Dr. Michele Renee featured in Parade Magazine discussing migraine relief
Struggling with a throbbing headache? Our Director of Integrative Care, Dr. Michele Renee’s favorite pain relieving trick is to put your hands and feet in hot water. Find out more expert backed tips in Parade Magazine.
There Are Few Things Worse Than a Migraine—Here Are 14 Expert-Backed Tips That Might Actually Help You Get Some Relief
By Katlin Vogel at Parade
Nothing is worse than the throbbing pain of a headache. Well, aside from multiplying that pain by ten and experiencing migraine symptoms for days. If you’re unsure what causes migraines and searching for migraine relief, you’re not alone. Affecting more than a billion people around the world, migraines are one of the most common headache disorders.
The good news is that you can take back control of your health by making smarter lifestyle choices. Here are 14 expert-backed tips for how to get rid of a migraine:
How to get rid of a migraine
1. Take supplements
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD and author of Pain Free 1-2-3, suggests vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Specifically, he recommends 300 mg in the morning. Research confirms riboflavin is effective in treating migraine headaches and decreasing migraine frequency after several weeks.
“Riboflavin is a critical energy-producing vitamin,” Teitelbaum says. This amount can’t be found in food and would require a supplement, he explains. It is very safe and low-cost.
For your evening regimen, he suggests taking 200 mg of magnesium at night. A healthy diet includes 600 mg of magnesium daily. Unfortunately, however, the average American diet contains only 275 mg a day.
“Optimizing magnesium is crucial to regulation of blood vessel dilation, which plays an important role in migraines,” Teitelbaum states. “Interestingly, the most effective way to eliminate an acute migraine—more effective than morphine—is 1 gram of magnesium intravenously over 15 minutes. This eliminates 85% of migraines within 45 minutes.”
2. Block out bright light
Some people have light sensitivity, also known as photophobia. This occurs when sunlight and bright lights activate neural pathways between the eyes, causing headaches and migraines.
“Bring sunglasses with you when you go outside and avoid bright lights,” Dr. Brian Wind, Ph.D. clinical psychologist, recommends. “You might need to rearrange home furniture, use curtains or have dimmers on your lights.”
Also, studies show that green light can be helpful in reducing migraines. Look for sunglasses specifically designed to block out everything except green light.
3. Keep hormone levels balanced
Ladies, listen up: If your migraines are occurring during ovulation they may be related to hormonal fluctuations. Also, according to experts, your birth control may be to blame. “As the birth control pills wear off in the morning, they can trigger a migraine,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Using reproductive hormones with more stable blood levels of estrogen and/or progesterone can then be helpful in decreasing migraine frequency.”
This applies to women using hormones for birth control or to manage menopausal symptoms.
4. Turn down loud noises
Loud noise can trigger migraines or worsen them. “This is because loud noises can either increase a person’s temporal pulse amplitude which is a widening of a blood vessel in the face, or activate sensory nerve fibers that release proteins which can worsen inflammation of the brain and cause pain,” Dr. Wind explains.
Turn down the TV and avoid playing music with a loud and heavy beat. Heavy curtain drapes or earplugs can also reduce loud noises, he adds.
5. Focus on acupressure points
Well-known for its healing capabilities, acupuncture can help reduce headaches and other pain. Even if you can’t see an acupuncturist you can relieve migraine pain. All you have to do is focus on specific acupressure points.
Dr. Michele Renee, Acupuncturist and Director of Integrative Care at Northwestern Health Sciences University, says, “The best acupressure point for headaches is the soft skin in between the thumb and pointer finger. Massage it for 20-30 seconds at a time to relieve pain, or hold it for 10 seconds.”
6. Watch out for food allergies
When it comes to migraine causes, food allergies is the one most people miss. It’s no secret that your diet impacts your overall health, and this also applies to migraines. Specifically, it’s the chemical properties in certain foods you need to be careful with.
There are numerous foods known to trigger migraines, Dr. Teitelbaum explains. The most common reactive foods are wheat, oranges, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, milk, beef, corn, cane sugar and yeast.
