What Is Migraine? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Migraine is not just a headache. It’s a neurological disease that can be disabling. It can lead to missing days of school or work, being less productive at school or work, being unable to perform household responsibilities, and missing out on family, social, and leisure activities.

An estimated one billion people worldwide, and 39 million Americans, have migraine. It occurs most often among people ages 20 to 50, and it’s about 3 times more common in women than men, according to an?article published in January 2022 in JAMA.

There is no cure for migraine, but treatments and lifestyle approaches can help minimize the number of attacks a person has and shorten or reduce the severity of those that do occur.

What Is Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological disease characterized by repeated episodes of symptoms, called attacks, that usually include headache, often accompanied by nausea; vomiting; sensitivity to light, touch, smell, or sound; dizziness; visual disturbances; and tingling or numbness in the face, hands, or feet.

Migraine attacks may come on suddenly without warning, or they may be preceded by certain known triggers, such as skipping a meal, being exposed to smoke or air pollution, or experiencing a change in hormone levels as part of the menstrual cycle.

The frequency of attacks varies from person to person. Some people have attacks several times a month, while others have them much less frequently.

Most migraine attacks last from 4 to 72 hours, per?Mayo Clinic, although effective treatment can shorten them to a matter of hours. On the other hand, some migraine attacks can last even longer than 72 hours.

While a variety of triggers can set off migraine attacks, triggers don’t directly cause the attacks or the underlying disease.

There are still gaps in doctors’ understanding of what causes migraine. However, some doctors describe the migraine brain as hyperactive, or supersensitive, by which they mean that the brain of someone with migraine reacts more strongly to environmental stimuli such as stress or sleep disturbance than the brain of someone who doesn’t have migraine, resulting in the symptoms known as a migraine attack.

Common Questions & Answers

What is the main cause of migraine?
Genetics play a strong role in causing migraine. People who have migraine have a 75 percent chance of having a first-degree relative with migraine. However, for most types of migraine, no specific gene has been identified as the underlying cause.
How do I know it’s a migraine attack?
Migraine attacks typically cause a pulsating or throbbing pain on one side of the head, although the pain can affect both sides of the head and sometimes the face. The pain of migraine usually develops gradually over hours, is made worse by routine physical activity, and is often accompanied by nausea, light sensitivity, and sound sensitivity.
What are common migraine triggers?
Changes in the weather and barometric pressure trigger migraine attacks for many. Common food triggers include alcohol, highly caffeinated beverages, and the flavoring agent MSG. Other common triggers include a change in your sleep schedule, dehydration, hunger, strenuous exercise, and bright light.
What’s the best thing to do for a migraine attack?
In the short term, taking a medication that can stop the migraine attack and practicing any lifestyle measures or home remedies that help ease symptoms is the best approach. In the long term, seeing a headache specialist for a comprehensive migraine treatment plan may help you reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.
How long is too long for a migraine attack?
Migraine attacks typically last between 4 and 72 hours, but they can be shortened significantly with treatment, and they can also last for several days. When the pain of a migraine attack is severe, lasts longer than 72 hours, and doesn’t respond to your usual migraine medications, it may be necessary to seek emergency help.

Types of Migraine

There are two main types of migraine, as outlined in the International Headache Society's (IHS)?classification of headache disorders: migraine with and migraine without aura.

Migraine with aura is further divided into four subtypes: migraine with typical aura, migraine with brain stem aura, hemiplegic migraine, and retinal migraine. And some of these subtypes have sub-subtypes of their own.

A person can have more than one type of migraine simultaneously, as well as other types of headaches.

Migraine is also categorized as chronic or episodic, based on the number of days per month a person has symptoms. Chronic migraine is defined by the IHS as headache occurring on 15 or more days per month for more than three months, which, on at least eight days per month, has the features of migraine headache.

Episodic migraine is defined as fewer than 15 days of migrainous symptoms per month.

