How to Find Migraine Relief at Home
A migraine ice hat or ice cap is a home remedy for a migraine headache. Other home remedies may reduce the severity or frequency of a migraine attack, including relaxation techniques, exercise, herbs, vitamins, and minerals.
When looking for at home migraine relief, a quick online search will pull up several options for ice caps or ice hats for migraines. Some of these cover your head and your eyes and they cost about 40 dollars. If you are one of the 12 percent of Americans that suffer with migraines, you are probably interested in any home remedy that can give you relief from those pounding headaches.
The Migraine Ice Hat
There is not much recent research to support the use of the ice hat, but the use of ice is a very popular remedy among migraine sufferers. In fact, it may be the first or second home remedy that people with migraines use when they have an attack. Along with getting to a quiet dark space, drinking lots of water, lying down, and closing your eyes, Mayo Clinic and the National Headache Foundation both recommend a cold compress or ice pack over your eyes and forehead.
Although there are no big clinical trials that compare the use of an ice cap to a placebo or another home remedy, there was one small study in 2006 published in the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In this study, 26 women used a cold gel pack very similar to the ones being sold today. The cap was removed from the freezer and slipped over the head and ears. There was also a cover for the eyes. The women in the study used the cold gel pack at the start of a migraine attack for 25 minutes.
Before using the ice cap treatment, the women rated their pain from one to 10. They rated the pain again after the 25-minute treatment. The average pain score went from almost eight down to just below two. The researchers concluded that cold application may be effective for some patients suffering from a migraine attack. So, a modern-day ice hat may be a home remedy option for you, but you might get the same result with a simple cold cloth or ice pack wrapped in a towel, as suggested by the Mayo Clinic.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), relaxation techniques for migraine headaches can release the body’s natural relaxation response and this response may help during a migraine attack or may reduce stress that triggers and attack. Examples of relaxation techniques include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises and mind body exercises. These techniques can be learned and used at home to relieve or reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Examples of mind body exercise are Tai Chi and yoga. Tai Chi is a Chinese exercise that combines controlled breathing, meditation, and slow graceful movement. Regular aerobic exercise and yoga reduce tension and can help reduce migraine attacks, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Herbs Vitamins, and Minerals
Over-the counter (OTC) supplements made from herbs, vitamins, or minerals are other popular home remedies. Most of these remedies have little research to support their use, but a few have been effective in some small clinical trials:
- Butterbur is a plant extract available as a supplement. There was enough evidence for this supplement for the American Academy of Neurology to recommend it until 2015, when it became apparent that butterbur could cause serious liver damage. This option should be avoided unless you discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor, advises NCCIH.
- Coenzyme Q10 is a natural substance of the body that acts as an antioxidant. A review of six studies concluded that this supplement may shorten and decrease migraine attacks, but the benefits were small. This supplement has no serious side effects but may interfere with insulin or the blood thinner warfarin.
- Feverfew is an herbal supplement that has been studied for migraine and may be sold as a migraine supplement, but the studies are described as inconsistent and this supplement has several side effects, including rash and indigestion. It is not recommended by NCCIH.
- Magnesium is a mineral that is natural in the body and studies show that it may reduce the frequency of migraines but it needs to be taken in high doses for this effect, which can result in stomach ache, nausea, and diarrhea. Large doses of magnesium are not considered safe.
- Riboflavin is a B vitamin that has been studied for prevention of migraines. Some studies suggest it may help, and it is a safe supplement without side effects or interference with medications.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats found in cold water fish like salmon and mackerel. Studies show that a diet high in these fats may reduce migraine frequency and severity, but the same benefits have not been shown in to occur in supplement form.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, there are some lifestyle changes that are strongly supported and can benefit anyone with migraine. The acronym SEEDS can help you remember these important changes:
- S is for sleep. Poor sleep is a common migraine trigger. You should get seven to eight hours of sleep every night and keep the same schedule for going to sleep and getting up in the morning. Have a bedtime routine and make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable.
- E is for exercise. Thirty to 50 minutes of moderate intensity exercise increases brain chemicals called endorphins that that reduce migraine attacks. Make exercise a daily priority.
- E is for eating. Eat a heart healthy diet and eat meals at regular hours. Avoid sugar added and processed foods. Don’t skip meals or try fasting diets. Hunger is a migraine trigger. So is dehydration, so drink plenty of water. Red wine may be a trigger for migraines and caffeine can dehydrate you.
- D is for dairy. There are many possible migraine triggers and different people may have different triggers. Keeping a headache diary is the best way to find your triggers and avoid them. Keeping track of the number of headaches you have, when they occur, and how long they last will help your doctor develop the best treatment plan for you.
- S is for stress. Stress is a universal trigger for migraine. Avoid stress when you can, and use your relaxation techniques when you can’t.
Finally, you should know that home remedies are no substitute for medical treatment. Most people with migraines will benefit most from medications. Fortunately, there are lots of options that include medications to relieve pain, stop an attack, and prevent or limit attacks. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment plan, one that includes medications, home remedies, and lifestyle changes.
To learn more, access our free special health report on headache relief.
One study found that wearing an "ice cap" for migraine relief brought pain down from an 8 to a 2.