10 creative ways to fight a migraineLast Updated:
You just ran out of abortives
Now another migraine attack hits before you can get a refill. Whether you run out every month or just forgot to pick up your refills, sooner or later it happens to everyone. Getting hit with a migraine attack without your best treatment option is a scary moment. Here are 10 creative ways to fight that next prescription-free migraine.
- Layering OTCs
Please discuss this one with your doctor before trying it at home. However, my doctor and I have found that if used early in the attack, a layer of several OTCs can fight off a migraine attack. Combining Excedrin or Aleve with Benadryl and Dramamine can at least lessen the severity and duration of the attack. On rare occasions it might just abort it.
- Magnesium baths
Did you know that the pores in your skin will absorb nutrients? While you may not be able to get to the infusion center or emergency room for an IV bag of magnesium, you can do the next best thing. Fill your bathtub with hot water (just don’t burn yourself!) and dissolve in a full bag of Epsom Salts. They are 100% pure Magnesium Sulfate, the same mineral used in that little IV bag. Ease yourself into the tub and let your pores soak it all up.
- Hot shower
This is especially helpful if you have adjustable jet settings on your shower head. Standing under a hot shower so that the pulsating water hits your head right where it hurts can at least give you a break from the pain while you are in the shower. If done for long enough, it can sometimes cut the intensity down by several points. In the prodrome phase, a hot shower may actually knock out any residual pain and invigorate you.
If you have a willing partner, ask them to vigorously massage your head, face, neck, and shoulders. Try not to be concerned about messing up your hair because long hair will get tangled. Have your volunteer use an unscented massage oil so as not to irritate your skin. Almond or Apricot Oil are good choices. This massage may need to continue for as long as an hour, so prepare your volunteer for a marathon or enlist more than one person and make it a relay race.
- Muscle rub
Whatever you have on hand is good. Fight migraine by massaging this ointment into the areas of greatest pain to get temporary relief from the pain. Good ones to try: Icy Hot, BenGay, Theragesic, BioFreeze, or Tiger Balm are all good ideas.
- Ice bags
Make your own using a sponge, quart-sized freezer bag, and 50/50 water and alcohol. Or you can purchase many different kinds at almost any pharmacy. Just make sure they will stay flexible when frozen. Ones that have Velcro straps are nice to use. If you don’t have any, you can wrap an ice bag in a long scarf and tie it around your head with the bag(s) positioned right on the painful areas. In a pinch, a bag of frozen peas works nicely, too. It is best to have several available because they do warm up long before a migraine attack will end.
- Hot packs
Sometimes heat feels better than ice. Using a heating pad is okay, but then you have to worry about the cord. Even better are microwavable bags filled with rice, corn, flaxseed, or clay. Bed Buddy makes a long wrap with braided cord handles on either end. You can heat it up, then wrap it around your head with the handles intertwined to keep it in place. With strapless bags, you can use the same scarf tip suggested above for ice packs.
If you have one, you can use a TENS unit on the back of the neck to ease pain that has settled at the base of your head. However, never use a TENS unit on your face or head. If you need TENS-like therapy on your face or head, your doctor can prescribe a Cefaly unit, recently FDA-approved to treat migraine. If all else fails. you can use a battery-operated massager usually found at “bed & bath” stores or a clean personal vibrator.
It’s easy to get dehydrated, which is a common migraine trigger. If you suspect dehydration, fight back by drinking lots of water. If you have been vomiting, you may need Gatorade or some other electrolyte beverage. Rehydration is also possible by soaking in a bath.
Sleep is nature’s migraine abortive. Many people report that by taking a good nap they can wake up migraine attack free. There are no side effects, it won’t give you Medication Overuse Headaches, and it’s free. Sometimes to fight a migraine, you must do nothing at all.
You don’t have to wait until you’re out of medicine to start using these tips. You can use any of them at any phase of a migraine attack. You might even discover that you use fewer prescription abortives the more often you use these options. That’s the beauty of these 10 creative ways to fight migraine.