The sound of two hands grasping for straws
April 4, 2010 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Migraineurs and others interested in medical matters gather round. I need your time-tested remedies and advice. Naturally, YANA/MD.

I've reread all the AskMeFis about migraines, including the ones I responded to. I still wouldn't be without the butterbur I was so fond of in those older posts, but it's not doing it for migraine relief like it used to. Neither is the riboflavin (vitamin B2) that used to be so good. Maybe I've built up a tolerance. Neither magnesium nor 5-HTP seem to help, either. Ditto for feverfew. So I'm running out of OTC remedies (underemployed, no insurance, so that's what I'm limited to).

When it gets bad, I take a Benadryl and call it a day. One 25 mg capsule often puts me out for an hour or two. (I'm considering it right now. This is migraine 4 in 5 days.) That's diphenhydramine. Has anyone used Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) or Dramaine II (meclizine) effectively? How do these do in terms of sedation as well as pain or nausea relief?

Feel free to recommend anything else you find useful. Gracias.
posted by bryon to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Have you figured out what's *causing* your migraines? I found out that old saying is true - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Have you kept a migraine journal? Cut out the caffeine? Chocolate? or other food triggers? I found that when I cut out high fructose corn syrup from my diet, my migraines nearly disappeared. I also cut back on processed food (not eliminated, cut back, but when one cuts the HFCS out, you can't really help but cut back on processed food *shrug* that stuff's in everything). I used to get killer migraines at least three time a week for nearly ten years, now I get them about once, maybe twice a month. Sometimes I'll go months without. I still get migraines if I go outside just as the sun is setting, something about the angle of the light sets them off.

But your triggers could be anything.

I've never taken Dramaine so I can't help you there, but really, if you can find out what's causing your migraines that's the best cure for them.
posted by patheral at 4:20 PM on April 4, 2010

Are you 420 friendly? I've found that smoking some pot and taking a couple of acetaminophen will sometimes take the edge off enough for me to get to sleep...and stay that way.

I also have a prescription for hydrocodone (Vicodin) for when things get really bad. If you can manage to get a doctor to prescribe it for you it's only around $20/30 pills. (That's without insurance coverage.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:27 PM on April 4, 2010

I found keeping a migraine journal helpful, although what finally cured me was acupuncture. A series of 6 visits, but I stopped having migraines completely after the 3rd visit.
Ten years later, I'm still clear. YMMV.
posted by pentagoet at 4:31 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your mileage is damn well guaranteed to vary, but cayenne pepper tea (which crops up on home remedy lists from time to time) actually works for me. Hot water, maybe a little honey, and as much cayenne pepper as you can stand — which is unlikely to be much. Let it sit for a minute or two, stir and drink.

Non-migraneurs, take note. How unpleasant are migraines? So unpleasant that I'd rather sit down and drink a steaming mug of cayenne pepper at the slightest hint that one is coming on.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:38 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Did the Triptan class of drugs work for you, and now you can't afford them?

Imitrex is available in generic form now. If you can go to one of those clinics and get an RX for the generic pills, they're available online for about $2-4 a pill (depending on dose).
posted by barnone at 4:41 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

For me, migraine prevention/treatment = staying on top of my seasonal allergies (claritan, flonase, etc.); taking Advil Cold & Sinus immediately when migraine hits; bed when necessary.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:43 PM on April 4, 2010

Dramamine knocks me out almost immediately. I've never used it for migraine relief, but if you're thinking of using it just to avoid a headache for a few hours, it might be worth a try.

I keep saying this in migraine threads, but can you get beta blockers (atenolol) somehow? I take two a day and hardly get any migraines now. The generic version costs me $10 a month with my insurance, so hopefully it wouldn't be too much without.

It's worth trying to prevent your migraines somehow, so you won't need to knock yourself out and lose valuable time enduring them. I could never find a specific trigger -- I got mine with too much sleep, too little sleep; too much food, not enough food; alcohol or none; period or midcycle -- so I just put up with them for years. I hope you don't have to do that.
posted by vickyverky at 4:45 PM on April 4, 2010

Response by poster: I should have mentioned my triggers in the first place. Bright light may have started this today, but it's been aggravated by barometric pressure changes. That's what they've all been this past week. Tough to avoid those. Alcohol does it, too, and I avoid that.

