How to get rid of a migraine fast and effectively? The good news is migraine is manageable if you use the right combination of treatment strategies, from medications to relaxation techniques, herbs, alternative medicine, and other options. In this article, you’ll get the facts on migraine, including its symptoms, risk factors, causes, and tips to get rid of it.
- 1 An Overview of Migraines
- 2 Possible Causes of a Migraine Attack?
- 3 The Standard Treatments for Migraines
- 4 How To Get Rid Of A Migraine Naturally
An Overview of Migraines
Migraine is a primary headache that causes recurring, one-sided, and crippling pain in the forehead or at the back of or around the eyes. The pain could start from the neck then spreads to the head.
There are several types of migraine, but the most common are migraine without aura, migraine with aura, and migraine aura without headache. Only around 25% of migraine sufferers will get auras (warning signs). 
- Chronic migraine is more common among women.
- Sensitivity to low levels of estrogen, which is common before a period, will result to more painful and frequent migraine attacks.
- It runs in the family.
- When it comes to age, it usually affects people between the ages 25 and 55. However, around 50% of sufferers had their first migraine attack at the age of 12.
- Being obese or consuming too much caffeine could increase the chances of an episodic migraine progressing to a chronic migraine.
A migraine attack can have four to five phases in adults. These phases may not happen to every person or migraine attack. Let’s go through each of these five possible phases, including their symptoms:
The prodromal phase, also called the pre-headache phase or warning phase, starts around one to two days before a migraine attack. During this time, you may experience constipation or diarrhea, lack of focus, stiff neck, restlessness, low energy, irritability, food cravings, or depression. These symptoms may go away within one to twenty-four hours.
The aura phase could last from five minutes to an hour, and typically strikes an hour before the head pain starts or at the same time as the headache (in children). A migraine aura serves as a warning sign that the head pain is coming. It causes a wide a range of visual, motor, and/or speech disturbances, like the following:
- Temporary loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Gleaming or flashing lights
- Seeing zigzag shapes
- Speech difficulty
- Tingling sensations in the legs and arms
- Expanding blind spots in your vision (scotomas)
- Muscle weakness
It’s during this phase that you’ll experience severe pain that could last from four to seventy-two hours. The pain is concentrated on one of the side of the head during the beginning of an attack, although it can be felt all over the head, except at the back. It gets worse by physical activity or sound.
- Hypersensitivity to sound and light
During this phase, migraine symptoms start to slowly fade. Some sufferers, including children, find that a few minutes to an hour or two of sleep is enough to stop a migraine attack.
Some of the symptoms during this phase:
- Mood swing
- Poor concentration
- Lack of energy or feeling of tiredness
- Scalp pain
- Muscle soreness
- Overall feeling of being unwell or discomfort
The postdrome phase, also called the “hungover” phase, can last for hours to one to two days. It’s during this time that the debilitating migraine pain completely goes away. However, you still feel some hangover-like symptoms. You might feel weak, nauseous, confused, and tired.
Good news: These symptoms are manageable. The bad news is some sufferers could fall into depression.
Possible Causes of a Migraine Attack?
- The popular belief is dilation of the blood vessels (vasodilation) in the head is the main culprit for migraines. Today, however, medical studies show that vasodilation may or may not happen during a migraine attack. Most healthcare professionals believe that migraine is due to an underlying health condition that affects the central nervous system (includes the spinal cord and brain).
- Most cases of chronic migraine are due to improper or overuse of medications, particularly over-the-counter and prescription painkillers. 
- A migraine is also common in women who are sensitive to low levels of estrogen, which usually happens before their monthly period.
- Migraines also run in the family. Studies show that up to 80% of migraine sufferers have a family member who has this condition. In this case, there’s no permanent cure, but there are strategies that could control its crippling effects.  There are currently four types of genes that could cause hemiplegic migraine, a rare and severe form of migraine. Most of the symptoms of hemiplegic migraine resemble the symptoms of stroke, such as extreme muscle weakness.
The Standard Treatments for Migraines
There are currently no medications that would get rid of migraine for good. The goals of treatment are to prevent attacks from happening and to reduce its frequency and the severity of its symptoms. There are two types of migraine medications: preventive and abortive. If you have persistent migraine attacks, you may need both.
Patients generally take preventive medications, also known as prophylactic medications, every day to decrease the number of attacks and ease the severity of the symptoms. Doctors will most likely prescribe these medications if the following conditions exist:
- Patients suffer from migraine attacks more than once a week or four or more every month.
- Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are not effective.
- It takes longer than twelve hours for a migraine attack to go away.
- The pain is severe that it affects the quality of a patient’s life.
- Numbness, weakness, and prolonged aura are present.
The right medications will depend on a lot of factors, such as medication history, possible side effects of the migraine medication, the presence of co-existing medical problems (diabetes, asthma, pregnancy, and depression), and a patient’s unique needs.