An estimated 144 million people worldwide — and three to seven million Americans — have chronic migraine. As with episodic migraine, chronic migraine is up to 3 times more common in women than men, per the American Headache Society.

Identifying what type of migraine you have may help you and your doctor choose the right treatment for you. It can be essential if you want to participate in clinical trials.

Migraine Without Aura

Formerly known as common migraine, migraine without aura is characterized by a headache that’s usually on one side of the head, has a pulsating quality, is worsened by physical activity, and is accompanied by nausea or light and sound sensitivity.

Migraine without aura may have a prodrome, or warning, phase, in which a person has symptoms such as depression, food cravings, difficulty focusing, uncontrollable yawning, and others.

It can also have a postdrome phase, when the headache pain has receded, but a person feels tired and achy and has trouble concentrating.

Alternatively, a person may feel elated and even euphoric after the headache phase of a migraine has passed.

Migraine With Aura

Migraine with aura, formerly called classic migraine, occurs in up to 30 percent of people who have migraine, says the American Migraine Foundation (AMF). It usually causes the same symptoms as migraine without aura, except that the headache phase of the migraine attack is preceded by neurologic disturbances that may include visual, speech, or sensory changes.

Examples of visual aura include seeing stars, zigzags, or flashing lights; blurred vision; temporary blind or colored spots; and tunnel vision.

Sensory disturbances may include a feeling of pins and needles or numbness in a part of the body, face, or tongue.

In some cases, aura symptoms occur with no headache accompanying or following them.

Migraine With Brain Stem Aura

This type of migraine, formerly known as basilar-type migraine, is a rare type of migraine with aura. It usually includes neurologic symptoms such as double vision, problems speaking and hearing, dizziness, and loss of balance and coordination.

Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic migraine comes in two forms: familial hemiplegic migraine and sporadic hemiplegic migraine. Both are characterized by aura, fever, and hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body). Both are relatively rare.

Retinal Migraine

Retinal migraine is an extremely rare cause of temporary visual loss in one eye, per the?IHS. It’s diagnosed when a person has repeated attacks of one-sided visual disturbance — including the types of visual symptoms commonly seen in migraine aura — or blindness associated with migraine headache. These symptoms tend to evolve over five or more minutes, may last as long as an hour, and may be accompanied or followed by a headache.

Chronic Migraine

Chronic migraine is defined as headache occurring 15 or more days per month for at least three months, with the headache having migraine-like features on at least eight of those days.

Given the frequency of symptoms in chronic migraine, it can be impossible to determine when one migraine attack ends and another begins. It can also be difficult to determine whether an individual in fact has chronic migraine or has another condition, such as medication-overuse headache, that would be expected to cause daily or near-daily head pain.

According to The International Classification of Headache Disorders, keeping a detailed headache diary for at least month may be necessary to determine what sort of headache — or headaches — a person is experiencing.

Syndromes That May Be Associated With Migraine

Certain disorders occur more frequently among people with migraine or people, usually children, at a higher risk of developing migraine:

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome In cyclical vomiting syndrome, an individual experiences attacks of severe nausea and vomiting lasting an hour or more for up to 10 days at a time. Between attacks, which occur on a regular cycle, the person has no symptoms of nausea or vomiting.

Abdominal Migraine This type of episodic migraine is diagnosed mostly in children. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Kids who experience abdominal migraine often don’t have attacks involving headache in adolescence but go on to develop them as adults.

Benign Paroxysmal Vertigo In this syndrome, otherwise healthy children experience recurrent brief attacks of vertigo that come on without warning and resolve spontaneously without loss of consciousness. During the attacks, a child may have nystagmus (uncontrolled horizontal or vertical eye movement), impaired balance or coordination (called ataxia), vomiting, pale skin, and fearfulness.

Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis Occurring in infants and small children, this syndrome causes the head to tilt to one side, with or without slight rotation, and stay tilted for minutes to days before spontaneously resuming its normal position. During the attack, the infant or child may be pale and irritable, seem uncomfortable or generally unwell, vomit, or in older children, have impaired balance or coordination.

