The 6 Best Tools for Treating Migraines, According to Doctors
If you ever get migraines, you know just how painful they can be. Some may appear without much warning, or can be chronic, lasting for hours on end. Not to mention, they can be debilitating and interfere with your ability to focus, be productive and stay energized.
What Causes Migraines?
We still have a lot to learn about migraines and that is why they can sometimes be tricky to manage. "The causes are not always known, however more research is finding that genetics and environmental factors could play a large part," says Dr. Brian Meenan, a chiropractor in Pittsburgh, PA who specializes in treating headaches and migraines.
Dr. Sommer Ebdlahad, a neurologist at the Virginia Spine Institute, agrees, but says stress and poor sleep are two big triggers. "People who keep irregular sleep schedules are more likely to have migraines, and sleep deprivation itself can trigger a migraine," he says. Stressed or sleep-deprived people may also make poor food and drink choices (think: fast food, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, etc.), which may also trigger migraines.
"There is also a link between atmospheric pressure and the amount of migraine pain some people experience, where atmospheric pressure, of course, is affected by weather," says Ebdlahad. He adds that seasonal allergies may also trigger migraines.
Luckily, migraines are be treated holistically with some lifestyle adjustments. "In less than 1% of migraine cases, there could be something severe going on such as a brain tumor. For the majority of cases, migraines can be managed with lifestyle modifications," Meenan says.
Additional migraine triggers include things like bright lights, strong smells, hormonal changes, neck pain, jaw pain and more, and can vary based on the individual.
Meenan says the best thing to do is "to keep a daily log of what you are doing and eating throughout the day and when the migraine begins and ends...This can help you and your doctor narrow down potential triggers."
Additionally, there are a few migraine relief products you can keep at home or on the go to assist when one is about to hit. Here are a few to check out now.
Best Tools for Treating Migraines, According to Doctors
You may be deficient in magnesium, especially if you're a woman. Ideally you'd be getting plenty of magnesium through your diet, but some people may need to use a supplement—especially if they suffer from migraines. "This over-the-counter formula combines magnesium with B2, which provides relief for a lot of people," Meenan says. "This is a safe, easy [over-the-counter] option with essentially no side effects that can help with migraines tremendously," he adds. Check-in with your doctor before trying this product, to make sure it won't negatively interact with current medications or conditions.
This device provides cold therapy around the head, eyes and forehead. "Ice can be a good therapy for pain relief anywhere in the body but especially for migraines," says Meenan. "I like how this product covers the eyes as well because often people who are experiencing migraines have an increased sensitivity to bright lights," he adds.
Trigger Point Ball
"Oftentimes when experiencing migraines, the pressure or pain can be stemming from the neck," Meenan says. "Trigger point balls similar to this one work really well at allowing those tight muscles to be worked out so they can relax." This is a simple tool you can use when at home to provide immediate relief or at your office or even on the go.
A Big Water Bottle
Sounds simple, but it is effective! "Hydration is an important part of overall well-being, so having a large water bottle with you makes it easy to stay hydrated throughout the day," says Ebdlahad. Dehydration can make migraines worse, so be mindful to not go too long without fluid. (P.S.—Here's how much water you should be drinking each day!)
Use a gel mask to help block out light and induce sleep. "Winding down after a long day or during a migraine flare-up can be challenging, so I like sleep masks because they help get me in a relaxed state of mind," says Ebdlahad. Bonus: The icy cold sensation of the gel is refreshing and can offer relief when you have a migraine.
Sneakers for a Walk Outside
We know the last thing you probably want to do when you have a migraine flare-up is to exercise, but regularly getting outside and moving is important. Ebdlahad explains, "We know exercise can help migraine sufferers manage stress, and stress is the biggest trigger of migraines." (Plus, being outside in nature can also reduce stress!)