Health & Wellness Articles

How to Stop a Migraine in Its Tracks

Triggers & Treatments for Migraine Pain

828SHARES
If you live with migraines, you might already be familiar with the pain and discomfort they cause. Migraines are a specific type of headache often identified by episodes of throbbing pain and, sometimes, nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light. Migraines can be mild or severe, and they occur more commonly in women than in men.

Some people with migraines find that migraine pain is much more intense than the discomfort from a tension headache. Often, migraine headaches typically follow a four-stage pattern:
  • Some migraine sufferers report noticing small changes in their body 1-2 days before the migraine begins including constipation, diarrhea, depression, irritability, food cravings, or a stiff neck. This is called the Prodrome Stage.
  • Sometimes migraine sufferers will receive a warning symptom such as a flash of light, visual disturbance, blind spot, bright spot, speech problem, or tingling in an arm or leg.  This warning is called the Aura Stage.  At other times, there is no pre-warning.
  • The Attack Stage comes next with the a painful, pulsing, and throbbing head along with nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, diarrhea, and the feelings of dizziness, light-headedness and fainting.   
  • The final phase, Postdrome, often leaves one feeling drained and washed out.  However, others report a feeling of mild euphoria after a migraine has passed.
What Causes Migraines?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes migraines or why some people have them while others don’t. For most people with migraines, a combination of genetic and environmental causes is likely to blame. According to the Mayo Clinic, 90 percent of people who have migraines have a family history of them.

For people prone to migraines, certain foods and medications, along with stress, irregular sleep patterns, exercise and even changes in the weather may trigger these throbbing, often one-sided headaches. Some women report that their migraines occur more often at or around the start of their menstrual cycle. Additional factors associated with migraines include
  • Hormonal changes in women related to birth control medication and hormone replacement therapies, menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause
  • High levels of anxiety, worry, shock, depression, mental fatigue, grief, life changes, vacations, work projects, and repressed emotions
  • Environmental sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, glaring sunlight, computer screen usage, temperature and weather changes, smog, certain scents like perfume, paint thinner, and secondhand smoke
But what makes people develop this type of headache to begin with?  Scientists still don’t know, but many suspect nervous system sensitivities, genes and/or chemical imbalances in the brain may play a part.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • I use to have migrain very bad. But I started to take excerdrin and that took them away. It work great. - 12/1/2013 3:09:02 PM
  • I have suffer from migraines for many years. Keeping a migraine diary did not help much. I usually get them a week before my period. My migraines are usually PMS related. After so many different medications I finally found my miracle medication! Amerge! I truly recommend it! It is a prescription medication and it works wonders! - 11/23/2013 12:00:13 PM
  • BAMAJAM
    For many years I suffered intense pain from migraine headaches. Often these attacks would last for days along with vomiting----- Then menopause happened, and no more attacks! My doctor believes it was a hormonal cure for me, and he said his mother experienced the same wonderful relief from headaches after menopause. Many unpleasant side-effects are attributed to menopause, but for me--- I am so lucky! - 11/13/2013 11:58:30 AM
  • Candida overgrowth caused mine. I went from daily migraines for a year to no headaches at all for three years, but had to do a super strict diet for ten days. Now, if I get a headache, my best fix is a batch of brown rice cooked with (canned) tomatoes. I can add ground turkey to it and stew it with cabbage, too, to make it like a cabbage roll casserole. Also helpful was brown rice pasta, green beans with almonds, and sour dough spelt bread with almond butter. I'm convinced these foods saved my life! It is so harmful to just mask an illness without making an attempt to find and fix the cause. - 11/9/2013 8:10:55 PM
  • Since beginning my serious SP journey in Oct 2012, I have not had a full blown migraine. I still have the last one of my super expensive migraine prescription pills that I carry with me everywhere just in case. I believe cutting caffeine to a minimum was the 1st step in minimizing mine. I would never have guessed that was one of my culprits. I knew wine was and had already cut wine out almost totally. Now I can have enough to enjoy with my Saturday night dinner and not get a headache. I always felt I had a genetic connection. Although my mother was never diagnosed I look back and remember days when I would come home from school and she was in the bed with a "sick headache". I pray for all those who suffer migraines. I am thankful my SP journey has helped me to curb mine to a minimum that when I start to get a headache over the counter meds will keep it under control so that I can function through it. - 11/9/2013 8:48:05 AM
  • I've had migraines since I was 8 and they are always painful. During my migraine attack I'm out, I can't do anything. After it's gone, well it's not really gone because I'm drained and I don't have the energy to get out of the bed.
    I used to end up in hospitals 3 or 4 times a month. Doctors didn't do much. My attacks were so severe that they thought I had a tumor or epilepsy but couldn't find anything. They didn't make a diagnose, didn't even try hard, just nothing... In my country, doctors don't do sh*t... Sorry for the language...
    Anyway I developed my own systems of course. I can tell two of them that works the best. First; I take a muslin (a cloth), wrap it around my head and tie it really tight. I know that sounds weird but works every time, it helps me so much. I also do the soak your hands and feet in warm water and put ice on the back of your neck technique. That helps a little too. - 11/9/2013 8:14:36 AM
  • GENERIC-FIT
    How to stop a migraine? Migraine medicine. I suffered from migraines since middle school. After graduating from college, they would get worse with nausea. Throwing up 2 or 3 times and usually at every half hour (how consistent, like me!). Two years ago I finally got migraine medicine, Relpax. It doesn't work for everyone of course. Take one, yes it will make you sleepy, but a few hours of sleep is far better than 18 hours of pain and suffering.

