Migraine is one of the most common conditions in the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. It can run in families and affect children and adults.

A 2018, study found that more than 15% of adults in the United States had experienced a migraine episode or a severe headache within the last 3 months. Migraine can be a debilitating condition, and it is often underdiagnosed. This is especially true in communities of color.

In fact, only 47% of African Americans have an official migraine diagnosis, compared with 70% of white people in the U.S. Meanwhile, other research has found that Latino people are 50% less likely to receive a formal migraine diagnosis than white people.

Despite the discrepancies in rates of diagnosis, an analysis of nine studies looking at the average prevalence of severe headache or migraine episodes from 2005–2012 in the country found that the prevalence rates of episodes across all groups were similar:

  • 17.7% among Native American people
  • 15.5% among white people
  • 14.5% among Hispanic people
  • 14.45% among Black people
  • 9.2% among Asian people

Any disparities in diagnosis can impact the availability of effective treatment.

Migraine headaches are not simply severe headaches. Migraine is a neurological condition and often has other symptoms, including:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • visual changes
  • sensitivity to sound, light, or smell
  • neck and shoulder pain
  • fatigue

Many medications can treat and prevent migraine episodes. But some people prefer to use natural treatments as alternatives or to supplement medical treatments.

Below are 16 natural approaches to treating and preventing migraine episodes:

1. Acupressure

Acupressure therapy being applied to persons hand and wrist.
Acupressure therapy may help relieve some migraine symptoms.

Acupressure involves applying pressure to specific parts of the body. Stimulating these points aims to release muscle tension and alleviate pain.

One popular pressure point is the LI-4 point in the space between the base of the left thumb and the index finger.

Applying firm, but not painful, circular pressure to the LI-4 point using the opposite hand for 5 minutes may relieve headache pain.

A 2012 study looked at 40 people who had migraine without sensory disturbances known as “aura.” It found that pressure on the PC6 point, which is located three fingers down from the base of the wrist on the inside of the arm, could migraine-associated nausea or vomiting.

2. Diet changes

Certain foods may trigger migraine episodes, including:

  • processed foods
  • red wine
  • alcohol
  • chocolate
  • caffeine

Being aware of what might be triggering migraine is critical. Some people use a food diary or migraine journal to keep track of potential triggers.

Changing the diet or eating patterns to avoid triggers may help prevent episodes in the future.

3. Essential oils

Essential oils are common ingredients in natural remedies and some cleaning products.

Lavender is an essential oil that many believe can relieve stress, anxiety, and headaches. One small study found that inhaling the oil helped reduce the severity of migraine headaches in some people. Still, confirming the effects requires further research with more participants.

It is important to note that for people who have asthma or are pregnant, essential oils can pose a risk. Please consult a doctor before using them.

4. Ginger

A 2014 study with 100 participants compared the effectiveness of ginger powder with sumatriptan, a common migraine drug.

The researchers found that the effectiveness of ginger was statistically comparable to that of sumatriptan and that the participants were equally willing to continue with either treatment.

While ginger may have benefits, there is a risk of side effects and interactions. For example, people taking warfarin may have a higher risk of bleeding.

5. Stress management

Person making notes in a journal
Journaling may help relieve stress.

Stress is a common trigger for migraine episodes. It may even create a cycle, in which migraine pain worsens the stress, which then triggers another migraine.

Whenever possible, it is best to limit situations that can lead to stress. Finding outlets such as journaling, exercise, and meditation may help. Other stress relief strategies might include taking a warm bath, listening to music, or practicing breathing techniques. Some people find stress management classes helpful.

6. Yoga or stretching

Yoga may help improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension, which can help relieve migraine symptoms.

A comprehensive 2014 study compared conventional migraine treatment with or without a regular yoga practice.

The researchers found that the group who participated in yoga had greater relief than the group who received conventional treatment alone.

Other forms of exercise, such as swimming, biking, and strength training, may also have a positive effect.

7. Biofeedback therapy

Biofeedback is a therapy that involves a triggering the release and relaxation of tight muscles under professional supervision.

Sensors on the targeted muscles feed into a small machine that gives real-time feedback about muscle tension, helping users release the pressure better.

Using sensors along the forehead, jawline, or trapezius muscles in the shoulders may help target muscles that might be triggering migraine pain.

8. Acupuncture

An extensive 2012 systematic review looked at studies that evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating migraine and other conditions. The study authors found that acupuncture was an effective treatment choice for people with migraine headaches, though they acknowledged the role of other factors.

Acupuncture is a therapy in which a practitioner inserts needles into specific areas of the body for targeted effects. It is similar to acupressure. Finding a licensed practitioner is key.

9. Massage

Massaging the muscles in the neck and shoulders may help relieve tension and alleviate migraine pain. Massage may also reduce stress.

A person may benefit from a professional massage. Anyone interested in a self-massage for migraine might take a clean tennis ball and roll it with some pressure along the shoulders and back.

10. Herbal supplements

Herbal supplements
Herbal supplements, such as butterbur, may help reduce migraine frequency.

Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal supplements that may be helpful in reducing migraine pain and the frequency of episodes.

A daily dose of 150 milligrams of butterbur for about 3 months could reduce episode frequency, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

The organization notes that while feverfew is less effective than butterbur, it may be helpful for some people.

There are some risks involved, including severe ones. Speak with a doctor before trying these supplements.

11. Magnesium

A deficiency of the essential mineral magnesium may trigger migraine aura or a menstrual migraine headache.

Migraine aura is a neurological symptom. It involves sensory disturbances during or at the beginning of a migraine episode, such as bright lights in the field of vision. Not everyone with migraine experiences aura.

Research has found that taking supplementary magnesium may help reduce the frequency of episodes for some people. However, speak with a doctor before taking this supplement, particularly if other health issues are present.

12. Vitamins

B vitamins may reduce migraine frequency and severity. They play a role in regulating neurotransmitters in the brain.

These vitamins are water soluble, so any excess passes out in the urine. For this reason, it is unlikely that a person could take too many. Still, speak with a doctor before taking a B vitamin supplement, such as a daily “B-complex.”

Studies into whether B vitamins could help ease work-related stress are ongoing.

Meanwhile, vitamin D may also play a role in the frequency of migraine episodes. A 2018 study found that people with migraine and vitamin D deficiency had more days with migraine pain than those without the vitamin deficiency.

13. Stay hydrated

Even minor dehydration can be a migraine and headache trigger. A person can avoid this by drinking enough water, or a rehydration solution, every day. Doing so moderately and having a healthy diet can usually help a person stay hydrated.

14. Rest

Lack of sleep or too much sleep may trigger migraine headaches.

Getting 7–9 hours of restful sleep each night can help reduce stress and may help prevent migraine episodes.

Speak with a doctor if trouble sleeping is persistent. It is also essential to make time to relax and unwind before bed.

15. Compresses

Some people find that laying cool or warm compresses on their heads can be soothing and help reduce migraine pain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that more people may prefer cool compresses.

People with circulatory problems, diabetes, or skin issues should avoid extremes of temperature.

16. Monitor light sensitivity

Excessively bright light can trigger or worsen migraine episodes, and up to 90% of people with migraine report sensitivity to light.

Flickering or pulsing lights and glare can also trigger episodes, even those coming from screens. Taking steps to avoid these triggers can help.

During a migraine episode, it may help to move to a dark or dim room.

Working with a healthcare professional, such as a migraine specialist, is key to developing a treatment plan, even while a person also tries natural approaches.

Noting down symptoms and factors that may be related can help a person identify their triggers and effective ways to manage the condition.

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