Barnone, I've never tried the triptans due to lack of a doctor's advice.
posted by bryon at 4:57 PM on April 4, 2010

Marijuana is the only thing that has ever really worked for me. I used to get them once a month or so and they would put me out for a day or two, sometimes more. Red wine can also be a trigger, as well as lack of stress (yes sounds really strange, but if I have been very stressed out for a long period of time, and the stress is removed, I most likely will come down with a migraine).

As soon as I get an aura, I will take 800 mg of ibuprofen, and drink something with caffeine in it- those migraine specific caffeine filled pills don't work for me.

If I were to ever try illegal substances, which of course none of us do, I would probably smoke some pot at this point in time.
posted by TheBones at 5:10 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

In that case, I'd do everything I can to rustle up the $100 or whatever the fee is to talk to a doctor at the local clinic. Or call a local GP and ask how much one consult would be, to discuss migraines.

The triptans don't work for everyone. But they work for many many many migraine sufferers, and they have been completely life changing for me. They make you feel a bit 'off' but they don't make you drowsy in quite the same way, or make you completely lose days of your month to a headache mess.

Triptans aren't addictive or really pain killers -- you won't be labeled as some kind of drug seeker if you go in with questions about your migraine. I'd take these to the first meeting:
- list of triggers
- list of symptoms
- list of attempted treatments
- list of allergies
- that you've heard triptans can be life-changing for migraine sufferers, and you like that it's not a codeine-type drug, and you're wondering if you'd be a good candidate to try a decent one, and why or why not...

I know the pain of migraines, and if a generic Imitrex helps you like it helps me, a $100 doctor's fee, and $3 a pill, for a total of maybe $200 a year, is well well well worth the expense to me. Seriously, it would be worth like 10x that to me. Losing 3 days a month to a migraine = many days of work!
posted by barnone at 5:13 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I take Dramamine occasionally for migraine-induced nausea. It helps the nausea and it does not make me sleepy at all. I should also add that no amount of Benadryl will make me sleepy either.

I agree that you should talk to a doctor about this, of course. There are doctors who are willing to work out payment plans for patients with no insurance. Have you looked into social programs such as Medicaid?
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2010

as another cheap generic option (although requires prescription), i've had some luck with the generic form of midrin (that's easy to google, but the generic form is isometheptene mucate, dichloralphenazone and acetaminophen, i guess). a friend of mine gets great actual migraine relief from the drug, me not so much, but i do find that it is a great, non-habit-forming sleep-inducer/relaxant when i have a migraine and don't want to take imitrex, etc. for me, it's a better alternative than vicodin and other narcotics -- i can actually drive after taking one -- and it actually has a shorter half life, less draggy feeling the next day than benadryl. i know you were looking for otc options but if you do end up at the doctor, wanted you to have all the med options. for some reason, even neurologists have not suggested this one ot me in the past....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:43 PM on April 4, 2010

I know the pain of migraines, and if a generic Imitrex helps you like it helps me, a $100 doctor's fee, and $3 a pill, for a total of maybe $200 a year, is well well well worth the expense to me. Seriously, it would be worth like 10x that to me. Losing 3 days a month to a migraine = many days of work!

This, times a million. Look, I hate hate HATE that people are forced to do this kind of stuff because of the current healthcare system, but triptans are a godsend for people, and by far the best treatment for true migraines. They may not work for everyone, and hell, you may not even have migraines to begin with, but I'd think it's worth the personal expense to look into the option described above if you have intractable migraine headaches.

Are there free/indigent care clinics in your area? Have you looked into whether you may qualify for Medicaid? Please do so, and seek an opinion from a professional at minimized expense.
posted by drpynchon at 6:08 PM on April 4, 2010

Have you tried plain old Excedrin at the first sign that you have a migraine coming? That sometimes helps.
posted by dilettante at 6:10 PM on April 4, 2010

Another vote for acupuncture here. Also, ridiculously hot baths help me a lot during an attack.
posted by somanyamys at 6:14 PM on April 4, 2010

Similar experience to patheral, above. I suffered from frequent migraines from age 7 until well into my thirties. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome/prediabetes. Rather than take meds, I opted to look into dietary control instead - the end result being that I removed all sugars (including many fruits) and grains from my diet. In those seven years, I've had maybe one migraine a year, lasting for a day at most, as opposed to a couple a month, lasting up to two weeks.

There are a lot of sites that link blood sugar fluctuations to migraines - of course, most of them look rather crackpotty, so I can't give you any true scientific evidence that there is a link. But for me there most definitely was - the blood sugar fluctuations I had when I ate the typical American processed food and grain-heavy diet was a major trigger.

This won't help your current migraine, of course, but going forward, it's something to think about. Hope you're feeling better soon.
posted by chez shoes at 6:14 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

triptans are a godsend for people, and by far the best treatment for true migraines

THIS times a billionty. I'm pretty sure triptans saved my life, as the amount of ibuprofen and acetaminophen I was taking previously ended up causing some highly unpleasant liver damage.
posted by elizardbits at 6:18 PM on April 4, 2010

3 extra-strength Excedrin + a very hot shower + Afrin nasal spray = possible relief.

I usually take Maxalt MLT, but before I finally went to a neurologist, the above was often invaluable to me.

Also, bright sunlight is one of my main triggers, too. I recently learned that one trigger that often accompanies the sunlight trigger is de-hydration -- it helps to be alert to the possiblity and drink lots of water on the days that you are outside in the sun.

Good luck, and do try to get some prescription remedies that are now fairly cheap if you can.
posted by mmf at 6:28 PM on April 4, 2010

Pressure can sometimes really help. I read about it as a medieval headache remedy, and was convinced to try it after someone pressed down on my forehead, when I was supine, during a massage.

Basically you want a tight band of cloth or rope around your forehead, temples, and the back of your head. I made an extra-tight headband out of a few folded layers of stiffer-than-usual knit fabric, which I put on with socks rolled up at my temples, and with a cool compress over my eyes it's sometimes really helpful.
posted by amtho at 6:51 PM on April 4, 2010

Seconding the homemade vise -- you look a little like Uncle Fester, but the pressure on the pounding arteries in the temple area can help quite a bit. I also meant to add that a bag of ice or even frozen peas applied to the throbbing area can be effective, too.
posted by mmf at 7:09 PM on April 4, 2010

You probably really do need a consult from someone, as drpynchon and others are suggesting. I finally gave up and scheduled in with a local neuro when my last migraine went from "that's annoying" to "that's kinda scary, actually" and the only thing the ER had for me was two or three Tylenol and two shots of compazine.

I usually end up horking down three to five cups of coffee and two Tylenol when I get an aura. I've been told I can't hack triptans and can't have blood-thinning meds (NSAIDs, aspirin), so that limits my options.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:15 PM on April 4, 2010

Here is my story. Your mileage may vary but here is what has worked for me.

I used to have migraines 2x month. Twenty years ago they were two or three hours long, but then they became a day long, then two days... and recently three days long. Horrible.

In an act of desperation and as a last-ditch effort in September 2009 I went to see a naturopath, and had a vega test for food intolerances. I discovered that I had intolerances for thirty foods (wheat, dairy, garlic, lemon, organges, coffee, alcohol, etc...) - willing to try this out, and sick and tired of popping up to 4g of Tylenol or Excedrin a day during migraines, I cut out these foods from my diet.

It is now April 2010 and I no longer have migraines. I no longer have the 'contact dermatitis' that used to plague my hands. I kept to the restricted diet (eliminate the foods, and eliminate the foods in which these foods lurk) and my life has changed dramatically.

The key for me is to stick, religiously, to the diet of avoidance of these foods. After seven months of this I admit that I do have the occasional glass of wine now and again, and I did have a sandwich at Quiznos last weekend (wheat). But when I do eat one of the foods from the NO list, I make sure that the rest of the day's meals are foods that I can eat, and that during the following days I eat only foods on the YES list.

