A migraine is not just an ordinary headache. If you’ve ever had one, you know the difference. The pain of a migraine is intense, and is often accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, flashing lights, and numbness in the hands and feet – and the pain can sometimes last for hours, or even days.
Migraines are caused by the enlargement of the temporal artery. The inflammation triggers the release of chemicals that affect various parts of the body. They slow digestion and affect the entire sympathetic nervous system.
18% of all Americans experience migraine headaches (that’s 37 million people)
Facts and Figures about Migraines
- Migraines are most likely to affect people from ages 15 to 55
- 18% of all Americans experience migraine headaches (that’s 37 million people)
- Women are far more likely than men to get migraines
- Some people who get migraines are able to feel when one is coming on because they experience something called an aura – a perceptual disturbance.
While all migraines are caused by blood vessel enlargement, people who experience them report a variety of different triggers, including:
- Physical or emotional stress
- Lack of sleep
- Allergies or allergic reactions
- Tension headaches
- Bright louds
- Loud noises
- Exposure to certain smells, such as perfume or smoke
- Hormonal fluctuations due to menstruation, taking birth control pills, or menopause
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Fasting or skipping meals
People who know what their triggers are can sometimes take action to forestall the migraine when they feel it coming on. While it may not always be possible to prevent a migraine, taking medication or other preventive measures right away can sometimes lessen the severity and duration of the migraine.
10 Fast and Easy Ways to Reduce Migraines
Let’s take a look at some fast and easy ways to reduce migraines.
Cool your temples. As you know, migraines are caused by inflammation of the temporal artery. It may help to apply an ice pack to your temples. Many people swear by Be Koool Patch, and cooling essential oils such as peppermint may help as well.
Get into the dark. Exposure to bright light can trigger migraines, and being in bright light can make the pain worse. If you can, get into a dark room. Pull the shades, turn out the lights – and if it’s daylight or there’s residual light you can’t control, consider using a sleep mask or blindfold.
Reduce your intake of processed foods. Highly processed foods contain large amounts of added sugar, chemicals and trans fats. These things aren’t good for you anyway, but they can also cause inflammation in the body – and that includes the temporal artery. If you eliminate them from your diet as much as possible, you may reduce the number of migraines you get. Other food-based triggers include monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
Eat something with complex carbs and nutrients. Nausea often accompanies migraines and you may not feel like eating. However, migraines make your blood sugar drop because they slow your digestion. It may help to have some fruit or a smoothie (if you can stand the sound of the blender.) If you include some fruits with antioxidants, they may also help reduce the inflammation associated with migraines.
Take a hot shower or bath. Having a migraine is stressful, and tightening the muscles in your neck and shoulder can make to worse. Try taking a very hot bath or shower to relax those muscles. You might combine it with a soothing scent – lavender is a proven stress-reliever.
Drink caffeine (or cut out caffeine.) This is contradictory advice, but everyone is different. Some people who have migraines swear that drinking a soda and taking over-the-counter pain relief is the magic cure, while others say that cutting out soda has minimized their headaches.
Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause headaches in general, and it may be a contributing factor for migraines. Make sure to stay well hydrated.
Keep track of your menstrual cycle. Many women experience migraines either in the days leading up to their period, or during their period. If you know your migraines are triggered by shifts in hormones, you can prepare for them and take preventive measures such as eating healthy foods, staying hydrates and avoiding other external triggers.
Make homemade ginger ale. Ginger is a well-known anti-inflammatory. Bring two cups of purified water to a boil, then add one cup of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped. Turn the water to a simmer and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the ginger. To make the ginger ale, combine one part of the ginger water with three parts sparkling water. Serve it over ice with some raw honey and a squeeze of lime.
Give yourself a head massage (or have someone else give you one.) Massaging the greater occipital nerve (the nerve located at the base of your skull) may help to reduce migraine pain. Reflexology massage (massage of pressure points on the hands and feet) may also be beneficial.
One Cause of Migraines You Have Never Thought About!
Now for the migraine trigger you may not be aware of. Chances are good that you, like many people, have transitioned from using incandescent bulbs in your home to using energy efficient bulbs. These bulbs are so popular that manufacturers will soon stop making traditional bulbs. While energy efficient bulbs do last longer than the old incandescents, they also include mercury, a neurotoxin that can trigger migraines. They’re so toxic that the box includes detailed instructions in terms of disposing them, and a warning to clear the house for at least fifteen minutes if you break one. If you get migraines, you may want to think about stocking up on incandescent bulbs while you still can.
Migraine headaches can be awful and debilitating, but it is important to remember that there are things you can do to prevent them, and to make the headaches less intense when they do strike. Anything you can do to make yourself healthier in general will also help, so make sure to exercise and get enough sleep.