There are few things worse than a full-on migraine headache! That pulsing, throbbing behind one or both eyes can be incredibly painful, and may even lead to nausea and vomiting. Between the pain and your extreme sensitivity to light and sound, you can do nothing but lie down and pray that it passes!
Did you know that roughly 25% of U.S. households have someone who suffers from migraine headaches? It's estimated that up to 12% of the U.S. population suffers from migraines. That even includes children!
Migraine headaches can be incredibly serious, so it's vital that you know how to not only treat them but recognize the signs of an impending headache. Read on to find out everything you need to know about migraines and the best remedies to fast and natural migraine relief…
Migraines are NOT your typical headache! They are actually a collection of neurological symptoms that can be incredibly debilitating. Over 90% of migraine sufferers cannot function or normally work during their migraine headache--that's how bad they are.
Some of the symptoms of a migraine headache include:
- Pulsing or throbbing sensation in one area of the head
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme sensitivity to sound and light
- Flashing lights and blind spots
- Tingling in your legs or arms
As you can see, these headaches are NO JOKE! They're very painful and debilitating, and can be potentially life-threatening if you get a migraine while driving or operating heavy machinery.
But what causes migraines in the first place? The sad truth is that migraine headaches aren't fully understood. According to WebMD, "migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway."
If your brain doesn't produce enough serotonin--a hormone that helps to regulate pain signals sent by your nervous system--your body may suffer extreme pain during the onset of the migraine headaches. Serotonin levels plummet during migraine headaches, causing your body to be flooded with neuropeptides that cause headache pain.
There are some things that can trigger the onset of a migraine headache:
- Medications, such as vasodilators and oral contraceptives
- Foods, including processed food, very salty food, and aged cheese
- Fasting or skipping meals have also been known to trigger migraine headaches
- Hormonal changes, such as those caused by hormone medications, pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation
- Food additives, such as MSG and aspartame
- Stress, both at work and at home
- Drinks mainly caffeinated beverages and alcohol--especially wine
- Sleeping pattern disruptions, including jet lag, sleep deprivation, or over-sleeping
- Environmental changes, such as drastic changes in temperature or humidity
- Sensory stimuli, including sun glare, bright lights, loud noises, unusual smells, and anything that overtaxes the nervous system
- Physical exertion, including both exercise and intense sexual activity
That's a lot of things that can trigger a migraine headache!
Migraine headaches can be VERY difficult to deal with once they've set in, but did you know that they're actually quite predictable? You are usually able to notice the symptoms that occur in the "premonitory phase"--the part of a migraine that sets in just before the agonizing pain of a headache itself.
A few of the signs to watch out for include:
- Fatigue. If you feel extra tired, it's a sign that something's going wrong in your body.
- Hypersensitivity. This is your immune response over-reacting to even the slightest triggers.
- Neck pain and stiffness. If this is accompanied by fatigue, it's a pretty good sign of what's coming.
- Compulsive Yawning. Yawning is normal when you're tired, but if the yawning is out of control, it could be a sign of an impending migraine attack.
- Hyperactivity. This is often the result of an over-stimulated immune system.
- Hot flashes. Hot flashes are a sign that something is going wrong in your body. Paired with other symptoms on this list, it's an indicator of what's coming.
- Digestive issues. If your gastrointestinal tract is having problems, it could be an indication that something is wrong.
- Irritability. This is also the result of the over-stimulation of your nervous system, as well as low levels of serotonin.
- Cravings. Cravings are fairly normal, but if accompanied by other symptoms on this list, it's an indication that a migraine is coming.
But these symptoms aren't the only indication that a migraine attack is just around the corner. During the "Aura" phase of a migraine, just before the "Attack" phase, you may find problems like:
- Changes in your vision -- You may notice blind spots in your vision or spots/arcs of light in your eyes. You may actually end up hallucinating!
- Language problems -- You may have a hard time forming clear sentences and communicating, and you may end up feeling confused. You may even struggle to understand written and spoken words.
- Skin sensations -- This isn't just the usual tingling that comes with a migraine, but it may be a pins and needles sensation across your entire body. You may feel numbness in your limbs and extremities.
How To Prevent Migraines
If you want to prevent migraine headaches, here are a few things you can do:
Avoid bright lights and loud noises. These over-stimulate your nervous system, increasing the risk that a migraine headache will set in.
Watch what you eat. After each a migraine headache, try to figure out what set it off. Think about what you ate, and determine if there are any of the food mentioned above triggers to blame.
Be careful during times of hormonal change. During pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, and any other times of hormonal change, be extra careful with what you do. Small things can trigger the migraine attack because your hormones are in flux.
Be regular with your sleep and eating habits. A regular sleep schedule can help to reduce fatigue, and eating regularly may prevent migraine headaches.
Limit stressors. Easier said than done, right? Stress is one of the worst migraine triggers and one we can't always avoid. Try to limit stress as much as possible. If that means changing your job or altering the way you handle home life, so be it. Your health matters, and reducing stress is a key to preventing migraines!