This has translated into (1) reading food labels very carefully and (2) finding substitutes for the foods that I cannot eat. Can't eat wheat? Well there's barley, spelt, buckwheat, kamut. Can't eat dairy? Well there's goat cheese and sheep cheese (yummy). Can't eat garlic and lemon? Well dropping those two made me cry... but I would rather live without these than have the searing pain of a three-day migraine twice a month.

Again, your mileage will vary wrt the foods that you may be sensitive to, but I recommend that you test for intolerances, and once you know which foods you are sensitive to you eliminate them from your diet. The results may be nothing short of miraculous as they have been for me.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:42 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's what I do. Not sure exactly what helps, but since I started doing this stuff I have only had a couple migraines in the ten years or so since I started.

* Rubbing / squeezing the back of my neck and head. A classmate said that it helps to release somesuch or other in the body that can stop migraines. I don't know if this is at all true, but when I started this was the end of my frequent migraines.
* Cracking all crackable joints, esp. neck. I'll sometimes get the visual aura, and crack something, and it'll go away.
* If I'm feeling hungry/hypoglycemic, get some sugar.
* If all else fails, just go someplace dark and quiet, and close my eyes.

It could have been coincidence, but the age when my dad 's migraines really started coming on was when I started those things, and when mine pretty much stopped happening.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:47 PM on April 4, 2010

FWIW, the causes of mine seemed to be stress and bright lights (often when I didn't have enough food, or early in the morning). Drops in barometric pressure can give me auras on occasion, but since starting the above stuff they have not given me any migraines.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:48 PM on April 4, 2010

2nding chez shoes: My dad had weekly migraines until he cut out refined sugars and poof, no more migraines. He even went back on sugars and the migraines stayed away anyways (YMMV).
posted by sdis at 9:02 PM on April 4, 2010

I find that Excedrin Migraine washed down with a strongly caffeinated beverage of my choice works very well. I've had migraines since I was 6 years old and been on every drug known to man and just found this out a couple years ago; it's been a life saver. Ibuprofen makes the headaches worse.

I also agree with everyone who is tying migraine to diet, a lot of the people in my family have migraines and we all find this. Like you, my headaches are often triggered by bright light but diet can still reduce the number I get. That and very dark sunglasses worn all the time.
posted by fshgrl at 10:17 PM on April 4, 2010

When I start getting the blind spot/flashing lights, I have usually about 10 minutes until the pain starts. I immediately take Relpax and Vicodin, because there's not enough time for the Relpax to stop the pain completely. If I feel nauseated I take prescription Compazine if I have some, or when I'm out of that, Dramamine. The only thing Dramamine relieves for me is the nausea. If I don't get the Relpax down soon enough, or if I wake up with the migraine and so am already in the pain stage, I often vomit uncontrollably and have to go to the ER for a shot of Dilaudid + Compazine. (Compazine works better for me than Phenergan.)

You should be careful about taking Benadryl and Dramamine (the dimenhydrinate version) together; they are closely related and a pharmacist told me that theoretically it could cause an overdose. Dramamine does not make me sleepy; Benadryl usually does.

Occasionally I'll use a wet washcloth either on my forehead or the back of my neck, or sometimes alternating. That usually helps with the nausea too. While I find lights and noise to be somewhat painful, I find it extremely important to avoid strong smells, especially if I'm nauseated.

Rubbing my forehead or eyes lightly usually helps a little. I also use a kind of form of self-hypnosis... I picture a white sphere of healing light coming into the room and coming to my head. It helps me deal with the pain, which then usually feels more like waves... I'll have a few seconds of relief, then pain, then relief... but it helps.

Do try to determine what causes your migraines. My triggers are some forms of aspartame (a can of Sierra Mist Free triggered one every time), the scent of eucalyptus, and stress.

If your migraine lasts for more than 72 hours with less than 4 hours of relief please get to the ER or an urgent care clinic. Status migrainosus is very risky and could indicate something more than a migraine.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:14 PM on April 4, 2010

For me, two Aleve at the very beginning has worked well. But I have to catch it early. If not, the Aleve doesn't do it. Since I don't get aura, and sometimes wake up with the migraine, I can't always catch it early.

