There are a variety of options for those seeking natural migraine relief that may consist of diet changes, meditation, deep breathing techniques, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, and even attitude and more.
Anyone who lives with this disruptive condition knows that the onset of a migraine headache may leave you feeling totally helpless and out of control. If you live with chronic migraines, you quickly learn that once the process is set in motion it feels like a force of nature and just like a powerful hurricane or tornado it has a set path that won’t stop until it has run its course. Sometimes it seems there isn’t a whole lot that can be done except ride it out.
However, with that being said I have developed a specific mindfulness based meditation technique that when used within a defined time frame, can completely alleviate eighty to ninety percent of my migraines. I have lived with chronic migraines for 15 years, and this mindfulness technique is by far the very best natural migraine relief I have ever found. You can learn this simple and effective technique in less than 90 minutes in my book, Mindfulness Over Migraines.
Natural Migraine Relief Foundations
Additionally, here are a variety of steps and actions you can take to help manage the incidence of migraines, reduce the severity and decrease the negative impact on your life, thus making you feel a little less helpless and more in control.
The first line of defense in any natural migraine relief plan is to try and prevent attacks from occurring as much as possible, by becoming aware of your migraine triggers. Reduce your triggers and you reduce the occurrence of episodes. If you have only a few triggers this may be relatively easy to do, however if you have a lot of triggers it can be a little more challenging to accomplish.Also part of the prevention plan should include identify underlying causes of your migraine. Although the core cause of migraines is believed to be dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system, there are many contributing factors that result in this dysfunction. Nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, Candida yeast overgrowth, hypoglycemia, food sensitivities, poor diet, structural disorders, TMJ, hormone imbalances are some of the underlying causes you should explore through the use of functional medicine testing.
The second thing I find most helpful is an attitude of acceptance. I acknowledge and accept the power a migraine has over me and the path it must follow. Resisting the pain and the process only makes it worse. I embrace it and flow with it. That doesn’t mean I may not scream or howl in pain. It does not mean that I won’t curse the very existence of this brutal event taking place in my life, but as I do so, I ride with the experience and not against it. I surrender. Although it seems contradictory in nature, you are not losing power with acceptance, you are gaining power. Join forces with the “enemy” and your ride will be a little smoother. This does not mean that you don’t continue to pursue methods of complete healing, it just means that you accept where you are in the process.
The third essential tool for finding natural migraine relief is education. Educating yourself is one of the most empowering activities you can engage in. Understanding the etiology and symptomology of your condition helps reduce feelings of helplessness and loss of control. When you understand what’s happening to you and what’s going to happen next, it makes it much easier to endure. It allows you to prepare, cope more effectively and minimize the power they have over your life.
Natural Migraine Relief Techniques
Neurotransmitters in the brain are found to play a crucial role in the development of migraine headaches. Identifying neurotransmitter deficiencies and bringing them back into balance has been helpful for many. Two of the most common causes of migraines are excess glutamate and high histamine.
Identify Hidden Food Sensitivities
A very common trigger for migraine headaches are hidden food sensitivities. Hidden food sensitivities are extremely common in our population and can result in a variety of debilitating symptoms. By identifying your sensitivities and removing the offending food from your diet, relief from migraines can be found.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Equally important are your choices of foods that you eat every day. The diet you eat can be one of the easiest natural migraine relief methods available to you because it’s something you do everyday anyhow. You simply need to make a few changes in your choices. The diet you eat should be rich in the nutrients needed for healthy brain and autonomic nervous system function, which are the root causes of a migraine and to keep blood sugar stable, a common trigger. This would include an abundance of meat, low-starch vegetables, fish, eggs, and a small amount of nuts, seeds and fruit. The diet I recommend is called the Paleolithic Diet.
Along the same lines, some relief from migraine pain can be achieved by eating fruit, nuts and yogurt at the immediate onset. Each of these stimulates endorphins, our natural opiates. This only works if eaten immediately at onset. Once the migraine has progressed, then it is typically difficult to eat.