Other Types of Headaches

Other rare types of headaches include these varieties:

  • Cluster Headache These intensely painful headaches last 15 to 180 minutes without treatment and happen in cycles, or clusters, per the?IHS.
  • Paroxysmal Hemicranias Severe, sometimes throbbing pain on one side of the face or around the eyes lasts 2 to 30 minutes and occurs more than five times a day, says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • Ice-Pick Headache As the name implies, an ice-pick headache is a migraine characterized by stabbing pain. Fortunately, it is relatively uncommon and typically short in duration.
  • Intractable Headache Any headache, including migraine, that doesn't respond to treatment.
  • Occipital Neuralgia This disorder causes pain in the back of the head and upper neck.

Ask the Headache Specialist Live

Andrew Charles, MD, director of headache research and treatment and professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Allison Young, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in evidence-based lifestyle interventions.
Ask the Headache Specialist Live

Signs and Symptoms of Migraine

Symptoms of?migraine?vary depending on the type of migraine and on the person. In general, though, migraine attacks are very painful and can interfere with your daily life.

The most common symptom of migraine is head pain — often described as an intense throbbing or pulsating sensation, usually on one side of the head but sometimes on both sides of the head, and sometimes starting on one side of the head and moving to the other side.

In addition to head pain, these are the most commonly reported migraine signs and symptoms:

  • Light sensitivity, called photophobia, which contributes to the desire to seek out a dark space during attacks
  • Sound sensitivity, or phonophobia, which can make ordinary noises unbearable
  • Touch hypersensitivity, called allodynia, or pain resulting from gentle touches, such as brushing one’s hair or touching one’s face to a pillowcase
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Aura symptoms
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog, or difficulty concentrating, remembering, or performing other mental tasks
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, or vertigo
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Sinus pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Aversion to odors

Other migraine symptoms may be less common or simply less commonly reported:

  • Colds hands or feet
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty speaking clearly
  • Difficulty understanding written or spoken information
  • Earaches
  • Facial swelling
  • Food cravings
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Jaw pain
  • Night sweats
  • Nightmares
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or face
  • Physical weakness
  • Smelling odors (usually unpleasant ones) that aren’t really there
  • Stuffy nose

Migraine attacks can have four stages, with somewhat different symptoms at each stage:

Prodrome, or Warning, Stage You may notice the first signs of a migraine attack one or two days before the onset of aura symptoms or headache. These early warning symptoms can include changes in mood, cravings for certain foods, muscle stiffness, trouble concentrating, sensitivity to sound or light, fatigue and difficulty sleeping, yawning, and frequent urination.

Aura Stage Up to one-third of people experience the aura phase, which can last five minutes to an hour and increase in intensity over time. Aura may involve seeing bright spots or patterns of light, and numbness or tingling in various areas of the body but not paralysis.

Headache Stage Pain comes with the headache phase, which can last several hours and up to three days. The throbbing pain may start on one side of the head and move to include both sides. It may be?accompanied by nausea and vomiting?as well as blurred vision and sensitivity to certain stimuli such as light and noise. People typically seek out a quiet, dark room to rest or sleep during this phase of a migraine attack.

Postdrome, or Hangover, Stage In the last phase of a migraine attack, when the headache pain has eased, fatigue and body aches may occur. You may have trouble concentrating and may still be hypersensitive to certain stimuli.

Not everyone who has migraine experiences all four stages, and even those who usually do may not experience all four during every migraine attack.

Learn More About Signs and Symptoms of Migraine

Causes and Risk Factors of Migraine

The exact cause of migraine remains unknown. Research suggests that genetic and environmental factors may play a role.

Studies have linked changes in the brain stem and the trigeminal nerve, which mediates pain, to migraine.

Chemical imbalances in the brain may also be involved. Depression and anxiety have long been associated with migraine. A study published in Headache?found that migraine frequency was associated with the severity of depression and anxiety: The higher the frequency of attacks, the more likely a person was to experience depression or anxiety.

Research?has found that serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks, causing the trigeminal system to release substances called neuropeptides, which cause headache pain.

A change in the weather or barometric pressure, which can cause imbalances in brain chemicals, may prompt a migraine attack, according to?Mayo Clinic.

Researchers have identified several key risk factors for developing migraine, including the following.

Is Migraine Heredity?

Studies show migraine has a strong genetic component, but the specific genes involved and the mechanism of inheritance are not yet fully understood.

For some rare types of migraine, such as familial hemiplegic migraine, specific gene mutations responsible for migraine have been identified. But for most types of migraine, it’s believed that several genes are involved in raising the likelihood a person will have migraine.

Nonetheless, knowing you have a family history of migraine can be helpful for several reasons, including getting a correct diagnosis more quickly and feeling validated and supported in your experiences with the disease.

How Does Age Affect Risk?

People with migraine often experience their first symptoms during adolescence, per Mayo Clinic, and most people who have migraine have their first attack before they reach age 40. But migraine can start at any time in life, including in infancy or childhood, depending on other factors.

What About Gender?

During childhood, migraine typically affects boys more than girls, per?Cleveland Clinic, but this trend reverses during adolescence. In adulthood, women are much more likely than men to experience migraine. It seems that hormonal changes, specifically involving estrogen, play a role.

Some women find that hormonal medications such as contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy worsen migraine, while others find that they lessen the frequency of their headaches.

Menstruation and Menopause

Women with migraine often experience attacks immediately before or shortly after their menstrual period, when there is a drop in estrogen.

The frequency, severity, and duration of migraine may change during pregnancy or menopause. Some women report that they experience their first migraine attack during pregnancy or that their attacks worsen during pregnancy, while others experience fewer attacks.

The above observations suggest that hormonal fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone are factors in some women with migraine. Migraine tends to be less common and severe after menopause for some women, when hormone levels are more consistent.

Learn More About Migraine Causes and Risk Factors

Migraine Triggers

Migraine triggers don’t directly cause migraine. But they can contribute to the onset of a migraine attack. Often you need several triggers to lead to a migraine attack, not just one.

Common triggers for migraine attacks include the following:

Changes in the Weather

Many people report that changes in the weather, particularly changes in barometric pressure, trigger migraine attacks. Other weather-related migraine triggers include heat, humidity, wind, and reduced light exposure.

Poor air quality, from wildfires or other sources of air pollution, can also be a trigger for some people.

Lights, Sounds, or Smells

Bright lights — whether natural, such as sun glare, or the flickering of a fluorescent bulb — are known to trigger migraine in many people with the disease.

Loud noises and strong smells (from perfume, cleaning products, or secondhand smoke) are also associated with migraine onset.

In some cases, however, heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and smell are the early signs of an oncoming attack — rather than light, sound, or smell triggering the attack.

Medications

Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin, have been linked to migraine attacks. Overusing pain medications can also lead to headache.

Dehydration

According to the?AMF, about one-third of people cite dehydration as a migraine trigger. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.

Disrupted Sleep

Getting too little or too much sleep can trigger migraine in some people, as can changes in your sleep-wake pattern, such as jet lag.

Foods and Food Additives

Certain foods and beverages, particularly alcoholic beverages, can be triggers. The flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate can also be a trigger, as can caffeine.

Foods containing the amino acid tyramine have been associated with migraine onset. Examples include aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, certain beans, and red wine.

The nitrates in cured meats such as bacon, hot dogs, salami, and other lunch meats are a trigger for some.

Research has also suggested that the artificial sweeteners aspartame and sucralose can be triggers.

And for some people, fruits such as avocados, bananas, and citrus as well as some nuts and seeds can trigger migraine.

Missing or skipping meals can trigger attacks, too.

Stress or Relief From Stress

Everyday stress can trigger a migraine attack; the AMF reports that stress is a trigger for 70 percent of individuals with migraine. Since having migraine can also be a source of stress, it’s doubly important to find ways to manage daily stress so stress and migraine don’t become a vicious cycle.

Interestingly, relaxing after a stressful day or event can also lead to a migraine attack. According to the?AMF, this is sometimes called a “letdown” headache.

RELATED: 14 Migraine Triggers You Should Know About

How Is Migraine Diagnosed?

There’s no single test that can lead to a diagnosis of migraine. Rather, your doctor will take your medical history, as well as obtain your family history of migraine, and perform a physical and neurological exam.

Your healthcare provider may order certain blood tests and imaging tests to rule out other causes of headache. But having one type of primary headache disorder doesn’t rule out having another. In fact, many people have both migraine and tension-type headache.

Keeping a detailed log of your symptoms, when they occur, how long they last, and what, if anything, relieves them, can help with diagnosis.

Prognosis of Migraine

Migraine has a highly variable long-term prognosis.?Some people have fewer and less severe migraine attacks over time, while others have more attacks, sometimes transitioning from episodic migraine to chronic migraine. Still others have long periods of remission, during which they have no migraine attacks.

Researchers are still exploring the natural history of migraine, as well as what may contribute to both decreases and increases in migraine attacks over the long term.

In a study published in 2020 in the journal?Headache, researchers surveyed 380 people with migraine twice, 10 years apart. Of that group, slightly over 47 percent reported a decrease in migraine attack frequency of 50 percent or more at the 10-year mark. Factors associated with improvement were having a baseline frequency of more than 10 headache days per month at the start of the study, not smoking, and having had a medical follow-up visit for migraine during the study period.

An earlier study, also published in Headache, that followed 374 people over 12 years found that for 29 percent of the group, migraine attacks had ceased entirely at the 12-year mark. Of the 264 people who were still experiencing migraine attacks, 80 percent reported?a change in attack frequency (and of those, 80 percent reported fewer attacks), and 66 percent reported a change in pain intensity over time (and of these, 83 percent reported milder pain). Only six people in the study had developed chronic migraine over the study period. The researchers were unsure whether these changes reflected how migraine evolves naturally or better migraine management among study participants.

Learn More About Migraine Diagnosis

Medications to Treat and Prevent Migraine Attacks

Drug treatment options for migraine are twofold: drugs that work to alleviate symptoms once an attack has started, and drugs that prevent attacks from happening or reduce their frequency and severity.

Acute Medications to Stop a Migraine Attack

Acute, or abortive, treatments for migraine include over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and several classes of prescription medications. In addition, antinausea medications can help relieve symptoms for those who experience nausea and vomiting with migraine.

Over-the-counter pain relievers commonly used to treat migraine include acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).

Prescription medications include:

  • Triptans
  • Gepants
  • Ditans
  • Ergots

Triptans Triptans were the first migraine-specific drug to come on the market, in the 1990s, and they’re still widely used today. They include almotriptan (Axert), eletriptan (Relpax), frovatriptan (Frova), naratriptan (Amerge), sumatriptan (Imitrex and other brands), rizatriptan (Maxalt), and zolmitriptan (Zomig).

All triptans are available in pill form, zolmitriptan and sumatriptan are also available as nasal sprays, and sumatriptan is additionally available as an injection. Triptans should be taken at the first sign of an attack, and for many people, they effectively stop the attack or significantly reduce migraine symptoms.

However, triptans are contraindicated, or not recommended for some people, including those with uncontrolled high blood pressure or history of stroke or certain heart problems and those with rare forms of migraine, such as hemiplegic migraine and migraine with brainstem aura.

Gepants More formally called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonists, gepants were developed specifically to treat migraine and include the oral medicines ubrogepant (Ubrelvy) and rimegepant (Nurtec ODT) and the nasal spray zavegepant (Zavzpret). Gepants work by blocking the action of CGRP, a protein in the brain and nervous system involved in the transmission of pain.

Unlike triptans, gepants can be used by people with cardiovascular risk factors or stroke risk. They are also the only class of acute migraine drug that doesn’t appear to cause medication-overuse headache when used frequently.

Ditans Lasmiditan (Reyvow), which is taken as an oral tablet, is the only approved drug in the ditan, or 5-HT1F receptor agonist, class. It works similarly to triptans but doesn’t constrict blood vessels, so it can potentially be used by some people who can’t take triptans because of cardiovascular risk factors.

Ergots One of the oldest classes drugs used to treat migraine, ergots such as ergotamine (Ergomar) are not commonly used in the United States today because they are tend to be less effective than other options and have more side effects. The one form of ergot that is still widely used is dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal, Trudhesa), which can be given intravenously in a hospital or clinic setting or taken at home as a nasal spray.

Antinausea Medications Drugs that may be prescribed to treat nausea associated with migraine include chlorpromazine, metoclopramide (Reglan), and prochlorperazine (Compro).

Metoclopramide and chlorpromazine are available in tablet and liquid form, or by injection. Metoclopramide is also available as a nasal spray. Prochlorperzine is given by tablet, suppository, or injection.

For the most effective symptom relief, it’s important to take antimigraine prescription medications and OTC pain relievers as directed and to follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Overuse of most medications for migraine, including OTC drugs, can cause medication-overuse headache (also known as rebound headache).

Preventive Medications for Migraine

Most of the medications that have a preventive, or prophylactic, effect on migraine weren’t developed specifically for migraine; they’re primarily used to treat cardiovascular conditions, seizures, and depression.

Two exceptions are the CGRP antibodies and the CGRP receptor antagonists, or gepants.

Preventive treatment is usually recommended for people who have very severe or frequent, long-lasting migraine attacks. Some people with migraine may require both preventive treatments and acute treatments to control their attacks.

CGRP Antibodies Developed specifically to lower the frequency of migraine attacks, the CGRP antibodies include erenumab (Aimovig), fremanezumab (Ajovy), galcanezumab-gnlm (Emgality), and eptinezumab (Vyepti). These drugs are injected once a month or infused intravenously once every three months.

Similar to gepants, CGRP antibodies work by blocking the action of CGRP. They’ve been shown to reduce migraine days in both episodic and chronic migraine.

Gepants The CGRP antagonists rimegepant (Nurtec ODT) and atogepant (Qulipta) are available as oral medications and are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the preventive treatment of migraine.

Botox Injections of onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) every 12 weeks may also help prevent migraine in some people with chronic migraine. (It’s not FDA-approved for episodic migraine.) However, it may take more than one set of injections to feel the benefits. Research shows that the beneficial effects of Botox for migraine increase with multiple treatments.

Beta-Blockers Beta-blockers are drugs that lower blood pressure. When taken daily, they can help prevent migraine attacks in some people. Beta-blockers used for this purpose include metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor), propranolol (InnoPran XL), and timolol.

Metoprolol is taken by tablet or capsule or given by injection; propranolol is given by capsule, liquid, or injection; and timolol is taken as a tablet or instilled as an eye drop. Typically, beta-blockers are started at a low dose, which is slowly increased until an effective dose is reached.

Antidepressants As their name implies, antidepressants are taken most often to treat depression. But they can sometimes prevent migraine attacks as well. Antidepressants that?research?has shown to be effective at preventing migraine include amitriptyline (Elavil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), venlafaxine, and duloxetine (Cymbalta). These drugs are all taken as pills or capsules.

Antiseizure Drugs Certain anticonvulsant, or antiseizure, drugs are considered first-line treatment for preventing migraine, according to StatPearls. Those include valproate, valproic acid (Depakene), and topiramate (Topamax).

