(includes unproven home remedies)
Behaviours you totally control - (point-form list)
- Keeping your physician's appointment
- Keeping a Headache Diary to identify and track your symptoms (see Lifestyle - Cell 6 - Tracking Headaches through a Headache Diary)
- Practice regularity (meals, sleep cycles)
- Maintaining a healthy weight (losing weight if recommended)
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Stop smoking if suggested
- Natural Home Remedies (unproven)
So what do you do on a weekend, or holiday when you are home and your specialist appointment is months away, or your physician cannot be reached for medical advice?
Taking good care of yourself, avoiding known triggers and incorporating some natural home remedies, to help you manage the pain associated with migraine headaches is cost-effective, relatively easy to incorporate, and can enhance a physician’s treatment plan. 1
Listed below are some useful tips that you can try (according to experts)
- Drink a caffeinated beverage - In small amounts, caffeine alone can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or enhance the pain- reducing effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and aspirin. 2 Be careful, however. Drinking too much caffeine too often can lead to withdrawal headaches later on. 2 As Doctors Silberstein and Young point out in the book Migraine and Other Headaches, caffeine use and withdrawal can also trigger a migraine headache. 3 For more on caffeine visit Lifestyle tab - Cell #2 - Nutrition Influences
- Reduction of Activity - Calming the body is a great way to achieve stress reduction, or to lessen your anxiety.
- Hot or Cold Packs - Hot or cold packs are very common ways to treat headaches. They can be used at home, but are commonly used at a physiotherapist’s office, as well. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal they are often used in conjunction with pressure to the head. 4 The Mayo Clinic further suggests that while applying cold compresses to your head and neck, by using hot packs or heating pads, generally relaxes muscles. 5
- Warm Baths - Warm baths can be very relaxing to the body. Remember to do deep breathing exercises which helps the body to relax and become calm.
- Chamomile tea - According to the Cleveland Clinic, Chamomile Tea has sedative effects and relaxes the body. It has been used to ease the nausea of migraine. 6
- Imagery - Also referred to as “guided imagery”, it is the use of relaxation and mental visualization to bring calm to the body. An example can be focusing on a dot, or imagining a tranquil setting such as a beach, which can sometimes produce a desired physical response that can lower sensations of pain. There are books at your local library (for free borrowing) on the proper procedure of imagery, as to how to learn, and apply this relaxation technique.
- Dimming Lights - Bright lights can be a trigger for migraine. Turning off the lights can be helpful, as many migraines increase with sensitivity to light and sound. Ecamples of bright lights to avoid include might be florescent lights, bright snow, spotlights at a sport’s event.
- Use of Neuromodulation Devices - These nerve stimulators can be used at home. The gammaCore device has to be ordered by a physician (no longer distributed in Canada). The Cefaly device & Cefaly Dual can be purchased by the patient directly. With regard to both, one needs to follow the manufacturers instructions with regard to home use. 7 Both of these devices can used as a home treatment, after some consultation with a headache neurologist. They are fully explained in Non-Drug Approaches tab, Cell #4 - Neuromodulation Devices-(then discuss with a Headache Neurologist)
- Cannabis (Marijuana) - Cannabis is also referred to as Marijuana, and can be identified by other names as well. Marijuana is a herb that when smoked or ingested can produce a “high” or “numb” sensation. (for a physician discussing Cannabis and Headache, refer to Related Topics tab, Cell # 3 - Hard to Find topics)
Note: a trial-and-error approach is needed as the unproven remedies (mentioned above) are very individualistic, in terms of their effectiveness.
Patient Adherence and Compliance
Adherence - Adherence is a preferable term in headache care because it refers to collaboration between the patient and the health Care Provider (HCP). The patient plays a vital role in the success of his or her headache management. While an HCP may provide medical advice and prescriptions, it is the patient who ultimately chooses if, when, and how to implement that advice. 8
Compliance - Compliance typically refers to patients following recommendations from their health care provider. Patients who are "non-compliant" are usually unable to comply because of the cost of the treatment, side-effects of treatments, or other reasons. It is important for patients to be open with their HCP about the reasons for non-compliance, so they can be addressed. 9
Note: these terms repeat in Related Topics tab, Cell #1 - your Appointment with a Physician.
Dr. Dawn Buse - Psychologist and Headache Expert - Relaxation audio tapes10
Patients who are unwilling or unable to follow suggestions - Dr. Paul Cooper, Headache Neurologist
Dr. Paul Cooper (London, Ontario) suggests "As a patient, it is often difficult to make up one’s mind when presented with a series of therapeutic choices. If after some thought, you decide that you are either unwilling or unable to follow recommendations regarding lifestyle adjustments or modifications, it is important that you make your doctor aware of this as it can affect the likelihood of the success of your other treatments and may change the type of medical treatments your doctor will recommend." 11
- Introduction to Home Remedies- Cleveland Clinic Canada, 2019
- Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, AZ Drinking caffeinated beverages
- Migraine & Other Headaches, 2004, Doctors Silberstein & Young - migraine triggers, caffeine withdrawal
- Canadian Medical Association Journal (1999) - Hot and cold packs
- The Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ - Applying cold compresses
- Cleveland Clinic Canada - benefits of Chamomile tea
- Cooper, P - Neuromodulation devices for home use
- American Migraine Foundation, Adherence definition
- Dr. Paul Cooper, compliance definition
- Dr. Dawn Buse, Headache psychologist (2020)- relaxational audiotapes
- Navigating Toward Better Headache Care (2018) , Dr. Paul Cooper, patients who are unwilling to follow suggestions