The pain of migraines and constant headaches is unbearable. Unfortunately, I used to know this all too well—that is until I created a list of natural cures to help treat my headaches.
You see, there were times when I’d get an annoying little headache that would stick with me for a full day, sometimes developing into a migraine that caused me to write off my entire to-do list for 72 hours! I’d try to focus on my priorities, but it never worked out.
The worst part about my headaches and migraines was that even when I tried to shake them off and rest, my attempts were futile—my head was still constantly throbbing and I couldn’t fall asleep. Eventually, I’d reach for the aspirin. But then I started talking to other natural health doctors, trying new methods to deal with the throbbing pain. That led me to create a list of six natural remedies for headaches.
It may come as a surprise, but constant headaches and migraines are quite a common occurrence among Americans. In fact, in the past three months, more than 47 million Americans have experienced a severe headache. As for migraines, they affect almost 10% of the United States population. Overall, they cost the U.S. about $1.0 billion in medical expenses.
The obvious ways to reduce the pain when experiencing a headache are to use anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil and Tylenol. But if you experience headaches and migraines often, you may be wary about popping pills so frequently. Luckily, there are alternatives—and they work.
But more on them in a moment. First, let’s discuss what’s happening when you get a migraine, including the causes of migraines and the symptoms.
Top Causes of Migraines
By definition, a migraine is a neurobiological disorder that involves a neurological and vascular change in the brain when it’s attacked. This seems like a mouthful, but simply put, this change in the brain causes a wave of nerve cell activity that causes pain by inflaming blood vessels. Essentially, a wave moves across your brain affecting your blood vessels and causing the throbbing and constant pain you likely know all too well.
But perhaps this explanation isn’t what you’re searching for; maybe you want to know what causes it. Well, this is something that varies by patient, but some common factors include the following:
1. Genetic Predisposition: Sometimes, you’ve just been dealt the wrong cards and the reason you experience so many headaches is due to your genes. If you have a genetic predisposition for migraines, you might want to take note of when or why they occur. This may help you better judge when you can “pre-treat” the condition using natural remedies.
2. Low Estrogen Levels: For women, before you begin menstruating, you will see a rapid decline in your estrogen levels. This decrease in estrogen tends to trigger a migraine in some women. Again, take note of when your migraines occur. If it happens to fall in line with your menstrual cycle, you may want to discuss hormone therapy with your doctor or try proactively using natural remedies to nip your migraine problem in the bud.
3. Alcohol Intake: If you experience an intense headache on the morning after having one drink, it’s unlikely you’re experiencing a hangover. Make note of the drink that you consumed and if it continues to give you a headache or migraine within an eight-hour span, avoid it.
4. Missed Meals: Constant fluctuations in blood sugar levels can escalate pain in the brain, which can lead to a migraine. The bottom line: never go more than three hours without eating. If you have a busy day ahead of you and you think you may miss a meal, pack a snack that you can eat while on the run.
5. Caffeine: Need your morning cup of java? If you are a caffeine addict, you could be setting yourself up for withdrawal headaches, which can trigger your brain’s migraine center. The solution is to take no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. Better yet, try weaning yourself off of caffeine altogether. You may be surprised to see how a balanced breakfast can give you just as much—if not more—energy than your daily morning coffee.
6. Poor Sleep: I recall a study from back in 2010 that found that those who experience migraines also did not have a proper sleeping schedule. Since then, I’ve stuck to my bedtime! If you have trouble heading to bed at the same time each night, set two alarms: One to warn you an hour before bedtime that you need to shut the electronics off and start to wind down. The second alarm is your bedtime; be sure you don’t press snooze on it if you want to avoid a migraine the next day.
Common Migraine Symptoms
One key point to note is this: if you’re experiencing migraine symptoms, you can treat a migraine before the pain breaks. Here are some common symptoms to watch for:
- Food cravings
- Noticeable increase in activity, hyperactivity
- Stiff neck
- Constant yawning
- Speech or language problems, slow to communicate
- Vision loss, partial vision loss
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Nausea or vomiting
- Visual disturbances, such as bright flashes of light, zigzags, the appearance of spots, or shimmering colored lights (this is a stage called an “aura”)
Dr. Kessler’s Natural Home Remedies for Headaches and Migraines
So, now you know the signs and symptoms of migraines, along with what causes them, but what happens if you still develop a migraine? As promised, here’s the list of my top natural remedies to treat headaches and migraines:
1. Ice It: When it comes to migraines, people often think you should mix cold and warm sensations to get rid of the pain. However, you should always opt for cold, specifically ice-cold. Cold helps reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels, thereby reducing the pain. When experiencing pain, apply an ice pack to your forehead or target the areas in which you’re feeling the most discomfort.
2. Take Supplements: Recent studies have shown that those who consume vitamin B2 experience a significant reduction in migraines over a three-month span. While you can take a vitamin B2 supplement during a migraine attack, I’d suggest taking them regularly to help prevent future migraines.
3. Get (or Give) a Massage: Receiving a massage on the neck and shoulders can reduce tension. Alternatively, giving yourself a scalp massage has been shown to reduce the pain caused by a migraine. By deeply massaging the occipital nerve (the back of your head), you can quickly reduce your pain.
4. Basil Oil: Breathing in basil oil vapor or using it as a tonic can help relieve headaches. The strong scent of basil will relax the muscles, meaning those who experience headaches and migraines due to muscle tension can benefit from this herb.
5. Flaxseed: Most headaches and migraines are caused by severe inflammation, which can easily be reduced by consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, which means it will reduce the inflammation that causes a migraine.
6. Soak Your Soles: Putting your feet in a tub of hot water draws blood away from your head and to your feet. This helps relieve pressure and inflammation in the head, thereby reducing pain. The bonus, of course, is a nice footbath!
In the end, not everyone will be able to avoid all headaches and migraines instantly. But the good news is that there are many natural ways to treat and prevent those you do experience, while also ensuring you’re improving your lifestyle choices that may be the cause of your head pain in the first place. For some, migraines and headaches may soon be a problem of the past!
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Natural home remedies: Headaches,” Best Health Magazine web site; http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/home-remedies/natural-home-remedies-headaches/#C9qJF4CGIlb1p3Sp.97, last accessed June 23, 2015.
Calabro, S., “Home Remedies for Headache Treatment,” Everyday Health web site, June 6, 2014; http://www.everydayhealth.com/headache-migraine-pictures/8-home-remedies-for-headaches-and-migraines.aspx#08.
“Migraine Symptoms,” Mayo Clinic web site; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/basics/symptoms/con-20026358, last accessed June 26, 2015.