brain damage or bleeding in the brain. The final tools in the diagnostic kit is  are the MRI or a spinal tap, both of which can also be used to further analyze these possibilities.

Treatment itself can be divided into three fairly broad categories — drugs, alternative medicine and home remedies, with drugs usually bringing the quickest relief from severe migraines. Drug types can be further divided into two categories: (1) acute or abortive drugs that are taken during attacks and are designed to stop symptoms that have already started (2) preventive medications taken before an attack, often on a daily basis, to reduce severity or frequency.

The most common drug treatment is over the counter medications, which are especially effective in providing fast relief for milder migraines where the symptoms are less severe. These include aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which are often combined by different manufacturers in proprietary products and formulas (e.g., Excedrin Migraine). While they are generally effective, the one major drawback of these kinds of drugs is that they can cause complications when overused on a consistent basis.

In the world of prescription drugs for migraines, the most commonly recommended drugs are called triptans, which work by constricting blood vessels and blocking pain pathways in brain. They are more effective than over the counter meds when it comes to providing quick relief, but the side effects, which include nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and muscle weakness, can be more severe as well. The most frequently prescribed triptan is Sumatriptin.

Ergots are the second most commonly prescribed drug for migraines, and they are often combined with caffeine. They are considered generally less effective than triptans, and they may worsen nausea or vomiting symptoms and lead to the same kind of overuse headaches associated with over the counter meds. 

Other prescription treatments include butalbital, a barbiturate that is sometimes combined with acetominophen, caffeine, aspirin or codeine. Narcotics such as oyxcodone are occasionally prescribed, as are narcotic nasal sprays such as  or tramadol. Naprosyn is another oft-used prescription drugs that has proven effective for some migraine victims.

One of the bright spots on the drug horizon is a new subcutaneous, needle-free treatment called Sumavel DosePro. In initial studies, freedom from pain occurred in less than two hours for 61 percent of the patients who took it, with 33 percent of those in clinical trials experiencing relief within 15 minutes.

Preventive medications represent the other side of the prescription drug approach. They are normally used or recommended for those experiencing four or more attacks a month, with the attacks lasting longer than 12 hours. They are also used frequently if pain relief medications aren’t helping, or if symptoms include prolonged aura issues with numbness or weakness.

The most commonly prescribed preventives are beta blockers, which include cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and Botox.

If drugs don’t work, the medical treatment of last resort is migraine surgery, which involves the decompression of certain nerves around the head and neck to alleviate symptoms.

The final refuge for migraine sufferers who wish to avoid drug or medical treatments is home remedies and alternative medicine. These approaches vary widely on an individual basis in the level and amount of relief they provide. Some migraine victims report instant relief from certain types of alternative medicine or home remedies, while others experience no positive effects at all. They can also be preventive or provide immediate relief, depending on the reaction and approach of the individual.

The most common forms of alternative medicine used to treat migraines are acupuncture, biofeedback, massage therapy, and cognitive behavior therapy. Supplements containing herbs, vitamins and minerals also fall under the alternative medicine umbrella, with the best options being butterbur and feverfew on the herbal side and the most often used nutritional supplements containing riboflavin and magnesium.

Home remedies vary even more widely. Some people find salt consumption provides relief from a migraine, either before or after symptoms develop. Others find relief from ice wraps, and scalp massage has also been cited as being effective, with some people preferring temple massage and others choosing to avoid that particular area of the skull completely. There are dozens of other home remedies, some of which are based on folklore, cultural wisdom or both.

How to get rid of Migraines fast without Medicine

One in every 4 American homes are affected by migraine pain. Although, there are prescription as well as over the counter medications, many people do not want to depend on medications to get rid of migraines fast without medicine. When trying to treat migraine pain, time is of the essence. Start to act as soon as you feel the symptoms how to get rid of migraines fast without medicine.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can contribute to a headache. At times, in addition to headache pain, people experiencing migraines will also experience nausea and vomiting. This of course, contributes to dehydration causing a vicious cycle. As soon as you feel the headache coming on, drink a large glass of water and try to continue to sip water throughout the day. This in and of itself helps some sufferers get rid of migraines fast without medicine.

Get Some Caffeine into your system.

Caffeine can not cause migraine headaches but they can also help to cure them as well. This is called a paradoxical effect. In the case of caffeine, it is the addiction to the chemical and then the absence of it that causes the headache pain. It is then common sense to add it back into your body to help to calm the withdrawal headache pain. A good strong cup of hot coffee seems to do the trick for many sufferers. One caution however, whether using coffee or sodas – try to avoid artificial sweeteners as these may actually contribute to headache pain. Some sufferers also find that a hot drink helps the pain symptoms subside. Of course, if you find that caffeine actually helps your headache pain, you should look at your overall caffeine consumption and consider cutting caffeine out of your diet in order to prevent future migraine episodes.

