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When a Migraine Strikes

Body+Soul, April/May 2006

If you've done all you can but still get a migraine, your best bet is conventional medications. "Plain aspirin or ibuprofen works well for some people," says Dr. Cheryl Bushnell. Others may need prescription pain relievers or a triptan drug like Imitrex, which are safe if used moderately. According to Bushnell, the key to successful treatment is to determine what helps your migraines, and then do what is needed early to prevent the headache from getting worse. Applying a cold cloth or cooling menthol pad (such as Migraine Ice) to your forehead may also help ease pain by constricting blood vessels.

Some migraine sufferers find relief from caffeinated beverages. Although regular consumption of caffeine can trigger headaches, moderate amounts of it may relieve a migraine, possibly by constricting blood vessels in the head. "The first thing a lot of my patients do when they feel a migraine starting is grab a cup of coffee or a can of cola," says Bushnell. This remedy works best if you use caffeine only when you have a migraine.

In the end, however, your best bet may be to simply let a migraine run its course. "Do what's possible as far as treatment," says Dr. Andrew Weil. "But if all else fails, you may just need to lie down in a dark room and allow yourself to have the headache."

Migraine Prevention Plan