What is a migraine?
Ranked sixth among disability causing diseases by the World
Health Organisation (WHO), migraine is a primary headache disorder that is
characterized by recurring attacks. Attacks typically include headache of
moderate or severe intensity, mostly one-sided, pulsating in quality that is
aggravated by routine physical activity, accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Duration of a migraine attack may vary from a few hours to 2-3 days. Attack
frequency is anywhere between once a year and once a week. In children, attacks
tend to be of shorter duration and abdominal symptoms are more prominent. Natural remedies for migraines may help in managing the associated pain.
How does migraine impact society?
Migraine is an intense and frequently painful type of
headache. The term migraine comes from the Greek word hemicrania, meaning “half
the head,” since the classic migraine headache affects only one side of the
individual’s head. Migraines affect as many as 24 million people in the United
States, and are responsible for billions of dollars in lost work, poor job
performance, and direct medical expenses. Approximately 18% of women and 6
percent of men experience at least one migraine attack per year. Presently,
just 1 in 11 Americans now suffers from migraines, more than three times as
many are women, with most of them being between the ages of 30 and 49.
Two types of migraine are known. Eighty percent
of migraine sufferers experience “migraine without aura” (common
migraine). In “migraine with aura,” or traditional migraine, the pain
is preceded or accompanied by visual or other sensory disturbances, including
hallucinations, partial obstruction of the visual field, numbness or tingling,
or even a feeling of heaviness. Symptoms are often most prominent on one side
of the body or head and might start as early as 72 hours before the onset of
pain. Natural ways to get rid of migraines depend on the type of migraine one has.
About 18% of women and 6% of men around the world suffer from
migraines. According to the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD, 2000), a report
released by the WHO, migraine was ranked 19th; when it first featured in the
list of top causes of years lived with disability (YLDs) worldwide. However,
the disease has ascended to the sixth position as per GBD 2013. The WHO attributes
1.3% of all years lost to disability to migraines.
Besides causing debility, migraine brings substantial
socioeconomic loss as well. 90% migraine sufferers report functional impairment
during migraine episodes and over half report that their severe headaches
result in substantial impairment of activity or the need for bed rest. 53.7%
report that migraine episodes were associated with severe impairment or the
need for bed rest, with just 7% reporting lack of impairment.
To measure its impact, let us look at some
global reports. For instance, according to the data of Hu et al. [Compiled from
1994 MEDSTAT medical claim data], the employers annually lose out an estimated
$13 billion, if they employed migraineurs, this estimate is based on missed
workdays and functional impairment in the workplace, with approximately $8
billion directly attributed to missed workdays. Direct costs for migraine care
on an annual basis were estimated at approximately $1 billion. In the United
Kingdom, some 25 million working- or school-days are lost every year because of
What Causes Migraine?
believe that migraine has a genetic cause. We still don’t understand the causes of migraines very well.
But, a few factors trigger the onset of the excruciating pain – migraine. These
factors can be dietary, environmental, and lifestyle changes.
With a fast-changing lifestyle, the intensity of migraine is
induced because of stress, hunger, fatigue, and hormonal influences, such as
menarche, use of oral contraceptives, pregnancy, pre-menopause, and menopause. In
migraine without aura, these hormonal influences play a greater role. In many
cases, the intake of certain food items aggravates migraine symptoms. In several
cases, dieting, delayed or irregular meals, dehydration, alcohol consumption,
food containing high content of tyramine (such as dairy, meat, poultry, and fish
products), caffeine (such as tea and coffee) trigger migraine attacks. But in
some cases, specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruit, or cheese may also
trigger migraines. In fact, the environment also plays a significant role in
migraine. Exposure to the sun or any bright light, smoke, crowded places, loud
noise, or any climatic change such as high humidity or very cold temperatures
can trigger migraines.
Types of Migraine
There are many types of migraines, with different symptoms and natural healing methods.
a) Migraine without aura
This is the most frequent type of Migraine. Symptoms include
moderate to severe pulsating headache pain that occurs without warning and is
usually felt on one side of the head. It comes along with nausea, confusion,
blurred vision, mood changes, fatigue, and increased sensitivity to light,
sound, or smells. Attacks typically last 4-72 hours, and they repeat a few
times a year to a few times a week. Depending on the type of migraine, one can learn how to get rid of the headache naturally.
b) Migraine with aura
This type of Migraine includes visual disturbances and other
neurological symptoms that appear about 10 to 60 minutes before the actual
headache and usually last no more than an hour. The patient may temporarily lose
part or all of his vision. The aura may occur without a headache, which can
strike at any time. Less frequent aura symptoms include an abnormal sensation,
numbness, or muscle weakness on one side of the body, a tingling sensation in
the hands or face, trouble speaking, and confusion. Nausea, loss of appetite,
and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise may precede the headache.
c) Chronic migraine
Characterized by headaches occurring on 15 or more days per
month for more than 3 months, which have the features of Migraine headache on
at least 8 days per month. They can be with or without aura, they usually
require preventive medications and behaviors to control, and they are often
disabling. After drug withdrawal, about half of Chronic Migraine patients
revert to Episodic Migraine and half do not. Preventive habits are highly
advised to keep the condition from progressing from episodic to chronic.
d) Menstrual migraine
Menstrual Migraine (MM) develops most frequently in the
second decade of life, around the onset of menarche, and prevalence peaks
around age forty. ‘Pure menstrual migraine’ affects 10% to 14% of women with
migraine and refers to attacks occurring exclusively on days 1± 2 (ie, days -2
to +3 of menstruation in at least two out of three cycles) and at no other time
of the month. Close to 60% of women with migraine experience menstrually
related migraines. ‘Menstrually related migraine’ affects over 50% of women who
have migraines and by definition, migraines occur not only in the perimenstrual
periods as described but also at other times of the month. Premenstrual
headache occurs earlier in the cycle, typically 2 to 7 days before the onset of
menses, and maybe part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Migraine attacks may
occur before, during, or after menstruation, but attacks associated with
menstruation are often more severe, of longer duration, and less responsive to
both acute and prophylactic treatment.
e) Hemiplegic migraine
A rare but severe form of Migraine that causes temporary
paralysis – sometimes lasting several days – on one side of the body prior to
or during a headache. Symptoms such as vertigo, a pricking or stabbing
sensation, and problems seeing, speaking, or swallowing may begin prior to the
headache pain and usually stop shortly thereafter. When it runs in families,
the disorder is called Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM). Though rare, at
least three distinct genetic forms of FHM have been identified. These genetic
mutations make the brain more sensitive or excitable, most likely by increasing
brain levels of a chemical called glutamate.
f) Migraine with brainstem aura
Mainly affects children and adolescents, this includes
Migraine with Aura symptoms that originate from the brainstem, but without
motor weakness. It occurs most often in teenage girls and may be associated
with their menstrual cycles. Symptoms include partial or total loss of vision
or double vision, dizziness and loss of balance (vertigo), poor muscle
coordination, slurred speech, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and fainting.
The throbbing pain may come on suddenly and is felt on both sides at the back
of the head.
g) Abdominal migraine
Abdominal migraine is an episodic syndrome that may be
associated with migraine. Most cases are reported in young children, though it
can occur in patients of all ages. As children with an abdominal migraine grow
older, about half of them “grow out” of an abdominal migraine by the age of 14-16
years. Typical attacks of a migraine headache are reported by two-thirds of
children with an abdominal migraine either concurrently with abdominal
migraine or in the place of an abdominal migraine during late adolescence and
early adult life.
h) Retinal migraine
A very rare type of Migraine is characterized by attacks of
visual loss or disturbances in one eye. These attacks, like the more common
visual auras, are usually associated with Migraine headaches.
i) Refractory Migraine
A refractory migraine refers to a persistent migraine that
is difficult to treat and fails to respond to standard and aggressive
treatments. People with refractory migraines do not get relief from acute
migraine therapies, and they continue to develop migraines despite preventive therapies.
Also, for people with refractory chronic migraines, their headaches severely
impact their quality of life and daily functioning.
j) Medication overuse headache (MOH)
MOH is caused by chronic and excessive use of medication to
treat a headache. It is the most common secondary headache disorder that
affects up to 5% of some populations, more women than men. MOH occurs almost
daily, is oppressive, persistent, and often at its worst on awakening. It
typically occurs in patients with an underlying headache disorder such as a
migraine or a tension-type headache that transforms over time from an episodic
condition to chronic daily headache due to excessive intake of acute headache
relief medications. MOH is a serious, disabling, and well-characterized disorder,
which has become a worldwide problem and is now considered the third-most the prevalent type of headache.
Symptoms of Migraine
Migraine without aura can be preceded by heightened mood or
energy level variation up to a day before the assault. Other pre-migraine
symptoms may include fatigue, depression, and excessive yawning.