7. Practice deep breathing and visualization techniques
The simple act of inhaling and exhaling slowly calms the nervous system and stimulates a relaxation response throughout the body. If you pair deep breathing with a peaceful visualization, it will take the healing effects to the next level.
“Visualizing a calming place such as the beach or a tree changing colors while doing deep breathing can help you relax and bring you to a place without pain from your migraines,” Dr. Wind states. “It can improve your emotional and mental wellbeing which influences the severity and frequency of your migraines.”
8. Put your hands and feet in hot water
This is Dr. Renee’s personal favorite trick. Since migraines are caused by vascular dilation in the head, bringing heat to other parts of the body will alleviate some of the pain.
“Putting your hands and feet in hot water stimulates blood flow away from the head to the rest of the body,” she says. “The hot water helps pull the blood away from the head and minimize pain.” Another way to circulate blood flow is by taking a hot bath, which has the added benefit of relaxation.
9. Get enough sleep
People with migraines are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation so it’s important to develop a consistent self-care routine. In the evenings, Dr. Wind suggests taking a warm bath or reading a book before bedtime. An Epsom salt bath is also an excellent way to unwind.
If you have a migraine, Dr. Nate Favini, Medical Lead of Forward, recommends resting in a dark, cool place. Avoid looking at screens or doing any strenuous activity.
Working out releases endorphins, which is your body’s way of naturally reducing stress and alleviating pain. So, how often and how long should you exercise? Dr. Julia Jones, a neurologist with Houston Methodist Hospital suggests cardio exercise for 35 minutes a day 3 times a week. This can decrease migraines by 50 percent.
11. Take butterbur
To prevent and eliminate acute migraines, Teitelbaum tells his patients to use butterbur – a shrub native to Europe and Asia, which contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Specifically, he recommends the Petadolex form used in most studies. For maximum effectiveness, take 50 mg three times a day for one month and then 1 twice a day to prevent migraines. For acute migraines, you can take 100 mg every 3 hours (for a maximum of 300 mg in a 24-hour period).
12. Eat regularly and don’t skip meals
Maintaining a consistent eating schedule is important, Jones explains. Skipping meals will cause your blood sugar levels to drop and this can trigger a migraine. Good snacks to keep on hand include almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
13. Avoid strong odors
Cleaning products, flooring, deodorizers and other smells can activate nasal nerve receptors that can trigger migraines, says Wind. He recommends using fragrance-free cleaning products. Also, consider installing an air filter. Avoid perfumes, lotions with fragrances, air fresheners or food with strong smells.
14. Keep track of triggers
Many people are unsure what’s causing their migraines. A good clue is to pay attention to what you did before the migraine. What did you eat? Did you have a bad night’s sleep? Feeling overwhelmed at work?
“Avoid unnecessary triggers whenever possible and track what you did in the hours before a migraine,” says Jones. “Possible triggers include stress, good or bad strong odors, travel to different time zones, certain foods and beverages.”
By keeping a journal of your activities, diet and symptoms, you’ll start to notice a pattern, says Favini. This will help you prevent future episodes. Your mind and body will thank you!
If you’re having severe headaches regularly, difficulty speaking, trouble balancing, weakness on one side, or sudden impaired vision, you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Migraine Research Foundation: “About Migraine”
- Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, chronic pain expert and author of Pain Free 1-2-3
- Electron Physician: “Effectiveness of Vitamin B2 versus Sodium Valproate in Migraine Prophylaxis: a randomized clinical trial”
- Brian Wind, PhD clinical psychologist, Chief Clinical Officer of Journey Pure and former co-chair of the American Psychological Association’s Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance.
- Harvard Medical School:“Green Light for Migraine Relief”
- Michele Renee, Acupuncturist and Director of Integrative Care at Northwestern Health Sciences University
- Nate Favini, Medical Lead of Forward
- Julia Jones, neurologist with Houston Methodist Hospital