One of the most common natural migraine relief remedies that sufferers turn to are herbs. Feverfew, also known as bachelors button is the most popular and believed to be the most effective. The effectiveness of this herb is even backed by several clinical studies, where as many as 2/3 of the participants experienced relief using feverfew. Unlike a prescription drug, you can’t just pop a couple feverfew at the time of an attack, they must be taken on a daily basis to be effective.
White willow bark is another excellent choice that contains the same active ingredient that is found in aspirin. For many people, it reduces pain and inflammation of the blood vessels. Other popular choices believed to be effective are butterbar root, cayenne, peppermint and eucalyptus. These may be taken orally or you may apply them topically. However, I didn’t find relief in any of these products, so they don’t work for everyone.
Keep in mind that herbs are very powerful and may cause interactions with prescriptions or have side effects of their own, so if you take prescription medication or have other health conditions, you should always consult with a holistic health care professional before taking any kind of herbs.
Additionally ,it’s important to keep in mind that for some people herbs may actually be a trigger for bringing on a migraine, such as peppermint. For example, in my own life peppermint, eucalyptus, cinnamon or any very potent smelling herb or essential oil do not provide any relief at all, they are some of my strongest triggers.
Another technique you might want to try is massage. This can be done by a professional, a friend or even do it yourself. Massage stimulates our naturally occurring pain relievers called endorphins. When doing it yourself, try different parts of the head. I find I get some relief by applying pressure with my fingers and moving in a circular motion. The areas that it works best are in the temple region where I feel the pain radiating from, a spot on my crown, a spot on the lower right side in the back of the head and in the base of my neck directly below my ear. Sometimes after a particular painful episode, I will have rubbed my temple so hard that it will be sore for days, because when I was in pain I was not aware of how much pressure I was applying.
Other people find that massage in particular regions of the foot or applying pressure to the webbed part of the hand right between the thumb and index finger will bring them relief.
Some people find that cold compresses like a towel soaked in ice water or ice packs around the neck will provide migraine relief for them, while other people find it is a hot towel or heating pad that works best for them.
In the early stages of a migraine, while I’m still capable of standing, I find that a hot shower relieves my migraine pain temporarily. Make the water as hot as you can stand it. Close the door so the steam can build up in the room. Let the hot water flow over your head and your neck.
Another very helpful technique I use is orgasm. When you have an orgasm, it releases endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain killers and they also relax you. They are extremely potent and I find them to be one of the most effective methods for natural migraine relief to be found at all phases of an attack. It also releases neurotransmitters, and neurotransmitters play a significant role in the migraine process.
At the onset of a migraine, an orgasm can sometimes make it go away or at the very least it decreases my pain significantly so that I can still function for a longer period of time. Perhaps the pain or other symptoms are starting to brew when I have something important to finish, an orgasm can buy me a little time so that I can finish the task at hand before becoming incapacitated.
When I’m already in excruciating pain and bedridden, then an orgasm works great for decreasing the severity of my pain. It also helps me fall asleep when the pain is unbearable. If it’s a particularly severe bout, it’s not uncommon for me to employ the use of orgasms several times during the course of the episode.
Now, of course, when you’re in excruciating pain, having sex is probably the last thing you want to do. So I’m actually referring to using masturbation to achieve your orgasms. It’s quick, easy, costs absolutely nothing and literally at your fingertips at all times.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to sleep during a migraine, and for those of you who can’t, I empathize deeply. I have only had a handful of incidents where I was not able to sleep and they are the most awful to endure. For the most part, sleep is one of those things I’m extremely grateful for during this painful event.
The more sleep I get the faster the pain dissipates. Not only does it help the process move along more quickly it also works as a coping mechanism. When you’re sleeping, you’re not as aware of the level of pain.
Most of the time my sleep patterns during this time are fitful and intermittent. I sleep a while and then a wave of pain pulls me out of slumberland and I ride the wave of pain for awhile and then go back to sleep.
Sometimes the pain is so excruciating that it feels like it literally knocks me out. I can’t stay awake and feel incoherent. So at that point sleep is not a choice, it’s mandatory.
