4 Ways to Treat a Migraine Attack

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Almost everyone gets a headache every now and then. In fact, headaches are one of the most common types of pain. However, not all headaches are the same. If you get migraine headaches, you know the awful, throbbing pain well. People living with migraines often experience symptoms of extreme light and sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting and a pulsing pain usually on one side of their head. A migraine attack may last a few hours to a day or more, causing disabling pain and fatigue. Here are 4 ways to treat a migraine attack to get you feeling better as soon as possible.

Prevention is Key

Prevention is the goal of most migraine treatment plans. A migraine attack can be triggered by any of the following:

  • weather changes
  • certain foods
  • lack of sleep
  • bright or flickering lights
  • strong smells
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • loud noises
  • hormonal changes in women

If you suffer from regular migraines, it’s important to see your doctor regularly. Your doctor can monitor how well your treatment plan is working to prevent migraine headaches. Talk with your doctor about steps you can take to improve a migraine attack when one happens, too. Remember to take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Even with the best migraine prevention plan, a migraine attack can still happen.

1. Massage

When a migraine attack strikes, it may seem like nothing will help. However, gentle massages may improve your headache. Migraines can make your muscles tense up, and muscle tension can worsen a headache.

Gentle massage is a simple way to begin easing your headache. Massage your neck and shoulders, and try gentle stretches as well. Massage and stretching will help increase blood flow to areas that might be contributing to your migraine pain. You can also find a local massage therapist who understands migraine headaches to work with you to help prevent migraines over time.

2. Relaxation Techniques

It’s hard to relax when you have a migraine. When you have a migraine attack, you may feel more tense and anxious, which may worsen headache pain. However, breathing and staying calm helps you not tense up.

One effective way to promote relaxation is with deep breathing techniques, like belly breathing. During belly breathing, you focus on feeling your belly rise as you breathe. Here’s how to do belly breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose.
  • Focus on feeling the hand on your belly rise, keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • Feel the hand on your belly go back down, keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible.
  • Repeat as needed.

3. Ice Packs

For many people, ice packs over their eyes, forehead, neck or shoulders all help to reduce pain associated with a migraine attack. Look for soft ice packs that you can mold around your face or shoulders. Ice helps reduce inflammation.

In addition, you can look for ice packs that are infused with lavender. Lavender has a light scent and calming effects on the body. Keep several soft ice packs in your freezer, so you’re never without one.

4. Get Quiet

Migraines cause intense sensitivity to light and sound. Sometimes the best tip for easing a migraine attack is going into a cool, quiet room and closing your eyes. Do everything you need to do to create a comfortable, dark space for you to just rest.

After taking your migraine medications exactly as directed by your doctor, try these tips for getting quiet:

  • Cool down your house.
  • Turn off the lights in your room.
  • Silence your cell phone.
  • Keep the TV, computer and other devices turned off.
  • Lie down on your couch or bed.
  • Place your ice packs on your neck, head and shoulders.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Practice your belly breathing technique.
  • Try some gentle neck and shoulder massage as it feels comfortable.
  • Let yourself rest.

You know your body the best, so if something you try feels uncomfortable, stop. Remember to talk with your doctor before trying different therapies including alternative treatments. If your headache worsens or is different than usual, call your doctor.

Your doctor will want to monitor how your treatment plan is working, and your doctor will want to know what alternative therapies have worked well for you. A migraine attack is very painful. However, with these tips, you may be able to improve your symptoms sooner, so you can feel better.

For more information on migraines, read 7 Things that Could Make your Migraines Worse.


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