I’ve suffered from migraines since I was a 7th grader in elementary school. To this day no one knows what’s the reason behind it and how to actually relieve it, apart from my doctor giving me a medicine that hits as strong as a horse’s kick. I could take all the painkillers out there, nothing else would work.
My migraines come in waves. Sometimes I’m free of them for months, other times I get them for the entire day for a week and it makes my whole skull ache. Once I even went to the dentist to check if it was an actual migraine or my whole head hurt because of a bad cavity. There are times when I get the migraine from big shifts in weather or when I’m stressed.
But if you’re anything like me or you ever experienced a killer headache, and there are over 45 million mostly female migraine sufferers in America alone, you know that you’ll do just about anything to escape the debilitating pain of a migraine. Personally I hate to take medication, and I only take my horse-kick-power meds when really nothing else works and I couldn’t be more miserable, and I’d rather suffer from the pain than taking it too often as it would damage my already damaged kidneys even more. I started to look for natural, holistic solutions.
Understanding Migraine Attacks
I could compare migraines to a thunderstorm—they usually happen unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere. They stay for a while, discharging loud thunder and electrified lightning. According to Dr. M.O. Bruker, a German doctor and author, the real task for any migraine patient is to find out how to reduce overwhelm in order to prevent reoccurring migraine attacks. “Migraines are meant to show us the right way to live our life. In a way, migraine patients are blessed with this disease. They’re most likely very sensitive human beings, unable to process too much emotion and stress at a time. By experiencing migraines, one is forced to live a life according to their individual needs.”
I took a look at my migraine notes that I was advised to write when I first got that terrible headache in 7th grade. I realized how I was migraine-free when I lived my life my way and suffered a lot when I had issues, along with other symptoms like tense neck, shoulder and back muscles, bad posture, dehydration. I understood the nature of my migraines—90% of the time they are emotional, 10% is because of sudden weather changes, and suddenly it wasn’t my enemy anymore. I began working with it in a more mindful way—for the first time ever I saw a true possibility for healing.
The Early Signs of Migraine
At the beginning, early signs of a migraine attack weren’t easy to catch—it might be a tension in my neck and shoulders, inability to concentrate, general exhaustion, busy, ruminating mind or even feeling anxious for no reason at all. In order to determine my personal early signs, it was crucial to take small breaks throughout the day and tune in with my body and how it feels. Since migraines affect our whole body and mind, any solution to it must be holistic. Practicing meditation, yoga, or other forms of relaxation helps me a lot to cure the overwhelm that leads to migraines.
Easing the pain
Sometimes, yoga and meditation, staying hydrated and stretching and massaging my neck muscles several times a day help to avoid a migraine or to decrease it to the level of an uncomfortable feeling in my head and neck. But there are times when the emitional turmoil is just too big and my ADHD brain can’t stop running on the things that bother me or I’m in a situation I can’t escape and I need more help to ease the pain.
Neck stretching asanas
Stretching my neck when I feel the a headache on the corner is one of the most important first aid methods for me. There are some easy stretches that you can do anywhere, even at your computer at work, like the most basic neck stretch—just sit straight and roll your shoulders back, then drop your right ear to your right shoulder without the left shoulder rising. You can feel a stretch from this too, but you can roll your head a bit, life your chin up and down to find the exact spot you need to relax. My favorite asana that works wonders is the same position, but before dropping my ear to my shoulder I like to interlace my hands behind my back and take my fist over to the right side and rest it on my waist, then drop my right ear to the right shoulder. The stretch will be super intense on the left side but it’s worth it. I do the pose on both sides for at least 5 minutes, being careful not to overstretch because it’s easy to pull on the muscles here.
Tension headaches are usually stress-related and can be caused by muscular tension in the neck, shoulders, or jaw. For these types of headaches, both acupuncture needles, gua sha, and/or cupping can be used to unbind muscle adhesions and tightness, often relieving the pain while the patient is on the table. Since I don’t have constant access to acupuncture or cupping session, my go to is a gua sha and a jade roller, both used when they are cold. Massaging my forehead, temples, jaw muscles and neck does wonders with migraines.
Indian Marma therapy
Marma chikitsā is rarely used alone, it is most often utilized as part of a comprehensive, multi-faceted treatment program, but can be used alone effectively for immediate pain relief, long-term pain management and for first aid. Marma are the vital areas of the body. In general, stimulating a marma enhances the flow of prana (life force energy) locally and thereby reduces pain.
There are 3 point I love to massage on my head: Murdhi (the crown of one’s head and in line with the top of your ears) and Manyamula marma (center back nape at the base of your skull) points and a third point located at the bridge of your nose, right under the end of your eyebrows. Massaging these point for several minutes with my thumbs help ease the pain.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Chinese Medical theory problems such as anxiety, insomnia or too much stress trigger migraines because they impede the Liver’s function of circulating lifeblood to the head, and, unsettle the Heart which is at the foundation of the person’s mental state. To alleviate migraine pain caused by stress, anxiety and/or insomnia, Chinese Medicine uses a combination of acupuncture and specific herbs to sooth the Liver and the Heart; clear out the Fire and control the rising Yang energy which, while relieving the patient’s stress and improving their sleep, can alleviate the related migraine pains.
Magnesium is used in more than 300 biochemical reactions, so you can imagine the 300 shades of struggle if you lack magnesium. Magnesium is used to treat a variety of conditions including tense muscles and blood stasis, or blood not flowing as well as it could be, which can lead to migraines and tension headaches. Magnesium has been scientifically found to serve as an acute treatment of both.
Angelica Root (Dong Quay)
Angelica root helps dissipate cold and enhance the meridian flow of the head, which both relieves headaches that are already present and prevents migraines from occurring (source).
Organic Reishi Mushroom
A research study published in the “International Journal of Pharmacy” in 2012 examined the effect of the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidium) on migraine symptoms. Reishi is a traditional medicine for treating migraines in East and Central Asia. A study examined the effect of Reishi on the frequency and duration of migraines. The Reishi mushroom has balancing effects on the nervous system; it allows the body to better handle stress and tension and allows for a more restful sleep.
CBD is one of the most well-known compounds in hemp and cannabis sativa plants. While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) causes an intoxicatingly psychoactive high, CBD alone does not, so do not worry if you never used it before. When examining CBD alone, studies show the cannabinoid can be an effective treatment option for chronic pain. One survey conducted by Axon Relief—a company developing products for migraine relief—found CBD may lead to a reduction in migraine days and help decrease the impact of migraines. I always take a few drops of CBD oil and hold in under my tongue for 2-3 minutes while I’m doing my neck stretches, then swallow it. This little trick helps to get the active ingredients to get to your brain quicker as the capillaries in your mouth transfer them up to your head more quickly (same reason why holding alcohol in your mouth makes you drunk faster).
The healing process is always an individual approach, the pain and the causes behind it differs from person to person. There’s not one single cause for a disease as complex as migraines. That’s why this is not a step-by-step recipe, but rather food for thought and reflection on the topic. If we’re able to figure out our personal “why” and make changes to our lives according to that, the disease will more than likely leave us for good.
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