Migraine help
September 15, 2004 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Help with migraine relief?

...when I'm stuck at home with no medicines that can help at all. I was so miserable today, I wanted to die. Soaking my head under a hot shower would help for small amounts of time—I must have had twelve showers today. Hurt too bad to sleep, was nauseated, etc.

Is there any kind of home remedy or therapy or anything that I could do when stuck in this situation where I could relieve the pain just enough to, you know, not want to be dead? Just enough to move it from intolerable to tolerable? Because of my chronic joint pain and stuff, I have a really high pain tolerance...but a bad migraine is just something I can't distance myself from. It's very frustrating.
posted by Ethereal Bligh to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)
A large dose of caffiene. It's what my mom would do sometimes to get rid of a migraine. Maybe try two or three black doubled up instant coffees? :-)
posted by shepd at 12:11 AM on September 16, 2004

EB, my sympathies -- I really know exactly how you feel (and I've got a pretty high pain threshold too due to joint stuff as well). I'll second the suggestion re: caffeine -- a really strong cup of black coffee or a shot of espresso has done the trick for me more than once. (Several Excedrins w/ caffeine or No-Doz will of course do the same trick; coffee upsets my stomach so much now I can only drink it once in a blue moon.)

Also, a friend of mine swears by her old family remedy: a washrag soaked in warm vinegar on the forehead. I've always assumed that having your head smell like a tossed salad is simply distraction from the pain, but she says it's always worked for her.

If vinegar doesn't sound very comforting, a plain ol' warm washrag or gelpack over your eyes might help too. And of course, dim the lights and minimize sound. Breathe deeply. And I know it's cheesy, but if you can visualize being in a comforting place when the pain seems to get unbearable, it can help you get from moment to moment (I always think of the mountain pond where I used to picnic with my grandparents). I hope you feel better soon!
posted by scody at 12:20 AM on September 16, 2004

Plenty of evidence about migraines and circulation....so finger warming (under warm water or against a hot water bottle) has often helped my wife, who suffers from a chronic and unusual form of migraines.

If you can bare it...then some sort of circulatory effort....shaking hands and legs, or brisk walking....can help.

I know its not much comfort....but it can help.
posted by mattr at 12:36 AM on September 16, 2004

some sort of circulatory effort

Try some mild yoga poses. They tend to focus your awareness on other parts of your body. I just did a 45 minute class on Monday with some badly aggravated bug bites itching the hell out of me (I have an allergy). I was worried that I'd have to break postures to scratch, but I lost awareness of them completely.

This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, just a suggestion, if you've got the energy. It's real good for you all around, anyway.

and this is from someone very infelxible with arthritic joints and several slowly healing injuries
posted by scarabic at 1:26 AM on September 16, 2004

It sounds from several links out there like you really want to avoid alcohol and sex.

Treatment includes pain relievers, stress reduction, exercise, and avoidance of the factors that trigger the attack such as alcohol, oral contraceptive, and smoking.

Easy poses for tension headache relief

(practice during mild attacks, not during severe ones)

poses for migraine prevention

I think you can likely handle this breathing exercise. Good luck tomorrow!
posted by scarabic at 1:34 AM on September 16, 2004

The causes of migraine are so incredibly various that what can treat one person's pain may excaberate another's, so it's pretty touchy. L-tryptophan, for example, evidently triggers headaches in some, while soothing migraine symptoms that may be due to low levels in serotonin in others. Caffeine is another substance that can either cause migraine or help to treat it. If you get a lot of migraines, it would be a good idea to write down everything you can think of that occurs before each attack, to see if you can find a pattern and pin it down a bit. (Obviously a doctor can help with this, but it may be expensive and long-term.)

Cayenne pepper has been found to help relieve migraine symptoms. One home remedy site I saw recommended mixing 1/2 teaspoonful of cayenne powder with a cup of boiling water to make a cayenne tea. (If anyone is interested, do a search for "cayenne" and "John Christopher" to read some rather astonishing claims for the general health benefits of cayenne.)

My own migraines are now pretty much under control and fairly rare, but if they weren't, I think I would be checking this stuff out.
posted by taz at 3:14 AM on September 16, 2004

not much help, i'm afraid, but i've found avoiding stress, getting lots of sleep, and cutting down on sugary snacks helps avoid them (i'm one of those strange people who has painless migraines - unfortunately my vision still goes...)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:14 AM on September 16, 2004

What happened to the old breath-from-paper-bag trick? I have heard this ESPECIALLY for those with the visual migraine effect.
posted by Goofyy at 4:36 AM on September 16, 2004

EB thanks for the question.
everyone else thanks for the suggestions.
I'll have to try some of these. As far as otc medications go, Excedrin migraine can sometimes knock a bit of the pain away for me.
Typically I try to find a silent dark room and occasionally like EB wish for death. I usually dont' have the energy for multiple showers, but have sat in a shower for over an hour at a time.
posted by busboy789 at 5:13 AM on September 16, 2004

A friend of mine told me shiatsu massage really helped ease her migraines.