Preventive medications don’t work immediately. It may take up to three months before you can experience significant improvements. Preventive therapy generally lasts six months to a year or longer.
Here are some of the medications your doctor may consider:
Doctors recommend anti-seizure medicines, such as topiramate (Topamax) or valproic acid (Depakote), for at least two to six months. According to the Treatment Guidelines from The Medical Letter, these medicines can cut the number of migraine attacks by more than half every month. 
It’s not clear how they’ll help stop migraines before they start, but specialists believe they work by blocking pain signals in the brain and by boosting the actions of certain brain chemicals that send messages between nerve cells.
Side effects may include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Hair loss
- Poor concentration
- Inability to speak properly
- Poor appetite
- Tingling in the feet and hands
- Loss of coordination
- Valproic acid could cause serious liver damage within the first six months of therapy.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Two of the most effective calcium channel blockers are verapamil (Calan) and nimodipine (Nimotop). Medical specialists are not sure how these medications work. Some studies suggest that calcium channel blockers can reduce migraine attacks by interfering with the action of serotonin, which is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) released by the body when you have a migraine attack. It also interferes with the movement of calcium into the cells of the blood vessels, causing them to relax and boost blood and oxygen supply.
Side effects may include:
- Sudden flushing of the upper chest, neck, or face
- Head pain
- Swollen legs due to excess fluid
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Fast heart rate
Before you take any calcium channel blockers, ask your doctor for contraindications. For instance, you shouldn’t eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this type of medication because it can interact with many medications and impairs your liver’s ability to remove the medication from your body, which can be dangerous. People with heart blockages or other heard diseases should avoid calcium channel blockers.
It’s not clear how antidepressants work exactly to ease the pain and shorten the duration of migraines. Specialists believe antidepressants interfere the activity of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain, which might stop another episode of migraine.
Your ability to tolerate side effects could determine the type of antidepressant you should take to treat your migraines. In most cases, doctors prescribe amitriptyline and notriptyline for this condition.
Aside from reducing the duration and frequency of migraines, these medications also improve sleep problems. For some sufferers, sleeping for a few minutes or an hour is already enough to get rid of their migraine.
Antidepressants will also help migraine sufferers to battle depression. In the U.S. alone, three or four out of ten people with migraine are more likely to become depressed. 
Side effects may include:
- Mouth dryness
- Blurry vision
- Inability to urinate
- A drop in your blood pressure once you stand up too fast
- Weight gain
Botulinum Toxin (BOTOX®)
Botulinum toxin (BOTOX®) is an FDA-approved injectable medicine that’s available by prescription. It’s used for treating chronic migraine that regularly occur fifteen or more days per month, each lasting at least four hours or more.
Doctors will normally perform this 15-minute procedure in their office. You need at least two treatments, twelve weeks apart, to see how well you’re responding to the medicine. In one study, around 70% of people who received five rounds of BOTOX® injections reported that the frequency of their migraine attack was cut in half every month. 
Side effects may include:
- Neck pain (most common side effect)
- Muscle weakness or spasms
- Drooping eyelids
- Pain or discomfort at the injection site
- Increased blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs)
- Incomplete facial paralysis
- Blurred vision
Beta-blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, work by relaxing blood vessels, allowing better blood circulation. Propranolol (Inderal or Inderal LA) and timolol are two of the common beta-blockers that show promise in preventing migraines. A study shows that both propranolol and timolol are equally effective in reducing the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. 
Side effects may include:
- Sleeping difficulties
- Worsening of asthma
- Memory problems
Abortive medications are the usual medications your doctor will give you during an acute migraine attack. These are available in tablet, nasal spray, skin patch, and injectable forms.
Compared to standard pain medications, they don’t just ease the pain for a couple of hours. They work by stopping the progression of the headache once it starts, which in turn stops the associated symptoms. However, for them to be effective, you must use them early in a migraine attack.
Common abortive medications include:
As selective serotonin receptor agonists, they stop a migraine or headache by targeting serotonin (brain chemical messengers) to keep inflammation down and to constrict blood vessels. The old belief was that migraine happens because the blood vessels on the surface of the brain dilate, which result to throbbing headaches because of the blood surging through the dilated blood vessels.
Some of the triptans used for treating migraine include:
- Imitrex (sumatriptan)
- Maxalt (rizatriptan)
- Amerge (naratriptan)
- Zomig (zolmitriptan)
- Relpax (eletriptan)
- Axert (almotriptan)
- Frova (frovatriptan)
Side effects may include:
Triptans are more likely safe and produce fewer side effects if you use the correct timing and dosage. The most common side effect of these medications is recurrence of migraine. But, if you experience the following symptoms, seek medical help immediately:
- Fast heartbeat
- Feelings that you’re about to faint
- Walking difficulty
- Muscle spasm
Ergotamine belongs to a group of medications called ergot alkaloids. These medications are widely used for treating severe headaches, like cluster headache and migraine. Just like triptans, they work by constricting blood vessels to stop the symptoms associated with migraine. Examples of ergotamine medications are dihydroergotamine (Migranal) and ergotamine plus caffeine (Migergot and Cafergot).