    The other medicine that helped? Birth control. Controlled the hormones while I maintain to a schedule of waking up and going to bed, staying away from triggers (extreme sudden temperatures i.e. hot day to a freezing room, fans blowing on me, etc) and it has made a big difference. I can still get a migraine, but rarely now.

    Everyone is different, experimentation is required. Good luck! - 11/9/2013 6:42:17 AM
  • HOUSEOFMAYHEM
    I have visual migraines as JiminyC does. They are usually triggered by stress, lack of sleep/disturbed sleep patterns, or bright lights. I've also found that deep regular breathing can help shorten the duration. I rarely get the headaches or nausea associated with 'normal' migraines, but I do experience the 'drained' feeling afterwards. - 11/9/2013 2:59:02 AM
  • I had migraines off and on through college but could always treat them with a large dose of advil. Later I moved back home (long story but it had to do with other health problems) . They got worse and my quack of a doctor refused to put me on migraine medication. Then I had emergency gall bladder surgery, was still in dire pain and 2 months later they discovered I had erosive gastritis (after 3 days inpatient for my sodium and magnesium hitting the floor) . And they found out I have very severe GERD. I was put on a medication to heal my tore up stomach. 3 days after I was released I had a migraine for 2 months and was sent to a neurologist. I was put on 2 migraine meds and eventually imitrex shots. This past August they gave me a MRI with contrast and discovered I had had a stroke. No symptoms before during or after but I had lost brain tissue in my left cerebellum. So I had to go off birth control (and now my extreme PMS is running wild and my periods come as often as every 2 weeks), I had to go off my migraine medicine, and I am desperately trying to quit smoking. My neurologist was no help in finding me a new med so I did it myself. I'm on generic finoral which has helped with the bad migraines. I'm also seeing another neurologist who put me on 300 Mg of topamax morning and night and gralise instead of lyrica because it was causing me to get migraines for my fibromyalgia. P - 6/20/2013 11:47:05 AM
  • I get migraines at the tail end of my menstrual cycle. About a year ago, I started taking birth control pills 3 months at a time, so at least now I get them every three months instead of every month! I should have done that years ago!!! I also get them if a bad storm front moves in. - 5/21/2013 3:55:14 PM
  • I've lived with migraines for 30 years now; first diagnosed when I was 12/13. Definately genetic - both my mum and my sister suffer as well. I know wheat/gluten brings them on but my biggest trigger is the weather. At 20, I was told by a neurologist that I would never hold a job, never have a family and should go live at the dead sea - wonderful help. They show in so many strange ways and most times I have no clue I'm getting one until it's full blown. Doctors have been absolutely no help - I just live life as best I can. My son has also shown signs since he was 8; I hope the doctors will be able to help him more than they've helped me. - 5/4/2013 11:53:54 PM
  • The People's Pharmacy on NPR had a segment on migraines and one of the potential "treatments" was "brain freeze" - maybe one time ice cream may be food as medicine. For more information, please look up the episode on their website. - 4/17/2013 9:24:04 PM
  • I've had migraines for 35 years. The last 10 have been the worse. I take meds to prevent them & also when I get one.I now know that I need to keep regular sleep & meals to prevent them. Also too much chocolate or peanuts will bring one on. Sometimes, I don't know what brought it on & I've had them last 15 days. - 4/4/2013 10:41:20 PM
  • MARELRO
    I live with (hormonal) migraines for over 30 years now. Menopause has aggravated the situation (it seems that not a certain level of a hormone is the trigger but the change in levels which of cause occurs more often now). Last year I was 5 times in hospital, as I was in danger of choking from the severe incotrollable vomiting.
    What finally alleviated my situation is: I found a specialist (sorry I can't help you with that, as I live in Germany), where I could learn to influence the diameter of my brain blood vessels (you normally cannot do that yourself, but you can learn it with the help of an electrode and a computer screen where you can see a red circle going from wide to narrow,"Vasokonst
    riktionstrain
    ing" or "Biofeedback"). This helps me to influence the extent of the pain, it does not prevent the attacks from starting and it does not make them shorter, but it helps me to take less medication (which sometimes helps, at other times it is as if they had forgotton the substance in the pill as it does not help at all and in other cases, it helps some hours later when I had already given up hope). It seems that if I can keep the pain level lower, I sometimes can get away without the vomiting and the diarrhoe.
    And what also helps is not only a coldpack in the neck, but an cotton sock filled with lemon slices.
    Try it - try everything and find something that helps you! My prayers for all suffering from that plague.
    - 4/1/2013 10:30:17 AM
  • I've found that if I feel a migraine coming on, an ice pack on the back of the neck (where it meets the head) really helps a lot. I've also found that minimizing my caffeinated beverages, especially in the morning, has reduced the number of migraines that I get. - 3/29/2013 9:58:49 AM

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