ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Migraines - What Can Help?

Updated on April 13, 2013

You're Not Alone

Do you suffer from migraines? 28 million Americans suffer along with you. More women suffer than men. The World Health Organization ranks it as among the world's top 20 leading causes of disability. Although migraines cause missed days at work and loss of on-the-job productivity, it is still under-diagnosed and under-treated.

There may not be a cure, but there are ways to prevent and manage migraine headaches. Know your triggers and what medications may - or may not - help you.

The History of the Headache

Ancient cultures believed that headaches were caused by evil spirits, and trepanation - the removal of a section of the skull - was practised. This treatment was used up until the 17th century. The Egyptians bound a clay crocodile against a sufferer's head with a strip of linen inscribed with the names of their healing gods. In the 5th century, Hippocrates described the symptoms of the migraine - bright light followed by terrible pain in the temples - and believed the act of vomiting relieved pain. In medieval times, a poultice of opium and vinegar was used for pain releif.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is not an ordinary headache. It is generally characterized by intense throbbing in one location, such as the temple, the forehead, around the eye, or at the back of the head. A migraine is usually unilateral, occurring on one side of the head, and usually changes sides from one attack to the next. It can last several hours or even days. It can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The Onset of a Migraine - How You Know What's Coming

The onset of a migraine is usually characterized by specific signs. Here are a few.

  • cold hands and feet
  • fatigue
  • mood swings
  • pins-and-needles sensation
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • cravings for sweet or salty foods
  • a buzzing sound in the ears

Know Your Triggers

Knowing what triggers your migraines can increase your chances of preventing them in the first place. Keep a headache and food diary. Take note of the foods and circumstances that precede an attack. Share it with your doctor and refer to it for your own personal use. Chocolate and wine are common triggers. Some have cited oranges, pineapples, and caffeine.

Possible triggers

  • chocolate
  • red wine
  • caffeine
  • nuts
  • cigarette smoke
  • bright light
  • stress

Avoiding a Migraine

Be sure to get plenty of sleep, and sleep in a regular pattern. If it's the weekend and you want to sleep in, get up at your normal time for a few minutes and then return to bed. Eat healthy, avoiding your trigger foods, and don't skip meals. If sunlight is a trigger, try wearing sunglasses. Stress can't always be avoided, so try readjusting your schedule, reading quietly, or listening to soft music. Some therapies, such as biofeedback and acupuncture, may also help.

Has a migraine already set in? A cold compress on the area where the headache is concentrated can help. Try relaxation and deep breathing techniques. Drink plenty of water but avoid caffeine. Sleep is also a good remedy.

A Word About Medicine - There Are Basically Two Choices in Non-Prescription Medication

You have analgesics, such as acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDSs. Acetaminophen relieves pain by acting on pain centers in the brain. They are well-tolerated and easy on the stomach. However, large doses or use over an extended period of time can cause severe liver damage, and they should not be taken with alcohol, which can also damage the liver. Always read the package label on how to use them.

NSAIDs come in aspirin and non-aspirin form, and some need a prescription. They relieve the inflammation causing pain. Aspirin prevents the formation of blood clots, and can increase the risk of bleeding. It should not be taken by children or teenagers because of the risk of developing Reye's Syndrome, a neurological disease. NSAIDs should not be taken if you are already taking bloodthinners, such as warfarin.

What are Triptans?

Triptans were introduced in the 1990s. They are designed for the relief of migraines, and do not lessen the frequency or stop attacks from happening. They constrict the blood vessels and reduce the inflammation causing migraine pain. They should be used before the pain sets in or when the pain is still mild - within 20 minutes of an attack. Some less serious side-effects of triptans are facial flushing, tingling sensations in the skin, and a tightness around the chest and throat. Drowsiness, fatigue, and dizziness can also occur. Those who have had heart attacks or strokes or have symptoms of atherosclerosis should not take them.

One Last Word

Not all migraine sufferers are the same. Triggers vary with each person, as do the effectiveness of treatments and medications. Unfortunately, trial and error may decide what works for you and what doesn't. Try to be aware of what triggers your attacks. When a migraine does set in, take steps early on to relieve pain.

The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health
The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health
Dr. Bernstein is a neurologist who has treated thousands of migraine sufferers.
An in-depth look at the causes of migraines and what can help alleviate them.

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)