Try to relax.

This is simple step in get rid of migraines fast without medicine but one of the most important and hard to perform. Many migraine sufferers know the pre-cursor symptoms of a headache and become anxious and stressed with the thought of the impending pain. This is very understandable but can actually make the headache much worse. Try to relax. Find a quiet, cool and dark place and simply relax. Stop what you are doing and take a few important minutes for yourself. Focus on your slow and deep breathing. Use an eye mask if needed for total darkness – some sufferers find that the gentle pressure on their eye lids from a mask actually helps the pain. For some relaxing in a hot bath or shower is helpful. If you can lie down and sleep that can also be beneficial. Many migraine sufferers awaken without symptoms or pain.

Consider a warm or cold compress.

Every migraine headache is different, just as every migraine sufferer is different. What works well for one person may make the next persons headache much worse. Some people swear by cold compresses while other can only use warm compresses. An easy and quick cold compress can be made with just a wash cloth run under cold tap water. If you find this technique helpful then putting a few wet clothes in a resealable plastic bag and putting them into a freezer makes for an easy treatment option for future use.

You can make a hot compress by heating a wet cloth in the microwave for just a minute or so. Make sure that you check the temperature of the entire cloth however, as the microwave has a tendancy to unevenly heat the cloth and can cause very hot areas on larger clothes. A heated “rice” bag can also be helpful. You can find these at craft fairs, online or make your own. Simply take a soft cloth and sew it into a small pillow case shape. Fill with rice, sand or even flax seed – some add lavender for its relaxing properties –  and then sew the end of the case closed. You can heat this in the microwave and it not only lends heat the area but also a light weight that may be helpful to get rid of migraines fast without medicine.

Try some massage or pressure points.

Light massage can not only distract your from your pain but it also increases the circulation and relieves tension which can help in getting rid of migraines fast without medicine. Using your finger tips and applying gentle pressure, massage your temples in a slow circular motion. Scalp massages are helpful for some sufferers. Even something as simple as getting into a hot shower and gently massaging your scalp while shampooing your hair can make a difference in the pain level of migraines. Also, applying gentle pressure to the base of the skull can help to alleviate headache pain. Take a rolled up towel and lay it across your bed, then lay the base of your skull across the towel. You may experience some sinus pressure at first but this will pass and hopefully help to decrease the migraine without medicine.

Acupressure is very effective for some migraine sufferers. Try applying pressure to each side of the nose at the top of the bridge. You also can try applying firm pressure to the skin between the thumb and forefinger. If you can, have someone assist you with this technique as it is more effective if both hands are done at the same time. However, if you do not have an assistant, then apply pressure to one hand for approximately 5 minutes and then apply pressure to the opposite hand. One last acupressure technique is to apply pressure to the top of the mouth with your thumb. Insert your thumb into your mouth and apply firm pressure to the roof of the mouth on the side of the head that it hurting. Push up and in the direction of the ear. Hold for two to three minutes and then repeat as needed.

Consider Herbs to prevent Migraine pain.

Feverfew has long been used to prevent migraine headaches, however it does nothing to alleviate the pain once it starts. Be sure to consult with your physician before starting any herbal supplements as they may interfere with other medications you may be taking or increase symptoms of other ailments. Some sufferers swear by ginger for pain relief. Adding a teaspoon of ginger to a glass of hot water seems to decrease the pain level for some sufferers. Not only do they benefit from the ingestion of the ginger but the aroma also helps to soften the pain.

While there is no sure fire way on how to get rid of migraines fast without medicine, there are many techniques that are very successful for some migraine sufferers. As stated before, each sufferer and migraine is different and finding what works best for your particular situation may take time and practice.

How to Get Rid of a Migraine Fast Without Medication

A migraine is a disruptive neurological disorder that creates a throbbing or pulsating pain in one area of the head. The pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting and a sensitivity to lights or sounds. Sometimes it has an aura. A migraine with aura can include bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, distorted vision, seeing zigzag lines and temporary vision loss.

When a migraine occurs, you want to be able to get rid of it as soon as possible. Left untreated, a migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours. There are a lot of medicines out there to treat migraines, but medicine can be expensive and sometimes, they are not on hand.  Here are a few ways on how to get rid of a migraine fast without medication.

Lifestyle changes

Changing our daily habits can do wonders for preventing migraines and getting rid of a migraine fast without medication.

A Good Night’s sleep

Lack of sleep, too much sleep or change in sleep patterns can trigger migraines. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule to avoid migraines.

