The Best Ways to Relieve Migraine Pain

By Dr. Pradyumna J. Oak in Centre for Neurosciences

Apr 24 , 2023 | 11 min read


Migraine pain can be debilitating and negatively affect one's quality of life. The best ways to relieve migraine pain include avoiding triggers such as stress, certain foods and lack of sleep. Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help relieve symptoms. Applying ice packs to the head or taking a hot shower can also provide relief. For chronic migraine sufferers, preventive medications and therapy may be necessary.

Tips to help relieve migraine pain early

1. Making oneself comfortable

When a migraine strikes, it is essential to make oneself comfortable to alleviate the symptoms. The first step is to find a quiet, dark place to rest, free from loud noises and bright lights. The person should also avoid sudden movements or bending down, which can worsen the migraine pain.

Applying a cold or warm compress to the head, neck or forehead can also help reduce pain and discomfort. Additionally, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga can help reduce stress and tension, which are common triggers for migraines.

2. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for migraine prevention and treatment. People should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and establish a regular sleep schedule, including weekends. They should also ensure that their sleep environment is conducive to quality sleep, with comfortable bedding, a cool and quiet room and a comfortable mattress. 

Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bedtime can also promote better sleep. One can create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book. If one experiences difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, they should speak to a healthcare professional for guidance on improving their sleep quality.

3. Eat wisely

Certain foods and drinks can trigger migraine attacks, while others may help to prevent or alleviate symptoms. It's important to identify individual triggers and avoid them as much as possible. Some common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and foods high in sodium or nitrates. 

On the other hand, some foods that may help to prevent migraines include those rich in magnesium, like leafy greens and nuts, and those high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and other fatty fish. Stay hydrated and eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. A registered dietitian can help create a personalized diet plan to manage migraines.

4. Manage stress

Stress can trigger migraines and make them more severe. Therefore, it's crucial to learn stress management techniques to help reduce the likelihood of a migraine attack. Some effective stress management techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi and other forms of relaxation therapy. Regular exercise can also help to reduce stress levels and prevent migraines. 

Additionally, prioritize self-care and make time for activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as spending time in nature, reading a book or listening to calming music. Seeking professional counseling or therapy can also be helpful in managing stress and preventing migraine pain.

5. Maintain a journal for tracking migraine occurrences

Maintaining a journal to track migraine occurrences can be helpful in identifying triggers and managing symptoms. By keeping a record of when migraines occur, how long they last, and any associated symptoms, patterns may emerge that can help identify potential triggers. This information can then be used to make lifestyle changes, such as avoiding certain foods or reducing stress levels. 

In addition, tracking medication use and effectiveness can help to determine which treatments are most effective in managing symptoms. Keeping a migraine journal can also be helpful in communicating with healthcare providers about migraine history and treatment options. There are many apps and online tools available that make it easy to track migraines and other symptoms.

6. Strive for balance

Striving for a balanced lifestyle can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. This involves making healthy choices like following a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress levels. Migraines can be emotionally exhausting, so seek support from friends, family or a professional counselor if needed. 

Support groups can also be helpful in providing a sense of community and understanding for those living with migraines. One must have confidence in one's ability to manage the migraine pain and to advocate for oneself when seeking medical care. With a positive outlook and healthy habits, it's possible to live a fulfilling life with migraines.

7. Use a hot or cold pad on the top or back of the neck

Cold packs can help to reduce inflammation and numb the pain, while hot packs can help to relax tense muscles and improve blood flow. Experiment with both temperatures to see which works best for individuals. Some people find that alternating between hot and cold packs can provide additional relief. 

Be sure to protect the skin by wrapping the pack in a towel or cloth before applying it to the neck. Additionally, it's essential to avoid leaving the pack on for too long, as prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can be harmful.

8. Stay hydrated

Dehydration is a common migraine trigger, so it's important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Water is the best choice, but other fluids like herbal tea, coconut water and low-sugar sports drinks can also be hydrating. Drink fluids regularly throughout the day, rather than waiting until feeling thirsty. 

One should aim for at least 8-10 glasses of fluid per day, or more if one is exercising or in a hot climate. If it is difficult to drink plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or cucumber for flavor. Staying hydrated can help to prevent migraines and alleviate symptoms for those who experience them.

9. Massage

Massage therapy is a non-invasive approach that has been used to alleviate the symptoms of migraine headaches. When applied correctly, massage can provide relief by reducing muscle tension, promoting relaxation, and increasing blood flow to the affected area.

To help treat migraine pain, address symptoms as soon as possible. At the first sign of a migraine, individuals can begin by gently massaging the temples, forehead and neck. A light circular motion with the fingers can be used to release tension in these areas. For those who experience migraines regularly, a professional massage therapist can provide additional techniques and targeted pressure points to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine symptoms. 

10. Meditation

Meditation involves focusing the mind on a specific thought or object, with the goal of achieving a state of calmness and relaxation. Regular meditation practice can help to reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being, which can in turn help to prevent migraines. There are many different types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, body scan meditation, and loving-kindness meditation, among others. 