Ergotamines seem to be more appropriate to use on intermittent but long migraine attacks. But compared to other migraine medications, like triptans, they’re less effective.
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience these side effects:
- Painful arm and leg muscles
- Rapid or sluggish heartbeat
- Abrupt and one-sided numbness or weakness
- Painful lower back or stomach
- Abnormally low or zero urine output
- Swelling or itching of any area of your body
- Problems with your speech, balance, or eyesight
How To Get Rid Of A Migraine Naturally
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice in which thin needles are inserted in specific points on the body to start the process of self-healing and improve body functions. Studies suggest that acupuncture may help prevent or reduce the number of migraine attacks.
In a small, randomized controlled trial, researchers found out that eleven acupuncture sessions, which were carried out within a six-week period, were equally effective as a beta-blocker that’s taken every day for six months.  The 2009 Cochrane review, which included twenty high-quality clinical trials involving 4,419 participants, reveals that there’s a good evidence that this practice is effective in treating acute migraine and has few side effects. 
Remember these things before going to an acupuncture appointment:
- Avoid coffee and alcohol at least two hours before and after your treatment. Coffee activates your fight-or-flight mode, which makes it hard for the acupuncturist to get a precise reading of your pulse rate. It also stains your tongue. Alcohol causes numbness. This defeats the purpose of the procedure, which aims to make you more aware to how you feel.
- Schedule wisely, so you don’t have to rush yourself later.
- Write all your symptoms and major life events to help your acupuncturist tailor your treatment to your unique needs.
Biofeedback or Biological Feedback
Biofeedback uses different audio and visual devices, including devices that measure brain waves, sweating, breathing, muscle tension, and skin temperature. It’s used for the prevention or treatment of chronic pain, incontinence (lack of voluntary control over defecation or urination), migraine, and high blood pressure (hypertension), among others.
Biofeedback helps you get an accurate picture of your body’s involuntary responses to stress, so you can make the necessary adjustments. A therapist might attach electrical sensors to various parts of your body. Then, these sensors feed the information it gathers back to you in the form of a flashing light or beeping sound. For example, many people who are stressed complain about tight and painful muscles. The device may produce a high pitch sound if your muscles are tensed, and then low pitch sound once they relax.
Biofeedback is typically safe, but it’s not for everyone. If you think you’ll benefit from it, approach your doctor to get help in finding a healthcare professional who has knowledge and experience in treating migraine using biofeedback therapy. Most qualified biofeedback therapists will not carry out this technique if you didn’t undergo an in-depth physical examination and sometimes neurological tests.
Preliminary studies suggest that massage therapy is a safe and effective alternative treatment for migraine. Researchers of a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found out that participants experienced marked improvements in their sleep quality and migraine frequency after undergoing weekly massage sessions from weeks five to ten. 
Massage therapy usually focuses on the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and head to decrease the pain and discomfort brought on by stress, which is a common migraine and tension headache trigger. Some of the important pressure points for migraine relief include:
- The wrists (to relieve nausea during a migraine attack)
- At the back of head (windmansionand point, which is between the ear and spine)
- The point where your eyebrow ridge and nose bridge meets
- The inner corner of your eyes
- The hollow area below the base of your skull and between your vertical neck muscles
- The webbing between your thumb and index finger
- Heavenly Pillar pressure point, which is one inch below the base of your skull and half an inch on either side of your spine
Yoga seems to be more effective if it’s combined with conventional care, according to a comprehensive study. Participants of that study practiced yoga for five days per week for six weeks while receiving conventional care. At the end of the study, the intensity and frequency of their migraine were more improved compared to those who received conventional care alone. 
Not all types of yoga will help, though. Some that involves vigorous movements and extreme postures could trigger migraines. Some people find hatha yoga best for this purpose. It’s a gentle type of yoga that uses breathing techniques, bodily postures, and meditation to bring about clearer thinking, good health, and pain relief.
Before you start practicing yoga, take time to find a class or yoga technique that you like and helps in preventing or easing migraine symptoms. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to attend classes rather than watch tutorial videos online. In that way, you can talk to your yoga teacher, who can give you great suggestions on the best postures to manage your migraine without hurting yourself or aggravating the problem.
Treating migraines is tricky. That’s why healthcare professionals and patients always look for different ways to manage it without heavily relying on medications, which are effective in the short term but could have undesirable effects after prolonged use.
Do you have any other suggestions on getting rid of a migraine? I’d love to hear your tips.