Even if you avoid your triggers and practice healthy habits, you may still experience migraines. Here are some home remedies that might bring relief.
You take prevention medication and steer clear of your known triggers — but still, you’re hit with a migraine. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. So, what can you to do relieve the pain?
Once an attack begins, you can take medication to help ease pain, says Janine Good, MD, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. And beyond taking migraine medication, you may want to give a few home remedies a try.
“There aren’t a lot of studies to show they are definitively effective,” Dr. Good says, but many of her patients do say they help.
Tips to Relieve Migraine Pain
Rest in a quiet, dark room. Many people with migraines report sensitivity to light and sound. Make your bedroom dark and quiet, and you may be able to sleep, Good says. “Not all headaches respond to sleep,” she notes, but the chemicals released in your brain during sleep may help ease your pain. Also, she says, if you’re sensitive to sounds, blocking them out could help.
Apply a hot or cold compress. Place the compress across your forehead or the back of your neck. “Many of my patients prefer a cold compress,” says Lawrence C. Newman, MD, director of the Division of Headache at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and a board member of the American Migraine Foundation.
Ice can have a numbing effect. “It detracts the brain from the migraine,” says Good. “You’re stimulating other nerve endings where you’re putting the compress.”
Some people may prefer a warm compress, Dr. Newman says. Heat can help relax tense muscles. You may also try taking a warm bath or shower.
Try mindful meditation. Take time to sit and be in the moment. Concentrate on your breathing. This type of mindful meditation can sometimes ease physical pain, according to the American Migraine Foundation. In a review published in September 2016 in Cephalalgia, researchers found that mindfulness may produce effects comparable to medication alone in people with chronic migraine and medication overuse. The findings were preliminary, however. Like other home remedies, mindfulness is a distraction that can help ease pain, Good says.
Smell the lavender. The scent of lavender may help you relax. You can sip some lavender tea, or inhale lavender essential oil, which is available in pharmacies and health food stores. A small study published in European Neurology in 2012 evaluated the use of lavender essential oil in people experiencing a migraine. In the trial, those who inhaled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes reported greater reduction of headache severity than those who did not.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration is often a migraine trigger, and replenishing fluids can restore your body’s balance of water and electrolytes, the National Headache Foundation says. Have trouble drinking enough water? Try this trick: Add a slice of lemon or lime to make your water taste better so you may drink more. And limit caffeine, which can be dehydrating in large amounts, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Massage your temples. Massage can help your muscles relax, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Yet whether this helps you is a personal preference, Newman says. Some people experiencing a migraine may be extremely sensitive to touch, and a massage can make them feel worse. Others find that rubbing their temples stimulates circulation and helps them to relax.
Exercise. Though it may seem counterintuitive, taking a brisk walk may help ease your migraine pain. This is because aerobic exercise gets your blood flowing and reduces stress, notes the AAFP. Exercise gets your body’s natural feel-good hormones flowing, Good adds. If you’re looking for a low-impact exercise option, the Migraine Research Foundation suggests yoga or tai chi.
The Bottom Line
When used together with medication, these home remedies work for many people, Newman says. If they don’t ease your pain, however, you may consider talking to your doctor about a change in medication.