Ways to help migraines

Yoga, Ice Packs, Supplements, and More

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 22, 2022

Put an ice pack on your forehead, scalp, or neck to get pain relief. Experts aren't sure exactly why it works, but reducing the flow of blood might be part of it. You can also try a frozen gel pack or a wash cloth that's been rinsed in cold water.

You don't need a prescription to get painkillers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. You can also buy migraine remedies that have a combination of pain relievers.

It's an ingredient in coffee and some other foods and drinks, and it may give you some mild relief. It could also help your body absorb some migraine drugs faster. But go easy. You can get dependent on your caffeine jolt, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms like fatigue and more headaches.

Bright light and loud noises can make your headache worse. So find a spot away from the action and pull down the shades when you've got a migraine. It can help speed up your recovery.

Don't try it when you're in the middle of a migraine attack, because it can make you hurt more. But when you feel well, a regular workout can prevent headaches. It makes your body release endorphins, chemicals that fight pain. It also eases stress and helps you sleep better.

You find this mineral in dark-green veggies, whole grains, and nuts. It won't help while you're having a migraine, but some studies show it could prevent one. You can also take it in pill form, but always check with your doctor before you take supplements.

Get some regular shut-eye to help stave off migraines. Too little -- or too much -- can trigger headaches and lower your threshold for pain. Aim for 7 to 8 hours each night, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Exercise that gets your heart pumping can prevent migraines, but it can also be a headache trigger for some people. This activity, though, with its slower movements, is a safe alternative. Research shows that regular yoga sessions cut the number of attacks you get and make them less intense when they do happen.

It's also called riboflavin, and you can find it in milk, cheese, fish, and chicken. You can also take it as a pill. Studies show it may help you prevent migraines.

Your migraines are sometimes set off by the food you eat or the conditions around you. Find out what brings on your pain and avoid it. Some common trouble spots on the menu are red wine, aged cheese, and cured meats. Bright lights, staying at a high altitude, and strong odors can also be issues.

People have used this plant for years to treat pain. Does it work to prevent migraines? When researchers looked at all the evidence, they found that taking the extract reduced the number and intensity of headaches for some people.


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Pradalier, A. Cephalalgia, October 2001.

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Ways to Get Rid of a Headache Quickly

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 17, 2022

In this Article

  • Try a Cold Pack
  • Use a Heating Pad or Hot Compress
  • Ease Pressure on Your Scalp or Head
  • Dim the Lights
  • Try Not to Chew
  • Hydrate
  • Get Some Caffeine
  • Practice Relaxation
  • Try Massage
  • Take Some Ginger
  • Use Meds in Moderation
  • When to Call Your Doctor

Headaches happen. The good news is there are several simple things you can do to ease the pain without a trip to the doctor. Try these tips and get to feeling better fast.

Try a Cold Pack

If you have a migraine, place a cold pack on your forehead. Ice cubes wrapped in a towel, a bag of frozen vegetables, or even a cold shower may ease the pain. Keep the compress on your head for 15 minutes, and then take a break for 15 minutes.

Use a Heating Pad or Hot Compress

If you have a tension headache, place a heating pad on your neck or the back of your head. If you have a sinus headache, hold a warm cloth to the area that hurts. A warm shower might also do the trick.

Ease Pressure on Your Scalp or Head

If your ponytail is too tight, it could cause a headache. These "external compression headaches" can also be brought on by wearing a hat, headband, or even swimming goggles that are too tight.

Dim the Lights

Bright or flickering light, even from your computer screen, can cause migraine headaches. If you’re prone to them, cover your windows with blackout curtains during the day. Wear sunglasses outdoors. You might also add anti-glare screens to your computer and use daylight-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures.

Try Not to Chew

Chewing gum can hurt not just your jaw but your head. The same is true for chewing your fingernails, lips, the inside of your cheeks, or handy objects like pens. Avoid crunchy and sticky foods, and make sure you take small bites. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about a mouth guard. This may curb your early-morning headaches.


Drink plenty of liquids. Dehydration can cause a headache or make one worse.

Get Some Caffeine

Have some tea, coffee, or something with a little caffeine in it. If you get it early enough after the pain starts, it could ease your headache pain. It can also help over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen work better. Just don’t drink too much because caffeine withdrawal can cause its own type of headache.

