Popping migraine meds can provide immediate relief, but these all-natural solutions can help you manage and prevent them in the long run.

By Molly Longman
November 24, 2019

Your head hurts. Actually, it feels under attack. You’re nauseated. You’re so sensitive to light that you can’t open your eyes. When you do, you see spots or haziness. And this has been going on for five hours. (See: How to Tell the Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine)

Those are just some of the symptoms of migraines, a condition that affects more than 39 million people in the U.S., 75 percent of whom are female. (More here: I Suffer from Chronic Migraines—Here's What I Wish People Knew)

Doctors aren’t sure what causes the condition, but the newest research indicates it may be overly sensitized brain nerves, says Elizabeth Seng, Ph.D., an associate professor at Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Women with migraines should see a specialist for a treatment plan, but these expert tips for natural migraine relief can also help prevent and reduce symptoms.

Prakasit Khuansuwan / EyeEm/Getty Images

1. Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture may be as effective as conventional treatments at easing migraine pain, a study in the journal Headache found. “Migraine patients have hyperactive neurons that can be triggered by inflammation,” says Carolyn Bernstein, M.D., an associate neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Acupuncture decreases inflammation and may prevent or reduce the severity of a migraine.” (More here: Dietitian-Recommended Foods That'll Help You Recover from a Migraine)

2. Find Your Stress Sweet Spot

“Stress is a common migraine trigger,” Seng says. A spike can lead to a migraine, and so can a sudden drop. In fact, the journal Neurology reports that your risk of a migraine attack is five times higher during the first six hours after stress levels drop. Stress hormones like cortisol protect against pain; a sudden decrease may set off the condition. (Also, your birth control could be causing migraines that might mean you're at risk for more serious complications.)

You've heard it a million times, and you're going to hear it again; try mindfulness meditation. In addition to making you calmer, it can provide natural migraine relief. “It helps people control their attention, enabling migraine sufferers to tune out their symptoms,” she says. Try the Calm meditation app ($70 per year), or one of these other great meditation apps for beginners.

3. Stay On Schedule

Be as consistent as possible with your sleeping, eating, and exercising routine, says Amaal Starling, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Those three habits influence hormone levels, hunger, and mood, and a shift in one area is enough to set off an attack. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, eat on a consistent schedule, and exercise for 20 minutes three to four days a week. (Related: Why Consistency Is the Single Most Important Thing for Reaching Your Health Goals)

You may have heard that caffeine is a good natural migraine relief option, but that only works if you have a small amount. In fact, it's best to drink no more than two cups of coffee a day. A new study in the American Journal of Medicine found that three or more mugs can increase your odds of developing a headache.

Shape Magazine, November 2019 issue
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