15 Ways To Stop Migraines Before They Start
Do you know all of your migraine triggers? We’re counting down the most likely culprits, with the best migraine prevention techniques to help ward them off.
1. Identify and avoid your dietary triggers
When it comes to migraine prevention, your best bet is to be careful about what you eat. Food and drinks trigger migraines in up to 20 per cent of patients. Specific foods include wine, dark beer, aged cheese, cashews, onions, chocolate and processed meats, as well as additives like sulfites, MSG and tartrazine. Keep a headache diary and write down everything you ate before an attack, then look for patterns.
2. Wean yourself off caffeine
Slowly distance yourself from caffeine or limit caffeinated drinks to no more than three a day. Sudden decreases in caffeine consumption can trigger a migraine.
3. Maintain a regular sleeping and eating schedule
Too little or too much sleep, or going too long between meals, has been known to trigger migraines.
4. Take magnesium
Take 1,000 milligrams of magnesium aspartate before bed. Migraines happen because blood vessels in the head spasm and get flabby-the pain results from nerves firing in the head in reaction. Magnesium helps maintain the tone of blood vessels so this doesn’t happen and increases the amount of stimulation required to make nerves fire. If they don’t fire, you won’t feel any pain. Studies find many migraine patients are low in this mineral and that daily supplementation can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.
5. Take vitamin B2
Take 200 milligrams of vitamin B2 twice a day. One study compared daily use of riboflavin to a beta-blocker (a prescription drug sometimes prescribed for migraine prevention) and found the number of headaches dropped about the same in each group. Another compared it to a placebo or aspirin and found 80 per cent of those receiving the vitamin had half as many monthly headaches than those taking placebo.
6. Take feverfew
Take 125 milligrams of freeze-dried feverfew leaf once or twice a day. Several studies find daily doses of this can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. It’s thought to work by inhibiting chemicals that promote inflammation or making the blood vessels less reactive, so they don’t dilate as readily when they shouldn’t.
7. Take butterbur
A recommended supplement for migraine prevention is butterbur extract-take 75 milligrams of it twice a day. Few studies have been conducted on its use for migraines, but one study in 33 patients who received either 50 milligrams of butterbur twice a day or placebo found that people who took the herb saw their migraine incidence drop from an average of 3.4 migraines a month to 1.8 migraines a month after three months.
8. Take soy phytoestrogens for migraines associated with your menstrual cycle
For migraines triggered by your menstrual cycle, take 45 to 80 milligrams of soy phytoestrogens daily for at least three cycles. The theory is that falling estrogen levels in the latter part of the menstrual cycle contribute to migraines and moderating that drop with plant-based estrogens could help. One study found the number of migraines dropped significantly in 10 women who took the supplement for three months.
9. Take fish oil
Another natural remedy recommended for migraine prevention is fish oil. Take three to six grams of fish oil a day. There’s some evidence these anti-inflammatory oils can reduce the incidence of migraines by reducing inflammation. And they’re good for your heart too, so there’s no harm in trying them.
10. Visit a chiropractor
If your migraines are primarily triggered by stress or muscle tension in the neck and head, consider chiropractic treatment. A study of 127 people with migraines found 22 per cent had almost no migraines after two months of seeing a chiropractor. Another 50 per cent said their headaches were much less severe.
11. Practice relaxation therapy
One of the most effective relaxation therapies is biofeedback, in which you control your body’s functions, like heart rate or temperature. It’s usually done in conjunction with guided imagery (concentrating on peaceful mental images). You’ll need to see a professional to learn biofeedback, but then you can use the technique on your own.
12. Try cognitive-behavioural therapy
See a psychologist for cognitive-behavioral therapy. This short-term form of therapy helps you change negative thought patterns that may be causing you stress and, in turn, migraines. It also teaches you how to alter your typical reactions to stressful or negative situations and reduce the effect the pain has on your life. Studies find this therapy works best in conjunction with medication-a true integrative approach.
13. Take preventive medication
If you’re having frequent migraines that interfere with your quality of life, talk to your doctor about taking a medication on a daily basis to prevent them. Commonly used medications include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.
14. Try Botox for severe migraines
Several studies find this toxin, approved to treat wrinkles, can also prevent migraines. However, it’s very expensive and your insurance probably won’t pay for it.
Anecdotal reports suggest that this over-the-counter product, which contains riboflavin, magnesium and feverfew, works well in preventing migraines, although there are no good clinical studies to prove it.