Find out what’s causing your migraine—and natural ways to make it stop

What Are Migraines?

A recurrent throbbing headache, often in one side of the head, frequently accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines may include a stage called aura, which is marked by visual disturbances (flashes, splotches, zigzags, or shimmering colored lights surrounding a blind spot).

Why Migraines Happen
“Migraine is a neurobiological disorder involving both neurological and vascular changes in the brain during an attack,” says Susan Broner, MD, medical director of the Manhattan Headache Center in New York City. “People with a genetic predisposition have a reduced threshold for the activation of the brain’s ‘pain centers’ and become hypersensitive to stimuli that cause pain. These set off a wave of nerve cell activity and neurotransmitter release that activates blood vessel inflammation, feeding pain structures deep in the brain.” (Discover how to heal 95+ health conditions naturally with Rodale’s Eat for Extraordinary Health & Healing.)

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Alcohol

If you get a “hangover” after one drink, you may actually be experiencing a migraine. Avoid alcohol that gives you a headache within 8 hours of consumption. “The good news is that this cause tends to be very specific,” Dr. Blumenfeld says. “People may do fine with vodka rather than beer, for instance.”

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Ice Packs

Always opt for cold rather than heat to stop migraine pain. “Ice is an anti-inflammatory,” says Carolyn Bernstein, MD, clinical director of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians Comprehensive Headache Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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Relaxation Techniques

Massage can ease neck and shoulder spasms, while tai chi increases body awareness, making it easier to detect and treat an oncoming headache. Yoga that focuses on mindfulness, such as hatha and restorative yoga, may also help. (Get started with these 10 yoga poses for emotional health.)

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Herbs

New recommendations from the American Academy of Neurology confirm that the herb butterbur can prevent migraines, possibly because it supports healthy blood flow to the brain. Dry-leaf capsules of feverfew may also reduce the frequency of migraines, though the clinical evidence is still inconclusive.

 

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Triptans

Introduced in 1991, these prescription drugs (which include Axert, Relpax, and Imitrex) are formulated to stop migraines. They affect almost every migraine-causing mechanism, but they may sometimes cause rebound headaches.

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