A New Way of Preventing Migraines

How to reduce your migraine frequency

If you get a lot of migraines, you, like most sufferers, will probably have looked around in vain for a cure: there just isn’t one for most people. However, I have found a technique that prevents about 80% of my migraines, and reduces the intensity of most of the rest, and I will share it with you here.

Note that migraines can be caused by lots of things. In some cases, they can be a symptom of life-threatening conditions, so if your migraines are new, or have changed their characteristics, get them checked out by a doctor or specialist in addition to trying any techniques or remedies I or others may describe. I am not a doctor and am not qualified to give any medical advice at all. What I say here is for information purposes only and you will have to figure out what, if any of it, applies to your own particular case, perhaps in conjunction with a medical professional.

The Botox Alternative Method To Prevent Migraines

Some years ago, cosmetic surgeons reported that some customers who had had botox injections to reduce their wrinkles found that they also stopped getting migraines while the botox was operating (it lasts about three months, I understand). This is being promoted by some companies as a potential migraine treatment, but adequate scientific studies to prove its efficacy are in short supply at the moment.

However, I got to thinking about what botox does: it temporarily paralyzes the muscles where it is injected, forcing them to stay relaxed and so preventing them from wrinkling up the skin that lies over them. Maybe it does other things too (it is after all a deadly poison), but I wondered if this muscle paralysis might be how it prevents the migraines. This thought didn’t lead to much in practical terms until I started doing the Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation. One day while doing this, I was in a pre-migraine state: tense, with no obvious cause, although the full-scale migraine aura hadn’t begun as yet. After a few minutes of meditating, or relaxing, basically, I felt a muscle in my left temple suddenly relax: I hadn’t even noticed that it was tense! I felt that strange cool-warm sensation as blood rushed back into that space where the muscle was - and my pre-migraine sensations faded away.

A few minutes later, the pre-migraine sensations came back, but I knew what was going on already, and I focused on that muscle. It didn’t seem tense to me, but I concentrated on relaxing it anyway - and after a bit, it did indeed relax again, a little bit, and the migraine sensations calmed down somewhat, but not completely. So, I carried on trying to relax the muscle more, and after a few minutes longer, it relaxed some more, along with the muscles around my left eye and, strangely, in the socket as well. A few minutes later, they all relaxed a bit further and the oncoming migraine was gone.

There are a number of points to note about this:

  • I was not aware that these muscles were tense in the first place - I have learned to recognize it since, but at the time, I was completely unconscious of the tension there;
  • These muscles are not normally under conscious control, so it takes a bit of effort and time to learn how to relax them, so be persistent;
  • Apart from the first time, the muscles seemed to relax in several stages: a little bit at first, then some more, and then yet more, over what in this case amounted to 10-15 minutes of my trying to relax them; Usually, but not always, I can relax them more quickly now that I have some practice;
  • You may find other muscles are causing some of  your migraines - for example, the muscles of the forehead and over the top of your head: these are often tense in people;
  • You might also look at your ‘habitual’ facial expression: most of us habitually tense certain muscles in and around our faces - maybe we frown a lot, or squint our eyes, or our glasses if we wear any cause us to tense the muscles on the sides of our head - there is a good chance that some of these, especially around the eyes and the temples if my example is typical, may have something to do with it in your case too;
  • Migraines have other causes too.

Other Migraine Triggers

You can read elsewhere about other known causes of migraine: it varies so much from one person to another. I shall just mention the commonest here, many of which may be basically mild food intolerances, either caused by or causing the migraines, but in any case known to be associated with them in many people:

  • Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and cocoa. Sorry!
  • Citrus fruit, especially oranges;
  • Beer, wine and red grapes particularly;
  • Caffeine (normal tea and coffee, coca-cola and other soft drinks containing caffeine);
  • Hormone problems, especially to do with women’s monthly cycle (but this could cause tension and muscle tension indirectly);
  • Aged cheeses;
  • Stress generally, either psychological or physical - anything from trouble at work to allowing yourself to get too hungry or thirsty can stress you - this may cause muscle tension too, of course;
  • Sleep irregularity - too little or too much;
  • Monosodium Glutamate - a flavour enhancer and common food additive, often used excessively in take-away foods - notoriously in Chinese take-aways;
  • Various medicines;
  • Changing weather or air pressure (thought to cause changes in serotonin levels in the brain, which affect how happy or depressed we feel).
  • Seasonal effects: more in the Winter, for example - this could be some sort of depressive, so-called Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by the short day length affecting hormones in the body - a SAD lamp may help.

While you can’t do much about some of these triggers, you can take anti-migraine tablets at the very first sign that a migraine may be coming on. If you leave it too late, common treatments like ibuprofen don’t work as well as they might: taken early enough I find that they can stop a migraine attack altogether sometimes (indeed, usually).

Early Warning Symptoms

Again, these differ from one individual to another, so you will have to monitor yourself carefully. Not all migraine sufferers get the ‘aura’ symptoms - flashing lights or partial blindness, tingling sensations, numbness and so on, but if you get these, you will know that the migraine pain is due to start within minutes (or up to six hours in some people). The aura is not really enough of an early warning if it happens at the last minute, but taking medicine at that point is better than waiting even another 5 minutes, I find. Personally I also find that so-called “long lasting” ibuprofen tablets (ones that last for up to 12 hours but contain the same dose as the regular tablets) taken at the time of the first early warning symptoms, usually work just fine. Long lasting tablets also result in my taking a lower dose of the medicine overall, which I think is a good thing: frequent large dosing with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol) is strongly associated with hearing problems in later life.

Other early warning symptoms, some of which can precede the migraine pain and aura by half a day or even up to two days, include:

  • stomach upsets; constipation and/or diarrhoea;
  • nausea;
  • normal headache;
  • stressed feelings, feeling temperamental or agitated;
  • muscle tension around the head!
  • appetite changes;
  • mood changes;
  • urinating more frequently (could be caused by other things like diabetes though);
  • digestive system shutting down (full feeling, food just sitting like a lump of lead in the stomach), although you may continue to get hungry - in this case I personally take ibuprofen lysine, which gets absorbed even if my digestive system has shut up shop for the day - the lysine wakes it up for a while so the ibuprofen is absorbed and the migraine prevented; a fruity or sugary drink can help a bit too, sometimes;
  • cravings for the foods that trigger migraines!
  • Enhanced sense of smell in the hours preceding the migraine;
  • Enhanced or longer-lasting after-images when you've seen a bright light;
  • General acute sensitivity to noise or other sensations can happen prior to a migraine.

Personally, symptoms or no symptoms, I keep an eye on my dodgy temple muscle - it tenses up incredibly often - and I relax it again every time I notice it has tensed up again. Often it tenses up again with seconds but I just persist with relaxing it once more. Sometimes I just can’t do it, so I relent and take a tablet (and keep trying to relax it nevertheless). Since doing this, the number of full migraines I get has reduced from about 3-4 per week to perhaps 1-2 a month.