Practice Relaxation

Whether it’s stretches, yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation, learning how to chill out when you’re in the middle of a headache can help with the pain. You might talk to your doctor about physical therapy if you have muscle spasms in your neck.

Try Massage

You can do it yourself. A few minutes massaging your forehead, neck, and temples can help ease a tension headache, which may result from stress. Or apply gentle, rotating pressure to the painful area.

Take Some Ginger

A small recent study found that taking ginger, in addition to regular over-the-counter pain meds, eased pain for people in the ER with migraines. Another found that it worked almost as well as prescription migraine meds. You can try a supplement or brew some tea.

Use Meds in Moderation

Pharmacy shelves are stocked with pain relievers for all kinds of headaches. To get the most benefit with the least risk, follow the directions on the label and these guidelines:

  • Choose liquid over pills. Your body absorbs it faster.
  • Avoid ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) if you have heart failure or kidney failure.
  • Do not give aspirin to a child under age 18.
  • Take painkillers as soon as you start to hurt. You’ll probably beat it with a smaller dose than if you wait.
  • If you get sick to your stomach when you get a headache, ask your doctor what might help.
  • Ask your doctor what to take to avoid a rebound headache, which is pain that sets in after a few days of pain relievers.

And be sure to talk to your doctor about what headache symptoms you should not treat at home.

When to Call Your Doctor

Get medical care right away for:

  • A headache that follows a head injury
  • A headache along with dizziness, speech problems, confusion, or other neurological symptoms
  • A severe headache that comes on suddenly
  • A headache that gets worse even after you take pain medications



Treatment of a migraine attack

There are several components to effectively managing migraine attacks.

Step 1. Learn how to evaluate the effectiveness of drugs for the treatment of migraine attacks

Stopping (interrupting) a migraine attack is considered effective if the headache is gone or significantly reduced within two hours after taking the drug. And did not return or increase in the next 24 hours. Unfortunately, this does not always work out, but the effectiveness of drugs for stopping an attack is compared precisely by this indicator. nine0003

Step 2. Understand that a migraine is not just a headache.

Migraine and headache are often considered synonymous. But it's not. A migraine is not just a headache. She has special symptoms. If they are known and monitored, an attack can be predicted and prevented by taking the drug on time. Such symptoms are divided into three groups depending on when they appear:

  1. before a headache
  2. at time headache,
  3. after headache.

Symptoms that occur before an attack are called prodromal . They can be a signal that a headache will soon develop and it is time to take medicine. Here are the most common prodromal symptoms [3,5]:

  • mood changes,
  • fatigue,
  • hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells,
  • desire to eat certain foods,
  • difficulty concentrating,
  • irritability,
  • muscle tension,
  • nasal congestion,
  • yawns,
  • anxiety,
  • increased activity.

Look at the picture. It shows the phases of a migraine attack. The ideal time to take the medication for migraine relief is shaded. Regardless of which drug you use, the effect will be best if taken at that time [1]. Try to use the diagram the next time you have an attack to understand what phase you took the medicine in and evaluate how it worked. nine0003

Clinical studies have shown that people who took medication in the early phase of a attack were more likely to have a headache within 2 hours. When taken early, there is also less chance of pain returning and less chance of side effects [4].

And if the headache is mild, maybe you shouldn't take medicine - it will go away on its own? Here, attention to yourself and to the symptoms that portend an attack will help you make a decision. nine0003

One study showed that 93% of people who have various symptoms of a prodrome can "predict" that a mild headache will turn into a severe one [2]. Thus, knowing your symptoms, it is quite possible to choose when to take the drug and when not.

Step 3. Find out your diagnosis

Usually people with migraine think that they have several types of headaches - tension headache, menstrual pain, high blood pressure pain, osteochondrosis and so on. However, in fact, most often these are migraine attacks. Migraine is a great imitator. Migraine can be accompanied by muscle tension and spasm, and nasal congestion, and discharge from the nose, and increased blood pressure. nine0003

A migraine attack can stop on its own in any phase, and this leads people to believe that they have some kind of "normal" headaches and "major attacks".

But for most it makes sense to treat one disease - migraine. Undoubtedly, some people suffer from three or four other types of headaches in addition to migraine at the same time, but they are a minority.

