How to Handle Migraines

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
March 21, 2022
How to Handle Migraines

If your migraines are interfering with your life, trying aerobics, getting better sleep, and taking certain supplements may make a difference.

If your migraines are interfering with your life, don’t hesitate to talk to your primary care doctor or see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the nervous system, including headaches.

Your best move is to arrive with a record of the past week or two of symptoms and triggers. You should also bring any imaging tests and a list of your medications, including over-the-counter drugs, and supplements.

There are many strategies to cut back your migraine days. Your doctor will tailor your treatment for you.


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Regular aerobics

Staying in shape with regular exercise is good for everyone and may cut the pain and frequency of your migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Your body releases natural painkillers called endorphins when your heart rate raises during exercise. Exercise also helps cut stress, a migraine trigger.

Some people find that exercise can trigger migraine. The solution isn’t to stay on the couch. Instead, take precautions:

  • Don’t jump right into vigorous exercise on any day. Start with a slow warmup.
  • Eat about an hour and a half before exercising, including protein.
  • Make sure you don’t get dehydrated. When you exercise, your mouth should not become dry, and you should sweat. If you do not sweat despite moving vigorously, you are probably dehydrated. If you are thirsty, you are also short of water, which could bring on the migraine.

Get enough sleep

Sleep problems and migraines often come together. If you don’t get enough time in bed or wake up too often, you could trigger more migraine attacks. But sometimes sleeping more than eight hours in a night can trigger a migraine as well.

Stay on a regular sleep schedule. Follow the general rules for good sleep hygiene.

Try supplements

With any supplement, ask your doctor for a trusted brand, or check with Consumer Lab, an independent nonprofit. Supplements are not regulated, and the amount of the active ingredient in any pill can vary widely.

  • Magnesium. Many Americans are short of magnesium. Shortages of this vital mineral may be triggering your migraines. Magnesium has been prescribed both for prevention of migraine and treating an attack. There are many different kinds: About 400 to 500 milligrams (mg) a day of magnesium oxide is most frequently used for prevention. The maximum dose would be 600 mg a day, according to the Migraine Trust, a British nonprofit.
  • Co-enzyme Q10. Early evidence supports this nutrient for prevention. You can try this at 150 mg a day, according to the Migraine Trust.
  • Riboflavin (B2). Similarly, there’s early evidence that B2 can make you have fewer migraine attacks. Try 400 mg a day.
  • Feverfew. This herb has had promising but mixed results when studied for migraine.

Learn your diet triggers

Keeping a record over a week or two will help you identify foods that set you off. The migraine may come immediately or up to 24 hours after you eat a particular food.

Some of the most common triggers include alcohol (especially red wine and beer), chocolate, aged cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, yeast extract, food preservatives that contain nitrates and nitrites, artificial sweeteners, and monosodium glutamate (also called MSG), the American Migraine Foundation reports.

  • Don’t skip meals, especially if this triggers migraines.
  • Consider eating five small meals a day, each combining a carbohydrate with a protein.
  • Drink water throughout the day instead of soda or juice.
  • Consider eating more fatty fish or taking fish oil supplements. Early evidence suggests fish oil can reduce migraine.


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March 21, 2022

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN