May 30, 2023

7 Holistic Headache Tips for Migraine Awareness Month

In honor of National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, we wanted to share some information and 7 holistic tips you can try at home for headache relief.

Did you know that roughly half the world has had a headache in the past year? According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of people have experienced a headache in their lifetimes and about half of us experience them at least once a year. 

Headaches can range from mild nuisances that interfere with our ability to get through the day, to life-freezing experiences that stop you from doing anything besides lying down and trying to relax. Additionally, research has found that some types of arthritis can actually worsen and increase the occurrence of migraines.

7 Holistic Headache Tips to Try at Home

It’s important to note that no two headaches are alike. This list represents a collection of migraine tips backed by research and that have been advised by migraine specialists to help deal with chronic head pain. While you might find some aren’t effective for you, we hope this list gives you some extra options to try out when you feel a headache coming your way.

1. Try Cold Hats

If you’ve long suffered from migraines and headaches, you’ve probably heard the advice to apply a cold pack. This is because the cold can help tighten blood vessels and reduce signals of pain to the brain.

This just got easier with migraine cold hats! Just keep one or two packed in the freezer so you can pull them out and wrap them snugly around your head when you see the warning signs of a headache.  If you’re experiencing neck pain, heat may be a better option. Cold has been more closely linked with head pain relief, and heat for neck or back pain.

2. Relax with some Chips and Soda

This one might sound a bit strange, but there’s real science behind it. Chips are typically a great source of sodium, while soda often includes caffeine. The combination acts as a sort of makeshift vasodilator that helps open your blood vessels and can provide relief for migraines. 

This tip is best used as soon as you start feeling the signs of a headache, so you can catch it before it sets in. If you prefer, you can swap out chips and soda for any combo of sodium and caffeine.

3. Buy a Cefaly Device

The Cefaly device is a new portable device that’s being used to support migraine relief. The small device (technically called a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device) is able to stick onto the forehead just between the brows. Essentially, the device works by delivering small electrical impulses to the brain.

The Cefaly device has two settings — a 60 minute setting for acute migraines, and a 20 minute session for prevention. A 2018 study found that Cefaly led to significant reductions in pain within just one hour. It may not work for everyone, including those who have other electrical medical devices implanted.

4. Hydrate with electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals that contain an electric charge with them. They are essential for basic healthy functioning, and involve minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, bicarbonates, and more. We lose electrolytes when we sweat, and we mainly gain them back through what we drink.

Both sodium and magnesium have been linked with reduced severity and occurrence of headaches. As you stay hydrated throughout the day, you can add in an electrolyte supplement (usually in the form of tablets or powder) to make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes.

5. Invest in a pair of migraine sunglasses

Research has found that roughly 80% of people with migraines also suffer from light sensitivity. Migraine sunglasses aren’t just any sunglasses. They’re designed to filter out a specific wavelength of light, particularly the blue-green light from screens, UV light, and fluorescent lighting.

There are different shades and tints of migraine glasses available. You may need to try a few shades before finding the pair of glasses that works best for you. While there’s limited research on the topic, the small studies out there suggest that rose-tinted shades may work best.

6. Use Salonpas patches 

A small study published in Practical Pain Management found that over 80% of people felt significant relief after placing menthol on their foreheads. Salonpas patches are thin, stretchy pieces of adhesive fabric that contain menthol and methyl salicylate. Many report that salonpas patches deliver quite a bit of relief. These patches are reported to work for between 8 and 12 hours.

If you have very sensitive skin, proceed with caution to avoid skin irritation.

7. Get a massage

While it doesn’t work for everyone and there’s limited research on the topic, small studies have found that massage can provide some relief and lessen the occurrence of headaches.

Massage is thought to help by relaxing surrounding muscles and nerves that could be contributing to tension and headaches. While many types of massage may feel relaxing, research has found that lymphatic drainage, Gua Sha, and reflexology might offer the most benefits for pain relief.

Common Headache and Migraine Triggers

There are many reasons a headache or migraine can occur. One of the biggest culprits is stress. Not only can stress cause hormonal shifts that impact our neurochemistry, it can prompt body-wide muscle tension and also contribute to fatigue that can increase the odds of headaches.

Types of Headaches

There are more than a few types of headaches out there. Here’s a short list of the most common headaches and their symptoms.

Tension Headaches 

The most common form of headache you’re likely to run into is a tension headache. Muscle tension and stress often play roles in these.

Typical tension headache symptoms include:

  • Mild to moderate pain (not severe pain)

  • Pain, pressure, or tension along the scalp and face

  • A slow onset of the headache

  • May feel like a band or vice around the head

  • May include back of head and neck pain

  • Does not include nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches, or migraine attacks, are severe headaches. Their pain levels are often much higher than tension headaches and can come with a variety of other symptoms.

Migraine symptoms may include:

  • Light sensitivity (photophobia)

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Motion sensitivity

  • Fatigue

  • Symptoms of anxiety

  • Symptoms of depression

  • Mood or behavior shifts that occur hours to a day beforehand

  • Vision, motor, or sensory changes that precede the migraine (e.g., hallucinations, vision changes, muscle weakness, numbness, speech changes)

Sinus headaches

Sinus headaches are headaches that typically involve pressure or pain around the sinuses, including around the nose, between the brows, the forehead, the jaw, and cheeks.

Common sinus headache symptoms include:

  • Increased pain when bending over or laying down

  • Pain, pressure, or dull throbbing near sinus points

  • Aching around the teeth

  • Stuffy nose

  • Feeling exhausted

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are severely painful headaches that often last between 1-3 hours, and can recur throughout the day and even over weeks or months.

Common symptoms include:

  • Severe pain behind the eye or on one side of the head

  • Forehead swelling

  • Swelling of the eyelid

  • Eye may appear watery and red, and the eyelid may droop

  • A stuffy or runny nose

While we wish we could make your headaches magically disappear right now for you, the best we can do is offer some support through science-backed and headache-patient-approved tips. We hope they help you on your healing journey.

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