If you have any doubts about your diagnosis, discuss it with a headache specialist [3]. Not all migraine sufferers need the same treatment, and not everyone needs it. For example, if you “catch” a migraine caused by hunger early, you can eat and this will be enough to prevent an attack. nine0003

Step 4. Control the amount of painkillers

Do not take headache medicine more than 2 times a week - this can lead to a new type of headache, abuse, that is, caused by an excess of painkillers. If you take more, see a specialist!
How to count medicines? Write down how much you take. It is convenient to record this in a headache diary, for example, our Migrebot in Telegram.

Step 5. Review your seizures

Think of seizures where treatment failed. The most common source of problems is:

  1. Headache medicine taken too late
  2. The form of the drug is not suitable for you (for example, you cannot take tablets because of severe vomiting)
  3. The drug was in too low a dose
  4. The medicine is ineffective for you, you need to find another one.

Getting seizures under control is quite real! Good luck! nine0003


  1. Tabeeva G.R., Azimova Yu.E. Efficacy of sumamigren when prescribed in early and late periods of migraine attack development. // Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry named after Korsakov. - 2007. - No. 107. - pp. 29-33.
  2. Buzzi M.G., Cologno D., Formisano R., Rossi P. Prodromes and the early phase of the migraine attack: therapeutic relevance. // Funct Neurol. - 2005. - v.20. – p.179-183.
  3. Cady R.C. Treating an acute attack of migraine. nine0006 // Headache. – 2008. – v.48. – p.1415-1416.
  4. Goadsby P.J. The 'Act when Mild' (AwM) study: a step forward in our understanding of early treatment in acute migraine. // Cephalalgia. – 2008. – v.28. - Suppl 2. - p.36-41.
  5. Rothrock J.F. Acute migraine: treating early // Headache. – 2009. – v.49. – p.635-636

How to support a person with a migraine

Living with a migraine is not easy, and often a person suffering from this disease needs help and support. If your friend, family member, or partner has a migraine, these tips may help. nine0003

  • Do not question symptoms
  • How to help relieve migraine pain
  • Support but not intrusive
  • Provide physical assistance
  • Help learn triggers


Don't question the symptoms

Migraine is a disease that doesn't show itself outwardly. Because people do not notice the symptoms, there are many misconceptions about migraines. It is often mistaken for a common headache. nine0003

It is difficult for people to realize that someone does not believe them due to the lack of visible symptoms. To support a person suffering from migraine, first of all, you need to believe that he really hurts. He needs rest and less stress.

During a migraine attack, in addition to a headache, a person may experience other symptoms: nausea, vomiting, light or sound sensitivity. It's pretty tedious.

How to help relieve migraine pain

Everyone experiences migraine differently. To support, it is important first of all to listen to the person, and only then you can try to help. Sometimes just turning off the light is enough. In other cases, a change in habits can help, such as avoiding perfume, certain products, or knowing when to leave a high-profile event. nine0003

The best way to find out if you need help is to ask! Don't ask difficult questions like "How can I help you?" Such questions are too difficult for someone who is in pain. It is recommended to start small, such as whether he needs tea, a pill, or if it would be better to close the blinds. This allows for a simple "Yes" or "No" answer. The longer you know a person by observing their symptoms, the better you will understand how you can help.

Support but not intrusive

Try to help, and not just be interested in the state of the person. Don't say you know what the person is going through unless you personally have a migraine. You cannot imagine what a person feels during an attack, but you can support with a word, try to help maintain a positive attitude, remind a loved one that he will soon feel better.

People suffering from migraine want to live habitually and be in the circle of relatives and friends, but migraine can become active at any moment and confuse all plans. Support includes the ability to change the schedule and enforce certain restrictions. People with migraine are forced to refuse some activities, due to a change in well-being. It is important for them that others understand that the life of a person with migraine is different from the lives of other people, and the reason for changing plans is the unpredictability of their disease, and not the unpredictability of character. nine0003

Provide physical assistance

Nothing is more disruptive than a migraine attack. Provide help as much as you can: cook meals, walk the dog, pick up kids from school, or do other urgent chores. This will help the loved one relax and recover faster.

Help learn about triggers

Migraines are often triggered by environmental irritants such as bright lights, loud noises, or certain foods. You can help your loved one by tracking down potential headache causes and helping them avoid or mitigate those triggers in the future. nine0003

Dehydration can also cause a migraine. If the person is not nauseated, offer water. Often, a glass of water can help prevent pain from developing.

Also, be aware of how your own behavior can affect a person who has a migraine.

Learn more