Taking steps such as resting in a dark, quiet space and taking medications may help to provide quick migraine relief.

If people feel a migraine attack starting or are having difficulty managing symptoms, there are certain steps they can take that may help control the pain.

This article looks at tips for quickly easing a migraine attack or preventing it from worsening. It also outlines when a person should contact a doctor about migraine.

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The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) advises people to try the following if they feel a migraine attack beginning and to help manage symptoms:

  • Rest in a dark room, as bright lights may trigger migraine attacks.
  • Find a place to rest that is quiet, as noise may trigger or worsen a migraine attack.
  • Avoid strong smells, such as perfume, strong food smells, or chemical smells, as these may trigger or worsen a migraine attack.
  • Use a green light or tinted glasses, which may help to lessen a migraine attack.
  • Place a cool compress on the forehead or find somewhere cool to rest, as overheating may trigger migraine symptoms.
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen.

Certain medications may help to treat migraine. Some may be more effective if people take them in the early stages of migraine.

The term for these medications is abortive treatment and includes:

  • NSAIDs: NSAIDs may be the first-line choice of medication. Options include ibuprofen, tolfenamic acid, aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), naproxen, diclofenac, piroxicam, ketorolac, and ketoprofen.
  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen or a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine may be effective for acute migraine.
  • Triptans: Triptans are more expensive than NSAIDs but may be an option if the above options are not effective or if the headache is severe. Options include sumatriptan, naratriptan, eletriptan, zolmitriptan, frovatriptan, rizatriptan, and almotriptan.
  • Antiemetics: If people experience nausea or vomiting with migraine, antiemetics may be a good option. People may take antiemetics on their own or in combination with NSAID or triptan medication. Antiemetics include metoclopramide and prochlorperazine.
  • Ergotamines: These may work in combination with an antiemetic. Dihydroergotamine may be suitable if triptans and other drugs are not effective.
  • Gepants: These block a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide, which carries pain signals along the nerves that have associations with migraine.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) delivers an electrical signal to the body to moderate neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, to alter pain and migraine frequency.

Although there is mixed evidence on how effective TENS is for migraine, it may be a potential treatment option for migraine with few side effects.

People can purchase a TENS machine as a wearable device to use at home.

People may find it helps to apply pressure with massage to certain areas. Massaging the scalp and any areas of tension may help to improve blood circulation and ease pain.

Massage may not be suitable if people have migraine and are sensitive to touch.

Learn more about massage for migraine.

Cold compresses may help with symptoms of a migraine attack or if a person feels one developing. People can place a cold compress against their temples or around the neck.

Other people may find relief with a warm compress. People can use whichever they find most effective for their pain.

People should avoid using a compress for longer than 15 minutes and never leave a heating pad on while sleeping.

Caffeine may help to relieve headaches, and some people report it is helpful in stopping a migraine attack.

However, over-reliance on caffeine as a treatment may reduce how effective it is, and people may experience withdrawal symptoms.

It is best to limit caffeine use for migraine and use no more than 2 days a week.

People with severe or chronic migraine may need to avoid caffeine, as it may cause medication-overuse headaches.

Learn more about caffeine and migraine headaches.

People may find it beneficial to take a nap if they feel the beginning of a migraine attack. People should lie down in a cool, dark, quiet room and close their eyes.

Practicing healthy sleep habits can also help to prevent migraine or lessen symptoms.

The AMF advises people to see a doctor if they experience:

  • a change in headache type or frequency
  • a significant change in headache pattern
  • new onset of headache, particularly if sudden
  • changes in mental status
  • weakness
  • numbness or tingling
  • changes in speech

If people experience a thunderclap headache, which reaches peak intensity in less than a minute, they will need to seek immediate medical attention.

Tips for finding fast migraine relief include resting in a cool, dark, quiet room, placing a cool compress on the forehead, and avoiding strong smells.

Taking medications, such as NSAIDs, acetaminophen, or triptans, may also help to treat acute migraine.

If people experience any changes in migraine pattern, type, or frequency, they can contact a doctor. If people have a headache that reaches maximum intensity in under a minute, they should seek emergency medical attention.