How to Treat a Migraine: 10 Proven Remedies (Plus the One That Doesn’t Work)

Are migraine attacks taking over your life? Tried everything, but the throbbing headache and nausea won't go away? Maybe you need a proven cure.

Works for Everyone: A Very Low-Fat Diet


According to the Headache Center of Atlanta, migraines are triggered by stress (80 percent of adults), hormones (65 percent), odors (44 percent), lights (38 percent), smoke (36 percent), heat (30 percent), food (27 percent), and other disruptions. These are the 13 foods that are most likely to cause a headache.

Trying to figure out how to treat a migraine with diet? In an unrelated study, participants followed an extremely low-fat diet (where less than 10-15 percent of their calories came from fat each day) for 12 weeks. At the end, nearly all reported having at least 40 percent fewer headaches. When they did experience pain, it was 66 percent less severe, and the migraines were about 70 percent shorter. These are the signs your headache could be something way worse.

Works for Everyone: Vitamin B, Feverfew, Melatonin, Butterbur

iStock/Nicolas McComber

Vitamin B2: A Belgian study found that 60 percent of people who took 400 milligrams of this vitamin everyday had half their usual number of migraines.
Feverfew: This popular herb offers "mild and transient" benefits, according to British researchers, but in a recent study of a feverfew extract containing a consistent level of parthenolide, migraines were reduced from 5 per month to 3.
Melatonin: Two-thirds of study participants who took melatonin before going to bed every night for 3 months said the number of migraines they experienced dropped by 50 percent. These are the 7 things you should know before taking melatonin for sleep.
Butterbur-based remedies: One expert calls these "the best safety-tested herbal to date for the treatment of headache." According to the journal Neurology, 68 percent of those who took a butterbur product called Petadolex saw the number of migraines they experienced drop by 50 percent.

Works for Mild Migraines: OTC Pain Relievers


If your attacks don't keep you from your everyday activities, and you experience vomiting once in every five attacks or less, then inexpensive over-the-counter pills like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen may help. (This is the best type of OTC pain reliever for every type of ache.) OTC products that contain a blend of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine were found to relieve pain 20 minutes faster than ibuprofen.

Works for Severe Migraines: Prescription Drugs


If drugstore painkillers don't do the trick and you're wondering how to treat a migraine as soon as it starts, ask your doctor about the gold-standard for headache cures: a triptan. These drugs can halt a migraine if taken at the first sign of an attack, and they can even ease the pain when an attack is underway. (Watch out: these are the silent signs your medication is making you sick.) Over 40 percent of the time, triptans ease the pain within one hour of taking them, and provide complete relief within two.

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Works for Frequent Migraines: Migraine-Prevention Drugs


If you get two or more migraines per month, you are a candidate for these. Within four weeks of usage, they can cut your migraine-frequency in half. Studies show 90 percent of people who take beta-blockers propranolol (Inderal) and timolol (Blocadren) get relief. When beta-blockers don't work, calcium channel-blockers might do the trick. These are the 12 most common causes of migraines.

Works for Everyone: Fewer Painkillers


It sounds counter-intuitive, but don't overdo your use of painkillers, or you could end up worse off. Using over-the-counter pain pills more than twice a week, or taking migraine-easing triptans more than 17 times a month can eventually cause "rebound" migraines, warn German researchers.

Works For Some: Acupuncture


A British review of 13 studies concluded it's too soon to tell whether acupuncture can prevent or ease head pain. That said, study-samples that received 12 acupuncture treatments over three months used 15 percent less pain medication than those that didn't use acupuncture. Here's how your weight can affect your migraines.

Don't Bother: Magnesium and Homeopathy


Need to know how to treat a migraine? Don't waste time on either of these.

Magnesium: Low brain levels of magnesium have been linked with migraines, but two out of three studies have found that magnesium supplements provide no benefits to the migraine-prone.

Homeopathy: British researchers found no difference in migraine occurrence in study-participants after three months of taking homeopathy medication and three months of taking a placebo.

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