woman receiving acupuncture
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Acupuncture

In this traditional Chinese practice, an expert inserts tiny needles at specific points on your body. Small studies suggest it can ease migraine pain and may also lower the number of headaches. You should still keep up with your other treatments, too.

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monitoring biofeedback
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Biofeedback

Your body responds to pain with physical changes like a faster heart rate, tensed muscles, or cold hands. In biofeedback, sensors measure these shifts, then feed the information to you as a blinking light or a tone you can hear. You learn to respond to the feedback and relax your muscles. Some studies show it can often reduce headache pain and the frequency of attacks.

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woman massaging man
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Massage

Although it hasn't been studied in depth, massage may lower the number of headaches in some people, early research shows. It doesn't help with pain once a migraine starts. Massage can also ease stress, a common migraine trigger.

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woman meditating on beach
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Relaxation Techniques

Because migraine is often triggered by stress, relaxation training is a great idea. Methods include deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, in which you tense and relax the muscles in different parts of your body. With practice, this technique can improve how you handle stress, which may decrease migraine frequency.

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woman running on treadmill
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Exercise

Regular cardio exercise -- workouts that get your heart pumping -- could make a difference. A Swedish study compared exercise with relaxation and a drug that prevents migraine. The cardio routine -- 40 minutes, three times a week -- worked as well as relaxation or medicine in cutting down on pain and how often headaches strike.

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chiropractor helping patient
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Spinal Manipulation

There's some question about whether this technique, also called getting "adjusted" by a chiropractor, can help with migraine symptoms. But one small study found it worked just as well as medication to prevent the headaches. 

There are some risks with this treatment, so talk to your doctor before trying it.

 

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woman in therapy session
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Talk Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing your thoughts and actions, may help you have fewer migraine symptoms.

Getting therapy doesn't mean you have emotional or mental problems. It can give you a fresh approach to situations that usually give you headaches. It works especially well when you also do other preventive treatments.

 

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detailed food diary
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Diet Changes

Some people find that certain foods trigger a migraine. Some of the most common culprits are alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, canned foods, cured or processed meats, aged cheeses, cultured dairy (such as yogurt), MSG, and aspartame.

Write down your meals and snacks in a "food diary" to help you remember what you ate before a headache came on. Then cut out these foods one at a time to see if it helps.

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woman massaging temples
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Pressure

Many people find that applying gentle pressure to the head, face, and neck during a migraine can help ease the pain. Techniques to try:

  • Press your brow line and under your eyes.
  • Rub your temples and jaw in a circular motion.
  • Massage the base of your skull with a tennis ball.

A variety of head wraps and bands claim to ease migraine pain. They're inexpensive and might be worth a try.

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sleepless woman with migraine
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Sleep

Studies show that poor sleep and migraine often go hand in hand. So rethink your routine. Things to try:

  • Don't read, watch TV, or listen to music in bed.
  • Don't take naps.
  • Don't eat heavy meals within a couple of hours of bedtime.
  • Don’t use your phone, laptop, or tablet at bedtime.

 

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couple working out on the beach
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Keep Up Good Habits

Your lifestyle can have a big impact on how often you get your headaches. These tips can help:

  • Don't skip meals.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.

 

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woman with pills
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Why Try Treatments That Aren't Drugs?

They may be a good option if you:

  • Don’t get relief from prescribed treatments
  • Have trouble with medicine side effects
  • Have a condition that keeps you from taking migraine drugs
  • Simply don't want to take medication

 

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female doctor talking to a patient
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Do Your Homework

If you’d like to try a new way to treat your migraine, your doctor can tell you how well it works and if there are any risks. She may know of an expert who specializes in these treatments. And she can check to make sure they won’t have bad side effects.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 07/19/2017 Reviewed by Lawrence C. Newman, MD on July 19, 2017

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SOURCES:

American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education.

American Headache Society: “Headache Toolbox Magnesium.”

Andrasik, F. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, July 2010.

Cochrane Summaries: "Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis."

Haupt, J. Neurology Now, May/June 2008.

Lipton, R. The Lancet Neurology, April 2010.

Medline Plus: "Coenzyme Q-10," "Feverfew," "Migraine Guidelines: What Works, What Doesn't," "Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)."

Migraine Research Foundation.

National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists: "What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?"

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Nelson, C.F, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, October 1998.

Nestoriuc, Y., Pain, March 2007.

Nicholson, R.A., Current Treatment Options in Neurology, Feb 2011.

Shepherd Pain Institute.

Sun-Edelstein, The Clinical Journal of Pain, June 2009.

UC Berkeley Health Services.

Varkey, E., Cephalalgia, October 2011.

Vijayan, N. Headache, January 1993.

Press release, FDA.

UptoDate: "Preventive treatment of migraine in adults."

Reviewed by Lawrence C. Newman, MD on July 19, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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