What causes migraines exactly isn’t yet truly understood. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, “Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Imbalances in brain chemicals — including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved. Serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal system to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain’s outer covering (meninges). The result is headache pain.”

Because migraines in and of themselves are typically not life threatening nor do they carry long term complications or side effects, many physicians simply advise migraine sufferers to take specific pain relievers and to do a list of things that can alleviate the symptoms.

I won’t be discussing all the tips that physicians give since this will vary from one physician to another. I will however, be sharing tips on how I have personally dealt with my own migraines over the course of my life and the knowledge that I’ve gathered from my own physicians, neurologists and other specialists I’ve seen on numerous occasions. 

These factors can trigger the onset of migraines either each by itself or any combination of these:

  • Extreme Stress (this is the most prevalent factor)
  • Shocks (scary events, life-changing news, etc.)
  • Skipping meals or eating a meal much later than you usually do
  • Extreme heat both in nature or brought on by over-exertion (over exercising, overstaying in a sauna or steam room, etc.)
  • Excessive consumption of cheeses, chocolates, alcohol and any foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Dehydration
  • Exposure to extremely loud noise 
  • Exposure to bright lights (including the sun).

Having suffered from migraines since my early teens, thanks to my parents, I have consulted with some of the world’s best neurologists, specialists and acupuncturists, all of whom had different suggestions and remedies. I’ve tried everything from every migraine pill on the market to ionic bracelets to acupuncture (which does provide immediate relief but doesn’t stop another migraine from coming on). In short, nothing but acupuncture has worked for me but it is not always feasible to get access to acupuncture during a migraine attack.

In studying my own body and habits, I’ve changed the factors the bring on migraines- not skip meals, drink plenty of water, etc. and migraines still came due to other factors. No matter what I changed, I could not escape a migraine attack sooner or later so all I could do was learn to deal with them when they came.

If you suffer from migraines, then you are all too familiar with the descending of a thousand hammers doing their death dance on your skull. Bad migraines can be debilitating for up to a few weeks at their worst. 

Here are a few tips on how to relieve the pain of migraines:

  • When you feel the migraine coming on, immediately try to get to a quiet, dark place, preferably with few to no people.
  • Like regular headaches, gentle pressure point massage also helps with migraines. Target your temples, the pressure points diagrammed HERE and gently massage your entire scalp.
  • Lie down somewhere comfortable. This might sound like a stupid thing to say but I’ve actually laid down on a hard carpeted floor in an office during a migraine attack and the discomfort made the pain worse.
  • Do deep breathing, like in meditation, trying to avoid thinking of anything other than your breathing. Stressful thoughts about the work you need to do, the errands you need to run, etc. will just make the migraine worse.
  • Drink warm water. I’ve found that drinking anything else can trigger the other symptoms of migraines, such as nausea and vomiting. Water is a safe bet and the warmth will soothe the pain.
  • During really bad spells, sometimes there is nothing we can do but lie down and sleep it off. 

In general, the best way to prevent migraines is to reduce extreme stress. Of course, this is not always realistic so really, the only thing we can do as migraine sufferers is to do our best to minimize the risk factors and learn what solutions work best for our own body.