Follow this advice, and you can drastically reduce your risk of migraine headaches.
Natural Remedies For Migraines
We've looked what causes migraines, what could possibly trigger them, and how to recognize the signs of a migraine headache. Now it's time to talk about what you can do if all of your preventive measures fail and you suffer a migraine attack.
Here are six of the best natural remedies for migraine headaches:
Lavender oil smells beautiful, and it's a wonderful aromatherapy treatment to help you relax. However, it becomes even more important if you suffer from migraine headaches!
Lavender essential oil is "an anxiolytic drug, a mood stabilizer, a sedative, spasmolytic, antihypertensive, antimicrobial, analgesic agent as well as a wound healing accelerator." Using it as a treatment for migraine headaches is definitely the way to go. One study found that 92 out of 129 migraine sufferers responded to inhaled lavender oil (from a diffuser). That's nearly 75% of them!
Using a diffuser is the best way to administer the lavender oil. Inhaling it will make it act very quickly, providing rapid migraine pain relief. However, you can also:
- Rub it on your temples and wrists. The oil will be absorbed into your bloodstream via your skin, where it will reduce the pain of your migraine headache.
- Drop it in a bathtub. Taking a warm bath can help to improve blood flow and reduce your migraine. Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil will make the bath more effective.
Yet another awesome essential oil that can help to combat migraine headaches!
A 1996 study examined over 160 migraines in 41 patients, and the headaches were treated using either a placebo or a peppermint oil liquid. The peppermint oil helped to reduce migraine headaches noticeably after just 15 minutes. The effects lasted up to an hour after the onset of the migraine attack.
If you are prone to suffering migraines, it's definitely a good idea to have a bottle of peppermint oil handy. Just like with lavender oil, you can use a diffuser to inhale it, or apply it to your wrists and temples. Just smelling the oil can do wonders for your headaches!
One of our current peppermint oil favorites is a combination of essential oils. it includes Peppermint, Eucalyptus Globulus and Rosemary just to name a few. We highly recommend it for migraines.
Sweet Basil Oil
Basil is more than just a delicious herb to add to all your Italian dishes. If used right, it can help to reduce migraine headache pain and provide relief the natural way.
In a report published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, basil was mentioned as "a treatment modality for various ailments such as poor digestion, nausea, migraine, depression, insomnia, kidney malfunction and skin infections." This is thanks to the antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds contained in basil leaves--and, of course, basil oil.
The sweet smell of basil oil can be comforting when you have a migraine headache. Burning it in an oil burner or using a reed diffuser can do wonders to reduce the pain of your headache.
If you're an athletic person, you no doubt have an ice pack sitting in the freezer in case of injuries. Thankfully, you'll find that ice pack is the perfect remedy for your migraine headache!
A 2013 randomized controlled trial found that application of an ice pack at the base of the neck (targeting the carotid arteries) helped to reduce the pain of migraines. Within 30 minutes of applying the ice pack, pain decreased up to 50%.
If you feel a migraine coming on, get that ice pack out of the freezer and apply it to the back of your neck. The cooling sensation will help to relieve the pain and reduce the severity of the attack. You'll be back on your feet in no time!
One of our favorite ways to use a cold compress is via the Headache Hat. You don't have to hold it and you can continue on throughout your day.
While this herb has traditionally been used to treat fevers (hence its name), it's a useful herb to try as a natural migraine relief treatment.
As far back as the 1980s, feverfew was given to migraine sufferers to not only treat the problem but prevent the attack in the first place. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, up to 70% of the people who used feverfew to treat their migraine headaches found that taking just a few leaves per day helped to reduce the severity of the attacks drastically.
Not only can feverfew help to minimize the pain of the migraine headaches, but it can help to reduce the frequency of the attacks. Taking feverfew with white willow (a plant with aspirin-like qualities) can do wonders to treat migraine headaches before, during, and after an attack.
We also have found a natural migraine relief product that incorporates feverfew and a few other natural ingredients. You can buy it here.
Fresh ginger root is a potent digestive aid and painkiller, and it can help to reduce the severity of a migraine headache. It's always good to have fresh ginger on hand!
A 2014 study found that ginger helped to reduce migraine pain as effectively as Sumatriptan, one of the more commonly prescribed migraine headache medications. Within two hours of taking both ginger and the medication, the migraine severity decreased in equal measure.
But there was a difference: Ginger had far fewer side effects than the medication! Best of all, it helped to reduce nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal problems that accompany migraines.
If you're a regular migraine sufferer, make sure to have fresh ginger root in your fridge. Chew on the ginger when a migraine sets in, and you'll find that the severity of the attack will be significantly decreased.
Migraine headaches can be debilitating, but you can still enjoy a good life despite them. Thanks to the information above, you can take steps to not only treat the headaches but prevent them in the first place!
These natural remedies won't only help you relieve migraine, it would also keep you worry-free of any side effects that drugstore medications might have. You can try each one of these remedies and stick to what works best.
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