Face and Jaw Exercises
I’ve found that face exercises are very effective for migraines that are triggered by TMJ or particular odors like pollens or terpines from plants or trees. I don’t find them useful if the trigger is menstrual related or food related. To exercise the face and jaw, I stretch my mouth open as wide as it will go until I feel it pull on the muscles in the jaw, face and head that are in pain. I hold that position for as long as can I take the pain and then release it. As you’re stretching, the pain will be unbearable, but once you release, you experience relief. I usually combine this with breathing exercises.mThis technique is most beneficial when it is performed before the pain gets too bad, at the onset of symptoms. Sometimes I can completely stop a migraine with this technique, other times the relief may only be temporary.
Deep breathing exercises are another technique I find to be exceptionally helpful. I lay down, close my eyes and take a very deep breath through my nose. Be sure to breathe from the stomach and not the chest. I then guide my breath into the painful areas. I do this repeatedly for anywhere between 5 minutes and an hour, depending on intensity..
Positioning & Pressure
I don’t know if this will work for other people or not, but this is something I’ve found to be helpful. When I lie down, I position my head in between my arm and the headboard of the bed and apply pressure. I have to wiggle around a bit to find the precise position needed for relief. The position may be different from episode to episode and even hour to hour within the same attack.
This doesn’t take the pain away completely, but it diminishes its intensity significantly. As long as I lie completely still, it will give me relief and allow me to fall asleep.
There are a variety of nutritional deficiencies that are linked to migraines. Magnesium and Omega 3s are the two most common, however there could be others, that vary from person to person. Some people find relief by supplementing their diet with magnesium and essential fatty acids.
I take high doses of magnesium and it has not provided me with any relief from migraines, however I do find it helpful for other things, like bowel function and muscle pain. Other deficiencies in nutrients can result in migraines as well, so assessing nutritional status should be a part of all healing plans seeking natural relief for migraines.
Digestive Health – Gut Brain Therapy
There is a powerful connection between the gut and the brain and improving the digestive system has been found to provide natural migraine relief for many individuals.
My understanding at this time is that this therapy believes that dysfunction in the digestive and elimination systems results in a body that is not able to produce adequate amounts at the appropriate times of crucial neurotransmitters and hormones, thus this can set off the sympathetic nervous system.
As we learned in the causes of migraine headaches page, the neurotransmitter, serotonin, is believed to play a crucial factor in the development of migraines, and so does excess histamine and glutamate.
Reduce Your Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Many of the chemicals that are present in your common every day products like cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaning products, pesticides and herbicides, air fresheners, perfumes and colognes and more contain harmful toxins that disrupt the brain and autonomic nervous system and can result in migraines, as well as many other degenerative health conditions. Reduce your exposure by living a green and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Address Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a common underlying cause of migraine headaches, as the adrenal glands are the organs highly involved with autonomic nervous system function. It’s a two way street, autonomic nervous system dysfunction results in weak adrenal glands and weak adrenal glands result in more autonomic nervous system dysfunction. They perpetuate one another.
Sense of Humor
Last, but not least, I find that a sense of humor is always helpful in dealing with any painful or chronic condition. Try to find the humor in your situation and suffering by looking for the ironic or ridiculous aspects of the impact it has on your life.
My son and I always have a good life at my “monster eye” that accompanies my migraines or he teases me by telling me “you’re looking pretty mangilated today.” I practice daily affirmations to keep focused on the positives and sometimes in the midst of an excruciating migraine I’ll spout off with a sarcastic affirmation like “I feel great and I’m full of energy” and we will roar with laughter, as the reality of the situation is that I look and feel like I’m on my deathbed.
Keep humorous and inspirational material in sight on a daily basis, such as a magnet on the refrigerator, a humorous calendar, a daily joke or quote in your email.
I don’t’ know if this really provides relief for migraines, but it lifts the spirit, helps keep things in perspective and keeps me from drowning in negativity. Life feels a little lighter and easier to manage.
Other popular ways of finding natural migraine relief might include acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic adjustments, tmj treatments, magnet therapy, herbal nasal sprays, CoQ10, niacin, riboflavin, cranio-sacral therapy and supplements that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin such as 5HTP.