Non-Medical Migraine Relief & More Headache Free Days
Sometimes my migraine headache begins with a slight headache that lurks around my left temple, or my right temple. It’s one or the other. Never both. At first I think, then hope, then pray that it’s a sinus headache, because sometimes it’s just that. A sinus headache.
But then, in a matter of hours, the pain intensifies to an insistent painful throbbing at the temple, but now there is the added sensation of being stabbed in one or both eyes.
At other times, the headache comes on fast and hard. I have a 30-second to one minute warning. During this short time, black dots bounce around in my line of vision and my peripheral vision is practically non-existent. Worse yet, there are jagged wavy lines around the edges of everything. This is the aura that precedes some migraines right before it hits. When there is an aura, I know that the oncoming migraine is going to be particularly vicious.
Sounds terrible? It is. I’m not alone. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 39 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Worldwide, the number is closer to a billion.
I have lived with migraines for most of my life. Some lasting for hours, others for days. I can tell you that life is tough having to go through hour after hour of pain while still trying to continue on with everything I have to do. Because life does not stop just because I am in pain, intense or not.
I take my physician prescribed medication when I have the very bad migraines. I don’t like taking the pills, but I am never without them. Because I dislike the side effects so much, I will sometimes weigh the pain of the migraine versus the side effects and then choose. Most of the time the medication wins out.
But over time, I have found ways to reduce the number of migraines I have. So much so that I have reduced the incidence of migraines by about 90%. Seriously. Nothing magical, but more like a combination of things I tried out. Things that worked.
I am not a doctor or any kind of health care practitioner. I’m just a fellow migraine sufferer who has found a few ways to reduce her migraine headaches.
Here are the 8 things I do that help reduce the number migraines I have, in no particular order.
- Drink Water. I find that if I don’t drink enough water each day, it will catch up with me, sooner or later. When I have migraines, I envision that I need to stay hydrated and get rid of any toxins that may have built up. So, I drink more water than usual. As soon as I feel a headache beginning, I start drinking more water. At least 6 big glasses of water a day.
- Caffeine. I read that caffeine can work in two contradictory ways. One, it can give you a headache and two, it can help with headaches. When I have a headache, I will try anything. I find that if I catch the headache early enough, caffeine helps. I will drink several cups of strong coffee trying to head it off. But what works better for me is a drink called, Mountain Dew. Someone once told me that it contained a lot of caffeine. So I drink a lot of it as soon as I feel a migraine starting. Sometimes if I am early enough, I can ward off the headache. If I already have the headache, it helps a bit.
- Eat. When I don’t eat enough, or regularly enough, it can bring on a headache. Sometimes I can get so caught up with the busyness of the day that I forget to eat well. So, I try to have snacks on hand during the day, just in case I do not take the time to have an actual meal. Nuts, fruits, etc.
- Alcohol. Champagne is totally out of the question. If I drink champagne it is 100% guaranteed that I will have a migraine headache. Some red wines will also cause a headache, but I have not figured out exactly which ones.
- Hot Washcloth or Heating Pad. I apply a hot washcloth to my head. Sometimes on top of my head, sometimes on the throbbing side of my head. Sometimes over my face. But what works the best and sometimes eases or stops the migraine is when I apply the heat to the back of my neck and base of my skull.
- Sleep prone in bed. When I don’t get enough sleep, it will catch up with me in the form of a headache.So, I make an effort to make sure to get enough sleep each night. When I have a migraine, sleeping flat or on my left or right side with a pillow under my head simply magnifies the throbbing at my temple. It’s better when I prop up pillows behind my head and back and sleep slightly sitting up.
- Check what I am eating. My doctor told me to keep track of what I was eating in order to identify which foods triggered a headache. Once I became diligent about this, because I was so tired of having migraines, I noticed that foods with MSG and certain soy products such as some soy based yogurt would trigger a headache. I was surprised that even some of the commercially prepared veggie burgers and other plant based products could trigger it. I experimented to make sure, and once I confirmed it, I completely stopped eating soy yogurt and decreased the number of veggie burgers I ate.
- No Milk. This is the single, most effective thing that worked for me. Once I eliminated milk products from my diet, the number of migraine headaches I had dropped dramatically. I was shocked and happy and I credit it all to a book I read one day, Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health, written by Joseph Keon. It was, as Oprah would say, an “aha” moment. Two sentences in the book made me pay particular attention and led to me testing it out. The first sentence was,“ In one study of patients who suffered from migraine headaches and asthma, 33 of 44 patients showed significant improvement after removing all cow’s milk from their diets.” The other sentence stated, “In another study reported in the journal, Lancet, 93% of patients examined were able to free themselves of migraine headaches by eliminating cow’s milk from their diets.” I tried it out after one especially horrible week of unrelenting migraine pain. It was not easy because I love cheese: Macaroni and cheese, Vegetable lasagna, Yogurt with fruit, and most especially my multi-layered Swiss cheese deli sandwiches. But I gave it all up. Cold turkey. Every time I think about giving in and eating a Swiss cheese sandwich, I remember the pain of the migraine, and I won’t touch it. It has been over 5 years now. The desire does not overcome the chance of triggering another vicious migraine headache.
Enjoy More Headache Free Days
So this has been my experience and I hope that something I’ve shared will help you enjoy more days with no pain.