How to prevent migraine
You can lower your chances of migraine by identifying the early warning signs and triggers of a migraine episode.
The American Migraine Foundation notes that over 39 million people in America live with migraine.
Ways to prevent migraine from occurring include:
- taking preventive medications
- keeping a migraine diary
- taking supplements
- natural treatments, including acupuncture and monitoring sleep
1. Migraine prevention medications
If you’re experiencing frequent and severe migraine attacks, a doctor may prescribe preventive medications (also known as prophylactics). You usually need to take them daily. These medications can help stop migraine from occurring entirely or reduce the severity of an attack.
Medication can help reduce symptoms such as:
Types of preventive migraine medication include:
Topiramate (Topamax) can treat epileptic seizures, but it can also effectively prevent migraine or decrease the frequency of episodes.
It is available in three forms:
- liquid syrup
Those who see a positive effect after using topiramate for 6–8 weeks should continue the medication for up to 6 months to receive maximum benefits.
Take this medication with caution if you have kidney problems, liver problems, or are pregnant.
Propranolol (Inderal) is a type of beta-blocker medication and is the most commonly prescribed drug for migraine prevention. A 2017 review found that propranolol was more effective than a placebo in the short‐term treatment of migraine.
Side effects of propranolol include:
As propranolol may make you feel dizzy and tired, it’s recommended that you take it at bedtime. You should avoid this medication if you have asthma.
Antidepressants are medications commonly used as migraine preventives and can lower the frequency at which you experience migraine. They work by modifying the serotonin levels in your brain and interrupting any signals that could prompt a migraine attack.
Common side effects include:
A 2019 review of antidepressants found that they can effectively prevent migraine. But, there is also a substantial chance of a withdrawal effect, so it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional about which treatment options will work best for you.
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2. Keeping a migraine diary
A migraine diary can help you identify the triggers and warning signs of a migraine episode.
Here are some examples of what you can keep track of:
- duration of the migraine episode
- what medications you’re taking
- what you eat and drink
- the severity of the migraine attack, this can be rated on a scale of 1–10
- symptoms such as nausea or changes to vision
If you menstruate and experience regular migraine, it can be helpful to monitor the time of an episode throughout your cycle.
The National Headache Foundation recommends tracking the characteristics of your attacks to help a doctor determine the most beneficial treatment option for you.
Nutrient deficiencies in the body can often cause migraine. Daily supplements can play a vital role in treating migraine and decreasing early symptoms.
Types of supplements that can help improve migraine episodes include:
- vitamin D
- vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- coenzyme q10
Talk with your doctor about nonprescription supplements to help alleviate your symptoms.
4. Preventing migraine naturally
There are many ways to prevent migraine through drug-free treatments such as natural remedies and simple lifestyle changes. These include:
A 2016 review into the effectiveness of acupuncture for migraine prevention found that it could reduce the frequency of episodes.
Monitoring stress levels
Migraine attacks can occur due to high-stress levels in our daily lives. This can cause you to hold more tension in some body regions, such as the head, neck, and shoulders.
Holding tension in these specific areas of the body can trigger migraine. This includes:
- stiffening your shoulders
- grinding your teeth
- tensing facial or body muscles
By taking the steps needed to manage your stress levels and paying attention to tense areas of the body during moments of stress, you can decrease your chance of a migraine attack.
According to a 2020 systematic review, migraine can be triggered by a lack of sleep and waking up often throughout the night.
If you experience migraine, it’s essential to establish a regular sleeping schedule by ensuring you are going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. Any changes in your sleep pattern can trigger migraine episodes.
Experts recommend not napping for more than 20–30 minutes during the day or drinking caffeine too close to bedtime to improve sleep quality.
Experiencing migraine episodes can affect your daily life, but you can learn to detect and stop an incoming migraine by learning to recognize your triggers and the early warning signs.
Taking medications or making simple lifestyle changes, such as monitoring your sleeping habits and stress levels, can help improve your symptoms and lower the chance of migraine.
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- American Migraine Foundation. (n.d.). https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/
- Burch R. (2019). Antidepressants for preventive treatment of migraine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30895388/
- Dihydroergotamine (DHE) for migraine treatment. (2021). https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/dhe-for-migraine/
- Headache diary: Keeping a diary can help your doctor help you. (n.d.). https://headaches.org/resources/headache-diary-keeping-a-diary-can-help-your-doctor-help-you/
- Linde K, et al. (2016). Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4977344/
- Linde K, et al. (2017). Propranolol for migraine prophylaxis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6464045/
- Nattagh-Eshtivani E, et al. (2018). The role of nutrients in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine headaches: Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29571016/
- NIOSH training for nurses on shift work and long work hours. (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/work-hour-training-for-nurses/longhours/mod7/05.html
- Supplements for treating migraine. (n.d.). https://migrainetrust.org/live-with-migraine/healthcare/treatments/supplements/
- Tiseo C, et al. (2020). Migraine and sleep disorders: A systematic review. https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-020-01192-5