It's essential to find a type of meditation that works for oneself and to practice regularly, even if it's just for a few minutes each day. Some people find it helpful to use guided meditation apps or recordings to help them get started. 

11. Smell the lavender

The scent of lavender has a calming effect on the nervous system, which can help to alleviate migraine pain and reduce stress levels. There are many ways to use lavender for migraine relief, including using lavender essential oil in a diffuser or applying it topically to the temples or back of the neck. 

Some people also find that drinking lavender tea can be helpful. Choose high-quality lavender essential oil and dilute it properly before applying it topically. Note that some people may be allergic to lavender, so it's best to test a small patch of skin before using it. 

12. Prevent attacks with exercise

Exercise has many benefits for overall health, including reducing stress levels, improving sleep quality, and promoting a healthy weight. These factors can all help to prevent migraines, as stress, poor sleep, and obesity are common migraine triggers. Exercise can also improve blood flow and reduce inflammation, which can help to prevent migraines. 

However, make sure to start slowly and gradually increase intensity and duration, as sudden intense exercise can actually trigger migraines in some people. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, and be sure to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise. 

13. Try caffeine

Caffeine can be an effective and fast-acting remedy for migraines for some people. It can help to constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation, which can relieve migraine pain. In fact, some over-the-counter migraine medications contain caffeine for this reason. However, use caffeine in moderation, as too much caffeine can actually trigger migraines in some people. 

One must choose a source of caffeine that works for them, as some people may be more sensitive to caffeine from coffee or tea, while others may find it more effective from a cola or energy drink. It's best to avoid consuming caffeine too late in the day, as it can interfere with sleep and potentially trigger migraines.

14. Address teeth grinding or excessive chewing

Teeth grinding and excessive chewing can be common causes of migraines. This is because both of these habits can put extra pressure on the jaw and cause tension headaches. If one thinks they might be grinding their teeth or excessively chewing, it's important to talk to a dentist. The dentist may recommend a mouthguard or other device to help prevent teeth grinding, or they may suggest adjusting one’s bite to help reduce pressure on the jaw. 

One must be aware of these habits during the day and try to consciously relax the jaw muscles. Stress reduction techniques like meditation and yoga can also help to reduce tension in the jaw and prevent migraines.

15. Eat ginger

Ginger is a natural remedy that has been used for centuries to help manage migraines. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. These compounds can help to reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and muscles in the head, which can relieve migraine pain. 

Ginger can be consumed in many forms, including fresh ginger root, ginger tea, ginger candies, or ginger supplements. However, some people may experience side effects from consuming too much ginger, such as upset stomach or heartburn. It's important to talk to a healthcare provider before taking ginger supplements, especially if one is taking medications or has underlying health conditions. 

16. Take medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to relieve mild to moderate migraine pain. Triptans are prescription medications that work by constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation and can be effective for moderate to severe migraines. 

Preventive medications such as beta-blockers or antiepileptic drugs can also be prescribed to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. However, it's crucial to talk to a doctor before taking any medications for migraines, as some medications may have side effects or interact with other medications. It is recommended to take medications in moderation and not rely on them too heavily, as overuse of pain medications can actually lead to more frequent migraines.

17. Recognise triggers

Triggers are factors that can contribute to the development of a migraine attack. Common triggers include stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, certain foods and beverages, and environmental factors such as bright lights or strong smells. Keeping a migraine journal can help identify triggers and avoid them in the future. After identifying one’s triggers, one can take steps to avoid or reduce exposure to them. 

For example, if one finds that caffeine triggers migraines, one may want to limit their intake of coffee or tea. If one finds that bright lights trigger their migraines, they may want to wear sunglasses or avoid bright lights whenever possible. 

18. Treat it early

It is essential to take the right measures at the right time when it comes to treating migraine headaches. Delaying in taking preventive steps or treating the symptoms can increase the chances of getting a more severe migraine. 

A prodrome is the first warning sign of a migraine attack, and it is recommended to take the medication in the prodromal stage to increase the chances of avoiding more severe migraines. Some people have pre-attack signs that can vary among individuals, such as being sensitive to light and sound, mood changes, difficulty focusing, craving carbohydrates and being tired and yawning more than usual. It is possible to proactively manage migraines if the prodrome signs can be identified. 

19. Make a Migraine Pain treatment plan

Developing a positive relationship with the doctor is essential for any individual looking to effectively manage their migraine. One needs to review symptoms and triggers with one’s doctor so one can form a proper treatment plan. This plan will not only help manage pain during a migraine but also keep them from forming in the first place. 

When formulating the treatment plan, some important points to include are determining the type of migraine one has, recognizing one’s triggers and avoiding them. Also, it's essential to stay healthy and make sure to get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Creating a plan for when an acute migraine attack happens, as well as when to seek extra help from the doctor is also important to manage migraines.


In conclusion, there are several effective ways to alleviate migraine pain. These include identifying and avoiding trigger factors, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, practicing stress management techniques, staying hydrated and taking medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional. 

It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, and seeking the guidance of a healthcare professional is always recommended. With a combination of lifestyle changes and proper treatment, individuals with migraines can find relief and improve their quality of life.