How To Get Rid Of A Migraine Once and For All (Step-by-Step)
One moment, you’re fine. The next … things aren’t so good. You can feel that slight tension in your neck and shoulders, and that sense of “wrongness” in your head.
Sure enough, a minute or two passes, and that “wrongness” is quickly devolving into outright pain. Before you know it, there is hammering in your temples, haloes in your eyes, and nausea in your gut. You are having a full-on migraine attack.
At this point, if you are anything like me, desperation sets in.
Your top priority is to find a way to get rid of the pain but get rid of it fast. Of course, you already know that there is no way to head off half an hour or more of pain—you definitely are strapped into the ride now and you will have to wait for it to pass.
But depending on what you do next, your headache could be gone within an hour or two instead of devouring your entire day.
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So how do you get rid of excruciating migraine pain fast and get on with the rest of your day? Which migraine treatment is the right one for your specific pain?
We'll take a look at tried and true solutions so you can get rid of your debilitating symptoms once and for all.
How To Get Rid of a Migraine Step-by-Step
1. What type of migraine headache you are dealing with?
Some of the steps you need to take to deal with a migraine headache are the same as those you would use to treat a tension headache, but some of them differ. So make sure that you know whether you are dealing with migraines, tension headaches, or a combination of the two. That way you know exactly how to treat it.
If you consider the introduction to this article for example, that is largely a description of a migraine, but it is one which incorporates aspects of a tension headache as well. Treating the migraine only while ignoring the tension will not get rid of the headache. Both need to be dealt with.
2. Do not hold off on painkillers if you need them.
Regardless of the type of headache you have, your very first step is to grab your painkillers in most cases. With a very mild headache, you might be able to skip this, but if you are already in the throes of a moderate to severe headache, do not wait.
Of course, you need to be careful not to abuse painkillers, or you could wind up with rebound headaches. So always prevent a headache when possible, and save the medicine for when it is too late.
3. Have a migraine? A cup of coffee can work wonders.
Another great way to get fast relief if you are suffering from a migraine is to drink some coffee, or use some other source of caffeine. Here and here you can view the results of studies which have demonstrated that caffeine is effective in combating headaches.
I have discovered that this can lead to relief as quickly for me as taking Ibuprofen can. And if I am really committed to getting a headache to go away fast, then taking some medicine along with a cup of coffee is the way to go. Indeed, WebMD says that taking caffeine in conjunction with a medication can make the medication up to 40% more effective than it would be if you used it on its own.
4. Make sure you are hydrated and have eaten.
You probably know this one—it is one of the first patterns a lot of people notice with their headaches. If you get dehydrated, you are going to be prone to migraines. Migraines can be more intense and can go on longer if you do not drink enough water, as shown in this study.
So if you feel a headache coming on and you suspect you have not had enough water today, then do yourself a favor and drink a full glass. It may shorten the duration of your headache and reduce its severity.
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Additionally, you need salt and magnesium to balance your levels of glutamate, calcium and serotonin, and also to ensure that your cells are properly hydrated.
For that, you can take supplements, but better yet is to just eat something—preferably fruits or vegetables which contain the minerals and micronutrients you need. Avoid processed foods. They can deplete electrolytes.
While I am discussing nutrition, it is worth mentioning that eating a healthy diet all around can help to prevent migraines in the future. So can taking an all-natural supplement which provides your body with the nutrition it needs to ward off headaches.
5. Grab some ice or a heating pad.
After you take your medicine, drink your coffee and/or water, and grab a healthy snack, the next thing you can do to put a fast end to your headache is apply ice, heat, or both.
I suggest using ice if you have a migraine, as this can deaden the nerves for a while. I have noticed it seems most effective if I use the ice pack for at least half an hour. Sometimes this causes an overall reduction, rather than just killing the pain while the ice is applied.
The ice is good for tension headaches too, but you should also apply heat to the muscles which are tense. A heating pad is the best choice for this in most cases, since you can use it wherever you are, even if you are at work (assuming you have a desk job). A hot shower also works well if you can manage it.
Something else that I notice helps me is steam. This is usually recommended for sinus headaches, but it seems to be useful for other types of headaches as well. I believe it is because it is simply another way to apply heat to your face.
This may be helpful to remember if you work a day job where you cannot use a heating pad (i.e. customer service). Now and again you can sneak off to the bathroom. Turn the sink on as hot as it gets, wait for it to steam, and bend over it for a couple minutes for a bit of relief.
6. Do something about sitting or lying in a position that causes you grief.
This can be problematic, especially if you are at work. But you should try to get up and move around and stretch (carefully) a bit. If you force your body to stay in an uncomfortable position for too long which is stressing muscles or causing your joints to rest out of alignment, that is going to cause problems.
This is actually a regular issue for me. I tend to hunch my shoulders when I am stressed at work, which causes tension headaches. I also try to rest my arms on my legs in a way which is bad for the ligaments in my elbows and wrists.
I have to actively remind myself to snap out of it, get up, and do something else for a few minutes. Then I can sit back down in a better position for the remainder of the day. If I ignore this when a headache is coming on, you can bet it is going to plague me for hours.
7. Take a break if you have to. Exercise or relax.
On that note, sometimes you just need a break from whatever it is you are doing, especially if it is something which is stressing you out. Stress plays a role in migraines, so mitigating it and keeping a sense of balance and stability in your life is very important.
That means that you should regularly take time to relax, and if you do feel a headache coming on, it is best to do something that will help you release that physical and psychological tension.
The role of exercise in migraines is complicated, but there is research indicating that working out on a regular basis can reduce migraine severity and frequency. Can exercising help with an acute headache? Maybe, maybe not. Some people report great results, while others (including me) do not.
Find what works for you. If taking a walk helps to soothe a migraine, then that is the perfect way to take a break from a stressful activity.
8. If you have a tension headache, try gua sha.
If you click through to the Wikipedia link I have shared, you may feel intimidated by the photo, but don’t be—this technique is not painful, and the relief it provides is instantaneous.
To use this technique, you need to know roughly where your tension is located. Mine is typically in my neck, shoulders, or back, and refers pain straight to my head. You then need to apply olive oil, baby oil, or an oil of your choice to the skin to protect it where you will be performing the technique.
Next, you need an object such as a cup or spoon which has a curved lip, but it needs to be a smooth lip, not something sharp. One of those ceramic soup spoons you eat with in Chinese restaurants is perfect.
Here is the part that is hard to describe. Take the spoon (or whatever), and press the lip against the tight muscle. Then “scrape” down along the muscle, exerting a light to moderate amount of pressure. Try to do this relatively quickly. Then repeat, doing a number of strokes.
As you do this, if you manage to go over the areas which are really tense, the skin will turn red and splotchy looking. The appearance is that of a bruise. This means you are doing it right. Note that this is not accompanied by any real pain. Some people may find the sensation of pressure uncomfortable, but most will not be bothered by it.
When I do this, I usually experience instant headache relief. It is not complete relief, but it literally starts the moment I begin the technique. And when you are suffering from a severe headache, that can be very welcome indeed.
If you are worried about the marks and what other people will think, don’t be. Most people seem to assume that I have simply contracted some kind of skin allergy or dermatitis and ignore it completely.
9. Sexual activity may help.
If you have a serious migraine, sex is probably the last thing on your mind, but it turns out that sexual activity can help migraines. In the linked study, 60% of participants said that sexual activity helped their headaches, and of those 60%, 70% said it led to “moderate to complete relief.” So if you want relief fast, it is a good option.
10. Get away from migraine triggers which may be making thing worse.
If you are exposed to a trigger right now which you know makes your headaches worse, try and do something about it. For example, if bright light makes your migraines worse, close your windows or go sit in a completely dark room like a bathroom. If hot weather is getting to you, look for an air-conditioned space where you can relax for a bit.
11. If at all possible, get some sleep.
Finally, probably the fastest way to end a headache (at least in my experience) is to take a nap. Of course, this all depends on how quickly you can fall asleep. But I have noticed that once I do fall asleep, improvements are very fast. If I can get just ten minutes of sleep or even a half-asleep state, sometimes that is all it takes to completely clear up a terrible headache. So if you have the luxury of snoozing, give it a try.
Conclusion: There Is a Lot You Can Do to Stop a Headache In Its Tracks
When a migraine or tension headache strikes you out of nowhere, it is easy to feel like you are helpless against the pain. But in actuality, there are a lot of steps you can take right now to get that headache under control and find fast relief. You will get the best results if you combine as many of the methods above as you can.
Come up with a routine for treating your headaches when you first start feeling them coming on, and you will be able to minimize their severity and duration. Hopefully you will find yourself feeling better in no time. I have come up with a system which works great for me, and you can too!