There are few things worse than the pain of a migraine headache! The pulsing pain radiating from behind your eyes—like you’re wearing goggles that are too tight. The debilitating pressure and squeezing leading to nausea and vomiting. The sensitivity to light, smells, and sounds. You may feel your only refuge is a dark chilly room with the blanket pulled over your head so you can hide from the world.
Know the Warning Signs
Migraines are accompanied by serious symptoms, so it’s important to be able to recognize the warning signs or “aura” phase of a migraine attack. You may experience symptoms such as:
- Changes in vision, blind spots, blurring, spots, and distorting of objects.
- Language problems—your speech may be affected, you may have trouble forming clear sentences, and you may have confusion with spoken and written words.
- Skin sensations—aside from the usual tingling that may come with a migraine, you may also experience pins and needles sensation across the entire body. You may also experience numbness in the arms, legs, hands, and feet.
What Triggers a Migraine?
Preventing migraines naturally has become a science of its own. Experts have worked hard to nail down the triggers that cause the body to inflame and blood vessels to dilate, leading to an increase of blood to a specific region of the brain. Many believe that changes in the brainstem and interaction with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway, may be the cause of these attacks. If your brain doesn’t receive enough serotonin, this may render the body unable to regulate pain signals sent by the nervous system. Seratonin, which many consider a neurotransmitter (although some believe it be a hormone), is made primarily in the intestines (reaffirming the importance of a healthy gut) and also made in the brainstem. Serotonin levels drop significantly during a migraine. This causes the body to be flooded with neuropeptides that cause headache pain.
BUT what is the change? Change or triggers are the variables that may differ from person to person.
Common triggers include:
- Medications—such as oral contraceptives and vasodilators, prescription drugs for treating hypertension or high blood pressure.
- Foods—highly processed foods, fast food, dairy, “nightshade” vegetables, wheat products, red meat, and eggs.
- Skipping or missing meals.
- Hormonal changes in the body, including those brought on by medications, pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation
- Food additives such as artificial sweeteners and MSG.
- Stress—home, work and physical exertion including exercise and physical work.
- Beverages containing caffeine (a vasodilator), alcohol, and especially red wine.
- Disruptions in daily patterns—sleeping too much or too little, jet lag, hydration levels, and mineral balance fluctuation.
- Environmental changes, such as barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature.
- Sensory stimuli, including bright lights, loud noises, unusual strong or toxic fumes.
This list is a little overwhelming, so while working with clients that are experiencing migraines, I encourage them to keep a “food and mood journal” to target possible triggers throughout the day. It can be very difficult to manage the pain once a migraine sets in. Therefore, it’s important to notice the symptoms that occur during the “premonitory phase” (the time just before the agonizing pain sets in). This is when acting fast may help lessen the pain. Try getting a big glass of water, removing yourself from a situation to find a place to breathe and reduce stress, stepping outside for some fresh air, or retreating to a dark room to relax with a cold compress on your neck to reduce inflammation and blood vessel dilation.
The premonitory phase may include symptoms such as:
- Neck and jaw pain
- Compulsive yawning
- Hot flashes
The ever-growing population of migraine suffers (which includes children) deserve an alternative to prescription drugs to help combat the symptoms caused by these painful headaches. Many natural remedies use essential oils for relief and are safe for everyone.
Here are six of the best natural remedies for migraine pain:
- Lavender oil: this oil smells wonderful and is useful in aromatherapy to relax the mind and body. The quality that is most helpful during a migraine is the relief gained from inhalation. Lavender oil is a sedative and the best way to take advantage of this potent quality is to use it in a diffuser. This method can provide pain relief quickly, it can also be absorbed into the skin by rubbing on the temples or by adding a few drops to the bathtub to ease symptoms.
- Peppermint oil has been studied to help reduce migraine pain after about 15 minutes. The effects were noted to last for at least an hour after the onset of the migraine. If you are prone to migraines or just headaches, it’s a good idea to keep peppermint oil handy. I keep a blend of peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary oil in a rollerball bottle to apply to my head and the back of my neck when symptoms start.
- Sweet basil oil can be comforting when migraine pain sets in. Diffusing the oil for inhalation can help reduce pain.
- Using a cold compress on the back of your neck can help reduce the severity of migraine pain. Apply an ice pack for 30 minutes at a time for maximum relief.
- Feverfew is a traditional herb used for treating fevers but has been useful to try as a natural migraine treatment. Not only has this herb proven useful in minimizing pain but it can help reduce the frequency of the attacks. There are over the counter compounds containing Feverfew that also contain common pain-fighting herbs like Butterbur root, Magnesium and Riboflavin.
- Ginger root is a digestive aid and a painkiller that has been proven to reduce the severity of migraine pain. Ginger also aids in reducing nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems that often show up with a migraine. If you suffer regularly, keep fresh ginger root in your fridge. Chew on a piece of ginger when migraine pain sets in and relax to enjoy significantly reduced symptoms.
A Final Word on Migraines
Migraine headaches can be debilitating but you don’t have to let them ruin your life. Thanks to the help of natural remedies you can relieve your migraine symptoms without the fear of side effects from prescription and over-the-counter drugs. You can experiment with each of these remedies to see which one is most beneficial. Eliminate your triggers and find good natural relief, and migraine pain could be a thing of the past!