10 home remedies for migraines and when to see a doctor

Terry Vine/ Getty ImagesChronic migraines can be prevented with natural lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
  • Natural remedies for migraines that can provide relief and may prevent future attacks include B2 supplements, magnesium, yoga, and getting enough sleep.
  • To further help prevent migraines in the future, avoid common migraine triggers like alcohol, bright lights, and loud noises.
  • You should see a doctor for your migraine if it’s accompanied by certain conditions like vertigo or cognitive problems.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

A migraine is a neurological disease, and is much more than just a headache, with symptoms that include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and increased sensitivity to sound, light, or smells.

If you think you may be suffering from migraines, be sure to see your primary care doctor or a specialist who can appropriately diagnose you and rule out any other causes.

“The first step is to make sure that your headache has been properly evaluated and your specific headache syndrome is diagnosed,” says board-certified neurologist Thomas Pitts, with Hudson Medical + Wellness in New York City.

Once you’ve determined that your pain is migraine-based, you can take steps to find relief. Here are several home remedies to help treat some of the symptoms of migraines.

Natural remedies for migraines

Remedies for migraines include those that can help you find relief and prevent more migraines in the future. Adding magnesium to your diet, vitamin B2 supplementation, practicing yoga, and getting enough quality sleep are just a few home remedies you can try to help relieve the pain and prevent future episodes.

1. Magnesium

Adding a magnesium supplement to your diet, in doses of 400 to 500 milligrams a day, can help prevent migraines according to the American Migraine Foundation. The supplement may avert the occurrence of aura, a type of sensory disturbance, as well as light and noise sensitivity. Keep the dose at 400 milligrams if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Diarrhoea and abdominal cramping are the most common side effects of taking magnesium.

2. Vitamin B2

A small 2015 study found that 400 milligrams of vitamin B2 daily reduced the frequency and severity of migraines with minimal side effects compared to sodium valproate. However, more research is needed to fully understand how vitamin B2 prevents migraines and whether it works for the general population, as current studies are limited and small.

3. Caffeine

Some studies have found that caffeine may help treat migraines. However, a 2019 review found that chronic caffeine intake seemed to increase the chance of migraines — in particular, the Cleveland Clinic recommends limiting yourself to 150 to 200 milligrams of caffeine daily.

Ultimately, more studies are needed to determine whether caffeine may help migraines, so it’s important to speak with a physician about whether or not this treatment is right for you.

4. Hot or cold remedies

Applying heat or cold can help relieve migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic. When applied at the onset of a migraine, a frozen neck wrap significantly reduced pain, according to a small 2013 study.

Placing a heating pad on your head or neck may also help to relax your muscles, which can relieve tension and the migraine itself.

5. Yoga

Adding yoga alongside several other natural remedies may work to reduce migraine frequency, duration, and severity, according to a 2015 study.

6. Avoid light

Since migraines increase sensitivity to light and sound, the Mayo Clinic recommends relaxing in a dark and quiet room. Try to sleep if you can.

7. Regular exercise

Exercising regularly can help reduce the risk of migraines by reducing anxiety, depression, and obesity, according to the Mayo Clinic. Check with your doctor to see what types of exercises they recommend and how often.

8. Sleep

Sleeping well is essential if you suffer from migraines since a lack of sleep can trigger an attack. Good sleep quality comes with going to bed at the same time every night, waking up at the same time every morning, and having a quiet and comfortable sleep space.

9. Peppermint oil

A 2010 study found that the menthol in peppermint is a safe and effective treatment for migraines without aura. Apply to the forehead and temples at the first sign of a migraine.

10. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps with your circadian rhythm, making you feel tired at night and more awake during the day. A2010 study found that migraine patients had abnormally low levels of melatonin. The research suggests that taking a melatonin supplement — up to 3 mg per day — could help with migraines.

Migraine triggers

Keep a migraine journal to determine what your triggers are so you can avoid them. When you get a migraine, jot down the date, time, what you were doing, your symptoms, anything you ate, and how you’ve been sleeping.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common migraine triggers include:

  • menstruation
  • pregnancy
  • menopause
  • alcohol
  • too much caffeine
  • stress
  • bright lights
  • loud noises
  • strong smells
  • lack of sleep
  • jet lag
  • intense physical exertion
  • sexual activity
  • weather changes
  • certain medications such as oral contraceptives, nitroglycerin, and vasodilators
  • skipping meals
  • salty or processed foods
  • aged cheeses
  • food additives like MSG and aspartame

When to see a doctor for your migraine

Pitts says you need to seek medical help if a migraine:

  • Changes in intensity or quality.
  • Is accompanied by numbness.
  • Is accompanied by vertigo.
  • Causes cognitive problems.
  • Creates problems with arm or leg strength.
  • Worsens when you lie down or sit up, or is alleviated by changing position.

These symptoms, along with migraines, could indicate something more severe, such as a stroke, which should be ruled out by a neurologist.

Some over the counter medications can help relieve mild to moderate migraines, like aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen, according to Jessica Ailani, a neurologist and director of the MedStar Georgetown Headache Centre at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. A process of elimination can help determine which works best for you.

Home remedies for migraines aren’t always enough. Pitts says some excellent migraine medications can help. According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine-specific prescriptions include triptans, such as Sumatriptan, Zolmitriptan, and Rizatriptan. When these medications don’t work, doctors turn to ergot alkaloids, such as Migrinal or Ergomar.

Other medical treatments include monthly and quarterly injections, nerve blockers, botox, and supplement infusions. See your doctor if natural remedies aren’t working for you. Together you should be able to find a medication that works.

Insider’s takeaway

You can often control or prevent migraines with home remedies.

According to Pitts, the top three natural remedies for migraines are good sleep hygiene, regular exercise, and taking a daily magnesium and vitamin B2 supplement.

See your primary care provider once a year for a preventative screening to rule out other health problems, says Pitts.

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