Aura frequently begins with shimmering, jagged arcs of white
or colored light progressing through the visual field in the course of 10-20
minutes. This may be preceded or replaced by dark areas or other visual
disturbances. Numbness and tingling are common, especially of the face and
palms. These sensations may spread and may be accompanied by a sense of
weakness or heaviness in the affected areas.
Migraine pain can be present only on one side of the head,
though it may involve either, or change sides during attacks. The pain is usually
throbbing and may range from mild to incapacitating. It is frequently
accompanied by nausea or vomiting, painful sensitivity to light and sound, and
intolerance of scents or food. Blurred vision can also be common.
The pain tends to intensify over the first 30 minutes to
many hours and may last from a few hours to a day, or more. Subsequently, the
affected individual is usually weary and sensitive to sudden head movements.
Natural Remedies for Migraine
At the beginning of symptoms, in order to find natural ways to get rid of migraine, the migraine sufferer must
seek out a quiet, dark area and attempt to sleep.
– Placing a cold, damp cloth or a cold pack on the brow may
help. Additionally, linking a headband closely around the mind can alleviate
– Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or
intolerances. Identification and elimination of the offending food or foods can
decrease the incidence of migraines and/or relieve these headaches altogether.
Complementary & Integrative remedies for migraine may include:
• Acupressure. Pressing on the Gates of Consciousness (GB
20) points may relieve migraine.
• Acupuncture. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel
concluded that acupuncture may be a helpful treatment for headaches. The
essential oil rosemary eases migraine pain. Autogenic training is a form of
self-hypnosis developed in Germany in the 1930s that’s been shown in several
studies to alleviate the pain of gout.
•Cognitive behavior therapy. Valerian (Valeriana
officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), feverfew (Chrysanthemum
parthenium), ginger, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis),
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), linden, wood betony (Stachys Officinalis),
skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), or cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) may
• Hydrotherapy. Contrast showers, where a short hot shower
is followed by a long cold shower, can stop an oncoming migraine. A sexy
enema can temporarily relieve migraine pain.
• Naturopathy. Migraine headaches are among the most common
reasons for consulting cosmetic practitioners. Naturopaths normally treat
migraines with a mixture of supplements and mind/body methods.
• Relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, hypnosis,
visualization, breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation may stop
the progression of a migraine.
See how Yoga for Migraine can help you.
• Nutritional supplements. Clinical studies have shown that
vitamin B2 (riboflavin), magnesium, 5-HTP, or melatonin can reduce the severity
• Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS).
Prevention of Migraine
The frequency of migraine headaches may be lessened by
avoiding triggers. It’s helpful to monitor these causes by maintaining a
– One material which has been studied as a potential migraine
preventive is coenzyme Q10, a compound used by cells to produce the energy needed
for cell growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 was analyzed as a potential
complementary therapy for cancer. Its usage in preventing migraines is
reassuring and merits further research. Ongoing work is going on to find a natural cure for migraines.
– A research published in early 2003 reported that three drugs
now used to treat disorders of muscle tone are being explored as potential
preventive remedies for migraines. They’re botulinum toxin type A (Botox),
baclofen (Lioresal), and tizanidine (Zanaflex).
– A Pure prep made from butterbur root (Petasites hybridus)
was marketed in Germany since the 1970s as a migraine Preventive under the
trade name Petadolex.
– Other possible preventive steps include: eating at regular
intervals, maybe not skipping meals, reducing the use of caffeine and
pain-relievers, restricting physical exertion (especially on warm days), and
maintaining regular sleep, but maybe not oversleeping. Other steps include:
• Aerobic exercise, that can reduce the frequency of
• Biofeedback thermal control was found to be as effective
as medications in Preventing migraines.
• Celery juice absorbed twice daily may help to prevent
• Feverfew was demonstrated to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. This Herb shouldn’t, however, be used during pregnancy
or by individuals taking Blood-thinning medications.
• Ginger may help prevent migraines.
• A preliminary study found that pulsing Electromagnetic
fields reduced the frequency of migraines.
• Supplementation with magnesium and riboflavin
was shown to stop migraines
Case studies of migraine by practitioners
You can gain valuable insight by examining the many migraine case studies and success stories by holistic practitioners the world over. Each case study reflects the challenge and personal approach used based on the patient’s background and genetic history.
These are a few examples:
You can also find other Member Stories and therapy ideas from experts here.