Health & Wellness Articles

How to Stop a Migraine in Its Tracks

Triggers & Treatments for Migraine Pain

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Ending Migraine Pain
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for migraines, but many people find relief with a combination of prevention strategies and medications. Keeping a "headache diary" that details when and how your migraines start, how often you experience them and any changes to your day-to-day habits (especially what you’ve eaten and how much you’ve slept) that precede them, can help you identify and avoid your triggers. You can take this diary with you to any appointments you have with your primary healthcare provider or neurologist to help create the ideal treatment plan.

Common migraine triggers can include skipping meals, changes in estrogen levels (think starting or stopping birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, as well as menopause or ovulation), stress, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and alcohol—particularly beer and red wine.

Sticking to a sleep schedule, eating healthfully, exercising regularly, managing stress and limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption may help, too.
If you end up with a migraine despite your best efforts, try these self-care tips:
  • Rest in a quiet, dark room.
  • Drink water and stay hydrated, especially if you’re vomiting
  • Take pain medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider (or as soon as symptoms occur if you use over-the-counter painkillers)
  • Stay calm; try progressive relaxation or breathing exercises
Medications for Migraines
Over-the-counter analgesics, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, can help you tackle mild migraine pain. Your healthcare provider can also prescribe medication for more severe pain, including prescription-strength painkillers designed for migraine pain, anti-nausea medications and, less frequently, opiates and corticosteroids (which are often paired with other medications to relieve pain).

For people with frequent migraines, preventive medications that are taken regularly to decrease the severity of aura symptoms and the frequency of attacks are also available with a prescription.

To help your physician find the most effective treatment for you, arm yourself with details of your migraines (including your headache diary) before you arrive for your appointment. How often do you experience them? How severe is the pain? What symptoms, other than pain, do you have? What makes your pain better or worse?

Migraine Treatments to Avoid
It can hurt to cut out foods you love most (wine and chocolate, anyone?) to curb migraines, but once you identify your food triggers, try not to tempt fate. Stick to what works.

When taking medications, especially over-the-counter options, it can be tempting to take too much, especially when pain is severe or continues despite already taking medication. Stay safe by following the dosing instructions on the bottle and let your healthcare provider know if the pain becomes unmanageable with OTC drugs alone.
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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 found that the majority of my migraines were a combination of stress from work and a nasty sinus infection that caused a build up of pressure in my nasal passages. After I quit my job, my migraines went down considerable. I'm still waiting on being able to afford the surgery to help me reduce the amount of sinus infections I get each year, but I'm getting there. Prescription meds and a low stress job have done wonders for me. - 8/30/2014 7:38:23 PM
  • 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

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