Many people suffer from migraines, and if you’re one of those sufferers who doesn’t respond well to migraine medication, or don’t always get an aura to warn you that it’s time to take your migraine medication, then I have some tips that actually work.
Midwive’s Migraine Management
As a birth Doula, I had the absolute pleasure and honour of training with Penny Simkins, a well-renowned Doula and author of many books on helping Moms through their labor and delivery. One of the topics she covered in pain management was headaches. Many women experience painful headaches during labor and delivery, and she shared with us her knowledge of an old midwifery tip for dealing with them. You’ll need to find yourself a long scarf, and designate it your ‘migraine scarf’ as it will get wrinkled and misshapen over time. I use a triangular scarf (think Axl Rose and the fringed scarves from the ’80’s!). I literally fold it just like Axl Rose would, and if someone is around, I have them tie it around my head, ensuring that my temples are covered, as tightly as they possibly can. You will have to figure out the best place to knot it for comfort (low down on the back of your head, higher up, etc.). The pressure from the scarf slows some of the blood flow to your brain, and the pressure actually ‘distracts’ pain receptors. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from a migraine!
I make my own cold packs that are long enough to cover not only my forehead, but also drape down the sides of my head to help it stay in place when I’m lying down. I use flame-retardant flannel, sew a long pocket, then turn it right-side-out and sew several wide channels in it to fill with Wheat Berries. Then, begin filling the sections and pinning them shut. You don’t want to over-fill the sections, as the foot of your sewing machine won’t go over thick sections; just make sure you have it about 2/3 full and you should be fine. Then simply sew a straight seam to close it up. Store them in the freezer, and it you ever need it for cramps, sore muscles, etc, you can also heat them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes depending on your microwave and the size of the pack.
My two favourite oils for migraines are Peppermint oil and Lavender oil. They don’t always work for me, but in combination with the scarf, dabbing a little of one of these oils on your temples can help alleviate symptoms.
Some people swear by caffeine, and while it doesn’t always work for me, it does seem to help, especially when I’ve run out of options or am nowhere near my migraine scarf. If you’re feeling nauseated, you can use over-the-counter caffeine tablets instead of drinking coffee. Start with a lower dose, and go up from there to see how much caffeine helps you. This way you won’t find yourself getting jittery and nauseated as a result of too much caffeine. You don’t want to contribute to your suffering with a ‘cure’! ***note: if you consume a lot of caffeine already, this won’t help you; in this case, you may want to consider cutting down on your daily caffeine intake as a preventative.
Adopt a healthy diet based on the Food Pyramid or the Canada Food Guide. I personally prefer the American Food Pyramid, but both provide good guidance as to what you should be eating. Cut out any junk food unless it’s a special occasion – your body doesn’t need it, and often doesn’t know what to do with all the chemicals, sugar, and other empty calories. Furthermore, if you’re eating ’empty calories’ such as sugar and highly refined or fatty foods, you are displacing good, nourishing food that your body needs by consuming empty calories. Start a food diary, and be honest. Record everything including water and other liquids, meals, and snacks. Look it over with the food pyramid and mark down how many servings of each food group you’ve had each day, then decide if you met the mark according to the recommendations of the food guides. Diet is everything when it comes to how our bodies function, and it doesn’t really take much to change your diet with some simple changes, a little education, and an awareness of how you shop and what you’re eating. Make sure you’re consuming enough iron, and magnesium-rich foods, as magnesium has been shown in studies to markedly decrease the number and frequency of migraines in chronic sufferers.
As mentioned, Magnesium is one supplement that you should consider trying to add to your diet. It doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor to do some bloodwork to check for deficiencies, as you may be surprised to find that you have some serious deficiencies. When being tested for iron deficiency, the doctor who ordered the tests also checked for other deficiencies, and discovered that I had a severe Magnesium deficiency. I was put on 400mg a day for a little while, then dropped down to 200mg maintenance dose. They also discovered that I was seriously deficient in Potassium, so I was also put on high doses of Slow-K. It’s important to note that I eat a very clean diet, and everything we eat is cooked from scratch. Imagine if my diet had been worse? I don’t recommend taking ANY supplements without seeing your doctor and asking for bloodwork, then following up to see if he/she recommends supplementation. Some doctors may not be aware of the link between Magnesium & headache reduction, so discuss it with them to see how they feel about it. Another important thing to note is that supplements, whether herbal, vitamins, or minerals, can interact with each other and also with medications that you’re on, so this is definitely something that needs to be discussed with your doctor.
It can’t be overstated. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, and it can cause a real whopper of a headache. Many say that you should be drinking eight glasses of water a day, but there is no evidence to state that every adult, of any size or weight, needs exactly eight glasses a day; the point is, make sure you’re drinking enough. While tea and coffee, juices and milk all count towards your ‘water’ intake every day, make sure you don’t go overboard on the caffeine, and try to at least get in some water throughout the day.
There are obviously many more supplements and remedies out there, but these tips are the ones that worked best for me. It’s important to make sure your migraines have been explored medically; if you haven’t been seen to look into the causes for your migraines, make sure you do so right away. There may be a physical underlying cause for your migraines, many of which may be life-threatening, so be sure to get it checked out. If you’re interested in pursuing other supplements, homeopathic remedies, or other remedies, it can be very helpful to see a Naturopath, who can help you to develop a supplementation regime that’s safe and effective.