Regular Exercise

If you want to know how to get rid of a migraine fast without medication, you should get ready to exercise. Exercise is one of the best preventative measures for a migraine. When you feel a migraine coming, you should exercise immediately. Most people will avoid the full impact of the migraine if they do this. Aerobic exercise and cycling are the recommended exercises. When you exercise, you are reducing tension and stress. These are two triggers of migraines. You are also releases endorphins that act as a sedative. If you are a migraine suffer, you need to regularly exercise at list four times a week for 45 minutes.

Avoid Light

Keep your rooms dark. One of the components of a migraine is light sensitivity. You should lie down or rest in a dark room to relieve migraine symptoms.

Avoid Stress

Stress is a common trigger to migraines. If stress cannot be avoided, try mediation and exercise to alleviate stress that can cause a migraine.

Do Not Skip Meals

Meal skipping can trigger migraine headaches. Make sure you eat throughout the day to avoid migraines. 3 meals a day is the minimum requirement.

Use Water Liberally

Water is a great way to get rid of a migraine fast without medication. Water works in call forms to relieve migraine pain.

Drink Lots of Water

Dehydration is a trigger for migraines. If you are in the first stages of a migraine, a glass of water can literally get rid of a migraine fast. You can prevent a migraine from dehydration by drinking 8 glasses of water a day.

Cold Compresses

Place an ice pack or a cold compress on the side of your head with the migraine. It is best if you close your eyes while doing this. The ice pack works by dilating the blood vessels in the body. This takes the blood flow away from the head and reduces pain.

Ice Water

A neat treatment is to soak one or both of your hands in ice water. When your hands are under the water, you should open and close them into a fist. Repeat this until the migraine pain is eased.

Take a Bath in a Dark Room

Soak yourself face done into a tub and relax your body. Do not forget to come up for air.

Steam

Sometimes steam can alleviate pain from a migraine.

Food and Herbs

Adding different ingredients or food choices to your diet can help alleviate pain from a migraine and prevent future migraines from occurring. Foods are a natural alternative to taking medication.

Red Peppers

Red pepper contains capsaicin. Capsaicin is a natural painkiller. Add a red pepper to a meal to get rid of a migraine fast without medication.

Omega 3s

Omega 3s are healthy fats that protects brain cells and fight inflammation that can cause migraines. You can get omega 3s from flax seeds, walnuts and fish. As a preventative measure, eat one source of Omega 3s a day.

Caffeine

Take caffeine. Caffeine can act a s a cure and as a treatment for migraines. Too much caffeine will trigger a migraine when your body’s caffeine level is decrease. To counteract this decrease, take some caffeine. To prevent this in the future, slowly reduce your caffeine intake to avoid a dramatic drop.

Peppermint

Peppermint has a pain reducing effect. You can add fresh peppermint leaves into your tea or you can boil a few drops of peppermint oil and inhale the steam. Sucking on a peppermint will alleviate pain as well. The peppermint can mask less pleasant smells that might trigger migraines.

Ginger

Pure ginger eases migraine-related nausea and pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. You can add chopped ginger root to tea or boil and inhale the ginger.

Chicken Broth

This will not get rid of a migraine, but it will get rid of some of the symptoms. Chicken broth increases electrolytes which helps with vomiting and strengthens you so you will not feel so week during your migraine.

5-HTP

5-hydroxytryptophan increases production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps blood vessel regulation. Low serotonin levels can trigger migraines. 5-HTP can be bought as a supplement or found in protein rich foods, grains and some fruits and vegetables. Some examples of 5-htp rich fruits and vegetables are kiwi, cherries, plantains, pineapples and plums.

Coenzyme Q10

This antioxidant nutrient stabilizes the blood sugar. Low blood sugar is a migraine trigger. You can find Coenzyme Q10 in fish and organ meats such as liver and kidneys.

Apples

Eating an apple balances the alkaline and acidic levels in your body. Therefore, the pain from your migraine will be alleviated by eating apples.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Boil some apple cider vinegar in water and soak a towel into it. Place the towel on your head. This will an effect and inexpensive way on how to get rid of migraines fast without medication.

Alternative Treatments

Meditation

Practice breathing exercises that will relax you. Relaxation helps control stress and get rid of a migraine fast without medication.

Massage

Massages relaxes you. A study shows that migraine suffers have fewer headaches after six weeks of weekly sessions.

Acupressure

Use your fingers and tap three times on your temple, your shoulder and then the inside of your wrist. Repeat. This will give you momentary pain relief. You can add peppermint oil to your fingers to get the dual effect of the tapping and the peppermint relief.

Acupuncture

The needles can release the body’s pain reducing chemicals.

If you want to know how to get rid of a migraine fast, you can use all of these techniques and preventive measures alone or as a combination.