Relief from migraines.

Migraine headaches can cause severe pain on one side of the head. Fortunately, treatment can provide relief.  

by Nashville General Hospital
woman with a headache

Migraine is a neurological condition that can cause severe headaches. These headaches are characterized by an intense throbbing pain, which can affect one or both sides of the head. 

While most migraines are not considered a major health threat, they can interfere with daily activities. In addition to a headache, other symptoms of a migraine may include:

  • Pain that gets worse when you move.
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting.
  • Unusual sensitivity to light, sounds and smells.
  • Feeling weak or dizzy.

What can cause migraines?

A migraine headache can be the result of one or more factors. Some factors that could trigger a migraine include:

  • Lack of, or too much, sleep.
  • Skipped meals.
  • Bright lights.
  • Loud noises.
  • Strong odors or fumes.
  • Sudden changes in weather.
  • Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle.
  • Stress, overexertion or anxiety.
  • Caffeine, either too much or withdrawal.
  • Foods that contain nitrates, such as hot dogs and lunch meats.
  • Foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer found in fast foods, broths, seasonings and spices.
  • Foods that contain tyramine, a natural compound found in some plants and animals. Foods to avoid are aged cheeses, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, smoked fish and Chianti wine.
  • Aspartame, an artificial sweetener.

Migraine relief.

Untreated, a migraine can last up to 72 hours. At the onset of a migraine, symptoms may be reduced by taking the following steps:

  • Drink a small amount of caffeine.
  • Rest with your eyes closed in a quiet, dark room.
  • Place an ice pack or cool cloth on your forehead.
  • Drink lots of liquids.
  • Take any prescribed medications to treat migraines or other pain relievers to help provide relief from the pain as soon as you feel the onset of a migraine. 

Preventing migraine attacks.

To help prevent further migraine attacks consider these lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid situations that can trigger a migraine.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol in your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Develop a daily sleep routine and stick to that schedule.
  • Eat regularly scheduled meals. Do not skip meals.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Reduce the amount of stress in your life.
  • Practice stress-management techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing.

If you do not get relief from your migraine for several days, have other symptoms, or the frequency increases, you should talk with your doctor about your condition. The neurology team at Nashville General Hospital can help diagnose and treat migraines. To learn more about our services and make an appointment, visit the Neurology website.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should talk with your primary care physician or other qualified medical professionals regarding diagnosis and treatment of a health condition.