My mother used to get migraines, and she has to avoid anything fermented i.e, cheese or alcohol.

Another friend of mine had a very long drive to work (an hour and a half each way in good traffic and weather), and suffered from migraines. He got a doctor's prescription for Tylenol 3's. Then he started working from home, and his migraines stopped completely.
posted by orange swan at 5:16 AM on September 16, 2004

I've got migraines when I was five; they went away and came back when I was in highschool. Since then I've built up tolerance to pretty much every OTC painkiller out there. Naproxen, Ibuprophen, Acetometaphin, etc.

A few years ago I ran across this stuff called Ketoprophen it's in a brand name (OTC) drug called Orudis. The interesting thing about KP is that it's dosage is an order of magnitude LOWER than most other drugs. A single pill is 12.5mg. Regular does is two pills. I find that three pills (37.5mg - versus 200 for a single tylenol) will kill almost every migraine.

Orudis can be hard to find. In California, it's almost impossible to find outside of Longs Drugs, whereas in Massachusetts (where I live now), you can find it at many grocery and drug stores. One other thing about KP - it's effectiveness varies among people. For me, it's a lifesaver. For my SO, it might as well be a LifeSaver(tm) for all the good it does her.

Caffeine also helps. Lots and lots of caffeine.
posted by jaded at 5:45 AM on September 16, 2004

Thanks for the advice, everyone. Other than scrip migraine meds (the shots), I've never found anything that would help the headaches I've gotten most of my life (only recently have I decided that they were migraines of some form) except Excedrin Migraine or its equivalents. Must be the caffeine because acetomenophen and aspirin didn't do the trick. (I also have to be careful because I'm taking Celebrex, an NSAID, already for my arthritis, and adding aspirin to the mix generally puts me over the threshold for stomach trouble. But it's better than the headache.) So I normally keep that stuff around. I don't get them that often, only once ever two months or less.

Unfortunately, the last two days found me without anything except my athritis meds, which I took an overdose of out of frustration, and of course it didn't help. (mattr's link to his wife's variety of migraines had the interesting information that that kind is relieved somewhat when vomiting follows nausea—I was nauseated, but actually forced myself to vomit yesterday when I realized that maybe six Celebrex and five ibuprofen were a bad idea. Anyway, interestingly, it did relieve the pain a little bit. I wonder why? Yesterday I was thinking it was because I'd heard that vomiting releases endorphins or something like that—I'd heard that in regard to bulimia. Anyway, interesting bit of info.)

Last night after I felt better, I borrowed my friend's car and went to the store and bought some more Excedrin Migraine. Which I guess I should just keep around, and maybe some caffeine, for good measure.

Mainly, I was asking for any advice (and thanks for the advice provided by everyone!) on what to do if I found myself in the situation yesterday where I had no medicine I could take.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:50 AM on September 16, 2004

I know this won't help in the short term, but if you haven't gotten an MRI yet, do get one. I started getting a few migranes recently, and it turned out to be from sinus inflammation. Antihistamines turned out to be the best remedy.
posted by mkultra at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2004

Have any of the women here had any good luck in solving hormone-related migraines? I'm actually going into my doctor today and would love to have a few ideas to bounce off of her. I know there are new meds on the market, so any and all experiences (or links to reputable sites/communities) would be much appreciated. Some have suggested Seasonale as a way of regulating the hormones; any experiences? My email is in my profile if you'd rather not broadcast this info.

Excedrin Migraine does work sometimes for me, and a few T3s can take the edge off, but I'm trying to solve the triggers, not just dope myself up 1/30 days. Also, I've found that a bag of frozen peas or ice on the back of my neck (instead of heat) can actually be helpful.
posted by fionab at 7:16 AM on September 16, 2004

Oddly enough, oral contraceptives (I am female) made my migraines a lot less frequent, but more severe when they did occur. I then switched to a low-dose pill and they went away -- been a couple of years so far. Migraines are weiiiiird.

Imitrex helped somewhat when I had 'em, but the nasty taste in the back of my mouth from the nasal spray made it almost not worth it. (I threw up from bad migraines, so pills were a no go.)
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2004

fionab, increase magnesium and take 2 tablespoons of cold-pressed refrigerated flax oil every few hours. For me the sudden drop of estrogen triggers migraines, and whether it's the estrogenic like properties of flax that fill up the receptor sites but with much less strength, or the lingans which regulate hormones, I don't know. But it works wonders. Also if your body is having difficulty eliminating the hormones, it's good to ease up on foods that clog the liver like meat and dairy. Hope you find relief.
posted by Feisty at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2004

EB, get yourself to a naturopathic doctor. Have blood drawn to look for delayed food allergies (IgG). Screw insurance, pay for it out of pocket ($200 for both food panels, and an maybe $100 for the office visit). Arthritis, migraines? Your body is rebelling against something.

