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How to stop a migraine

5th February 2020

For anyone who’s ever experienced a migraine, they’ll know how painful they can be and how much they can distract from (or even write off) your day. Because of this, migraine sufferers will want to know how to stop one in its tracks.

How to stop a migraine

A lot of people who suffer from migraines will find that each attack is quite similar, which can help you look out for warning signs or triggers and stop it early. Common early signs of a migraine are usually vision-related, with people reporting symptoms such as blurriness, blind spots or visual disturbances (wiggly lines or flashing lights). 

Having visual disturbances along with the headache is known as a migraine with aura and it's the most common kind. This means that most people should receive some kind of warning that a migraine is beginning.

Find a quiet, dark room

One of the most common migraine symptoms is a sensitivity to light and sound, so your first of call should be to remove these triggers if you can. Find a dark, quiet room to relax, practising breathing techniques or meditation if you find that this helps.

This can help to shorten the migraine attack and even lessen its severity.

Work with compression and massage

A lot of people find that holding a cold compress against their head can help to stop a migraine. This is because the temperature stimulates other nerve endings and can have a numbing effect. Just be sure never to place anything frozen directly onto your bare skin as this can do more harm than good.

If hot or cold compresses don’t work for you then simply massaging the temples can have a similar effect.

Reach for medication

The best way to stop a migraine is to treat it with medication and more importantly, to treat it early. The faster you can recognise signs of a migraine and take medication, the better.

Medications that are effective at treating migraines are a category of medicines called ‘triptans’. Triptans work by stimulating serotonin to constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation. 

These kinds of medications are usually prescription-only and common ones include Frovatriptan, Sumatriptan, Zolmitriptan and Rizatriptan (and their branded counterparts).

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Even for non-migraine sufferers, dehydration can be a leading trigger for headaches. If you feel a migraine coming on, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Stick to water or sugar-free fruit squash and avoid large amounts of caffeine, as this can have the opposite effect.

How to prevent a migraine

If you’re getting migraines frequently and find that they’re becoming disruptive to your life, then you may be more interested in preventing them, rather than just treating them.

Regular migraine sufferers may benefit from a preventative medication. Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant but it has a variety of uses and is regularly prescribed for pain conditions like arthritis. It’s also an effective prophylactic (preventative) in migraine treatment.

Those looking for migraine prevention medication may also consider a beta-blocker such as Propranolol SR. These work by changing the way your body (particularly your heart) responds to certain impulses, and have been shown to effectively prevent migraines.