I also sometimes go without taking anything, because I am sorta kinda terrified of getting rebound headaches. I try to take Aleve less than 8 times in a month and no more than twice in a week. Luckily, this is rarely a problem. A couple of months ago, though, I had about 5 migraines in one week -- very unusual for me -- and I had to go unmedicated for most of them. In that case all I can do is try to get to sleep. If I get to sleep it usually is gone when I wake up.

In the past, Dramamine has knocked me out cold (when taken for motion sickness). I've never tried it for migraine, but I might now.
posted by litlnemo at 4:35 AM on April 5, 2010

I have had migraines since high school. My triggers are stress and barometric shifts. I have used espresso shots medicinally for years - it generally knocks off the edge to where I can focus on a monitor or drive my car. Recently, I gave up non-vegetable carbs. Although I didn't realize it right away, the migraines disappeared; although I had carb withdrawal headaches, they feel like ordinary tension headaches which I can control with Advil.

Like chez shoes, I have also been diagnosed with the constellation of metabolic syndrome diseases. I am now on a tiny dose of lisinopril to knock down my blood pressure; my doctor thinks that's why my head feels better, but the headache remission started before that, coincident with the carb reduction and no other changes.

I see that a lot of people are suggesting food allergies as triggers; it has been suggested that my migraines are related to a grain allergy of some sort. Maybe guinea-pig yourself for a month to see if changing your diet changes your headache pattern? A migraine journal + elimination diet really helped me.
posted by catlet at 7:27 AM on April 5, 2010

Back to add trytaking daily magnesium, riboflavin and CoEnzyme Q-10, some people add feverfew or butterbur. These supplements really help some people, and won't hurt to try.
posted by mmf at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2010

Nthing the marijuana. I get migranes and stress headaches. I went through the pharma rounds to no avail...but once I started smoking a bowl a few times a week I find I don't really get any headaches anymore. FWIW, my triggers were very similar to yours.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 3:15 PM on April 5, 2010

2nding ice.
posted by brevator at 4:11 PM on April 5, 2010

Tough to avoid those.

If you can, best to nip this in the bud because you don't want to wind up like me with chronic migraines 2+ times a week and, a chronic daily headache the rest of the time. The neurologist I saw at the time wrote me off as untreatable because I'm considered to have refractory migraines (all medications suggested in this thread I've tried and, they don't work).

I have some of the same triggers; bright lights, changes in weather, hormones. Though you should try to see if there is anything else contributing to them because it usually isn't any one thing that sets them off but a cascade effect from multiple triggers that gets the ball rolling. I know I'm playing Russian Roulette with things like oranges (not mandarins or limes oddly), chocolate or, too much caffeine. There are times where I can get away with eating them and, sometimes its that one extra thing that sets the ball rolling.

In the last year or so I've learnt that refined carbohydrates also contribute to mine. It was a side benefit from learning I had hyperglycaemia rushing headlong into diabetes if I didn't do something about it. Whether its because because of an allergy or, spikes in my blood sugar I do not know. I haven't completely nixed them from my diet, but I eat faaar less of them. At the time I was taking Topiramate (which was helping dang it), but had to go off of it because I couldn't live with some of the side effects. A year later and, my 10+ year chronic daily headache still hasn't come back plus, I get a few migraines a month. I've noticed when I increase the carbs I get a migraine.

The other thing that might help is there is a acupressure point called GB20 located on either side of your spine at the base of your skull. If you tilt your head forward and, apply pressure with your thumbs to those points while tilting you head back it might help alleviate some of the pain. I use it all the time along with an ice pack in the same place to help get rid of mine.
posted by squeak at 4:36 PM on April 5, 2010

I wimp out. I take a Mersyndol with a lot of water, then hop in a darkened shower for half an hour until I start to get sleepy, then go to bed and have a wonderful, drugged up sleep.
posted by Quadlex at 12:09 AM on April 6, 2010

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