Pharmaceutical drugs will just poorly mask the symptoms. Find the source of the problem and remove it.

posted by Feisty at 7:47 AM on September 16, 2004

Make sure that you are having a migraine. It could be a cluster HA (headache) which is a male thing (I think the ratio is 90/20 male/female). I have had a chronic cluster condition for years (the HA come in "clusters" and then disapear for a time) and once I realized the difference from a migraine (which is primarily a female condition for some reason) my doc and I approached it differently. I keep O2 and once one starts I breath O2 for 15 minutes. You may have to abort it with narcotics (last resort). A lot of folks frown on this but when your in that much pain it can help. Be very careful regarding the amount of tylenol you take. Get a doc who understands all of this so you have a plan of attack next time.
posted by Jikido at 8:36 AM on September 16, 2004

I meant 80/20 male/female
posted by Jikido at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2004

disapear=disappear, your=you're...no wonder I never post.
posted by Jikido at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2004

Never mind, Jikido. This is some interesting information.
posted by taz at 10:16 AM on September 16, 2004

You may be experiencing a massive bounceback headache from all the NSAs you're clearly taking. Cut out the Exedrin, Motrin and all the other over-the-counter pain relievers. This stuff is useless against migraines, and traps you in a cycle that actually causes what it was meant to cure. And no more caffeine. The non-pharmaceutical cure for migraine is sleep -- period. Warm showers only cause your blood vessels to dilate even further, making your headache worse. If you must have a water treatment, try a blast of ice cold water or ice.
In any case, there is no reason for you to suffer. Get to your doctor, there are plenty of terrific new migraine relievers in the triptan family -- they work really well, and you should always have some on hand. Find a local headache center associated with a reputable hospital.
posted by Faze at 10:31 AM on September 16, 2004

I have also found Excedrin Migraine to be the only drug to help with migraines and regular headaches. And it helps only if I take it at the beginning of the headache.

If you can get past the nausea try a couple slices of toast, I eat them with a light swipe of margarine, no sweet stuff. I think it has to do with interrupting the blood flow (meaning your blood will concentrate on your stomach rather than your head). It doesn't always work and sometimes I end up puking. Puking usually helps lessen the pain as well.

Other than toast and Excedrin I just lay down in a darkened room and pray for sleep or death, whichever comes first.
posted by deborah at 11:10 AM on September 16, 2004

Marijuana works for me. Even a small amount (one quick hit from a pipe, which isn't enough to get a good recreational high) is enough to shut down the headache/nausea/light and sound sensitivity long enough for me to get to sleep... and like Faze says, sleep is the only true cure for migraines.

I don't agree with the "warm showers are bad for your migraine" statement, though. Warm baths taken in a dark room have always helped me, whereas cold ones don't do the trick. I think this probably depends on what's most comfortable for you, so experiment with different bath temperatures and see what helps the most.
posted by vorfeed at 1:34 PM on September 16, 2004

Thanks again, everyone. And just to clarify, I take scrip nsaids for my very severe arthritis. Not taking them is not an option, assuming I want to be able to walk at all, ever. I only added the ibuprofen to the mix yesterday because it was the only other thing available.

My dad suffered from pretty severe cluster or migraine headaches several years ago and at the time reading about them, I learned of the rebound thing. My impression was then that most headache specialists thought that Excedrin type otc stuff was probably causing as many headaches as it was curing.

But I'm not trapped in a cycle of headaches...I get them only every once in a while. So I don't worry that using the Excedrin Migraine is driving the cycle.

But, yeah, I mostly just need to talk to a doctor about it and get some of the new meds to use when necessary. I've got so many other pressing health issues, it's not seemed that high of a priority. I don't have insurance and pay everything out of pocket, so...right now I'm mostly just trying to figure out how to get both my hips replaced.

I guess I'm just saying that I'm hesitant to bring up new issues with my doctor. If I get them only every once in a while, and Excedrin Migraine does the trick, then I'm not keen on adding something else to my medically managed plate. That's probably stupid, but there it is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:53 PM on September 16, 2004

I have a remedy that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but it's frequently the only thing that will even touch some of my headaches.
Get in a really hot shower; hot as you can stand. Adust the showerhead so that it's beating down on the back of your neck/base of your skull. Stay there until you get so used to the hot water that it's not uncomfortable anymore. Then, suddenly turn the hot water completely off and turn the cold water on high. This is going to suck (sometimes I really have to ask myself if I'm better off just keeping the headache), but don't move. Keep the (now very cold) water beating on the base of your skull for as long as you can stand it. You'll feel the muscles in your face tighten, and your breathing will probably go all weird and huffy.
When you can't take it anymore, turn off the water and towel off.
It works for me more often than not, but it's not exactly a silver bullet.
posted by willpie at 4:06 PM on September 16, 2004

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