Written by Dr. Burke
For those who experience migraines, the headaches and other associated symptoms can be debilitating. Migraines often come with nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, and even neurological symptoms like numbness, tingling, and significant changes in vision. The symptoms can sometimes last for days. Although migraines are common, if you experience these symptoms for the first time, you should have a full medical evaluation to make sure there is not another underlying medical problem present.
Here are some tips to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches:
Keep a Headache Diary:
Migraines often have a trigger–sometimes it might be a specific food, or lack of sleep, or increased stress levels. Keeping track of your headaches can help you to figure out what might be triggering them. The University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine Program has a great chart that you can use for this.
Foods to Avoid:
There are a number of foods that commonly trigger migraines. Avoiding these foods may help to keep your headaches at bay.
- Red wine
- Aged cheese
- Nitrites (found in most hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats)
- Food additives (for example MSG, food coloring, or artificial flavors)
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to benefit both physical and emotional health. Peppermint and lavender essential oils are the oils most commonly used in migraines but there are many others that can be helpful to relieve both the headache pain and nausea associated with migraines. A small amount of essential oil can be placed on a cotton ball and then smelled for relief. Don’t apply essential oils directly to skin without mixing them first with a carrier oil (like olive, almond, jojoba, coconut, or apricot seed oil), because undiluted essential oils can cause serious burns.
Stress and muscle tension are common causes of migraine headaches. You can work to decrease your stress levels through regular exercise, yoga, meditation, massage, spending time in nature, and through mindful breathing. It can also help to keep your blood sugar in control by reducing your intake of sugar and processed carbohydrates and eating protein (like eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils, meat and poultry, and dairy products) with every meal. Whatever your favorite way of managing stress, try to do something nice for yourself every day.
Magnesium is a mineral that relaxes the nervous system and relieves muscle tension. Studies have shown that people who experience migraines tend to be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium may also be helpful for women who experience migraines right before their periods. Magnesium often needs to be taken every day to prevent migraines and it can take a few weeks before you notice an improvement. It is usually dosed at 200-600mg per day. Taking too much magnesium can cause low blood pressure and diarrhea.
Also called Vitamin B2, high doses (400-500mg per day) of Riboflavin can decrease the frequency and severity of migraine headaches when taken regularly. Similar to magnesium, it may take a few weeks before you notice an improvement.
Note from Dr. Currey: Acupuncture is also a great treatment for migraine headaches and is even on the short list of approved conditions for this treatment. Our CareOregon patients should be happy to know that our very own Christine has been successful in helping reduce these painful headaches. If you suffer from migraines, schedule an appointment with Dr. Burke or myself so we can start the preauthorization process and get you in for treatment.