Learn More About Treatment for Migraine: Medication, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, and More

Nerve Stimulation Devices for Migraine Relief

When medications aren’t providing adequate migraine relief, it may be worth trying a nerve stimulation device. These devices, of which there are several types, reduce pain or help prevent migraine episodes by delivering electrical or magnetic pulses to selected nerves.

They are unlikely to replace medications in a person’s migraine management plan, but they may help control pain when used alongside meds.

The available external devices target, respectively, the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve, on the forehead; the vagus nerve, via the neck; the occipital nerve, on the back of the head; and the peripheral nerves in the upper arm. An implanted device also targets the occipital nerve.

Side effects from nerve stimulation tend to be mild and mainly include redness, irritation, or muscle twitching at the site of the stimulation.

The main drawback of nerve stimulation devices may be that they’re expensive and not always covered by health insurance plans.

Learn More About Nerve Stimulation Devices for Migraine Treatment

Migraine Prevention

While there’s no way to completely prevent migraine, some people are able to lower their risk of attacks by implementing lifestyle measures, such as:

Getting Enough Sleep Both too much and too little sleep can trigger a migraine attack, so it helps to do what you can to keep your sleep consistent every night of the week. That means going to bed and getting up about at the same time every day, avoiding excessive naps, and addressing anything about your health or your daily routine that may be getting in the way of restful sleep.

Eating Regular Meals Skipping meals is a common migraine trigger. When food isn’t consumed at regular intervals, blood sugar levels can drop too low, potentially leading to a migraine attack or a headache that is not migraine-related.

Staying Hydrated Drinking adequate liquid throughout the day is as important at eating regularly. Even in people who don’t have migraine, dehydration can lead to headaches, and in people who do, it can lead to migraine attacks, according to Migraine Again.

Managing Stress Many people say stress is a migraine trigger, so it makes sense to find ways to manage life stress. What works best depends on the individual. Taking a class in mindfulness-based stress reduction is one option that has helped many people deal with the stress of chronic pain. Practicing yoga or meditation may reduce stress for some. And working with a psychotherapist on issues that contribute to stress can also help you reduce your stress levels.

Exercising Regularly Getting regular exercise is another way to manage stress, and it also may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. The trick is to start with low-impact, low-intensity movement and build up gradually.

Learn More About Migraine Prevention

Migraine Resources

People living with migraine or a headache disorder can benefit from reliable resources offering information and support. Many organizations provide educational materials and can assist you in finding doctors specializing in migraine care. There are also online communities that offer support as well as practical advice and tips.

Learn More About Migraine Resources

Essential Migraine Information and Support

American Headache Society (AHS)

The AHS is specifically dedicated to helping healthcare providers stay up to date on treatments for headaches and face pain, but patients will also find a wealth of information on new migraine therapies as well as colorful infographics that present a range of tips.

American Migraine Foundation (AMF)

Working alongside the American Headache Society, this nonprofit organization strives to connect people with migraine with the care and support they need. The website features a handy doctor-locator tool and guidance on a range of issues, including managing migraine at work, identifying types of headaches, applying for Social Security disability income, and handling emergency room visits related to migraine.

Association of Migraine Disorders (AMD)

AMD recognizes that migraine is a full-body condition, with a broad spectrum of symptoms. In addition to providing extensive educational materials, the organization hosts?Shades for Migraine, a campaign in which participants raise migraine awareness and address the stigma associated with the disease by wearing sunglasses in unexpected places.

Migraine at Work

The Migraine at Work campaign aims to help employees with migraine stay employed and productive on the job, and to help employers support and accommodate those employees. The website offers articles, taped webcasts, newsletters, and links to more information. Migraine at Work is a project of the?World Health Education Foundation.

Online Magazines and Toolkits

My Chronic Brain

This online magazine for people with chronic migraine is put together by volunteers who want to connect readers with helpful real stories from patients, sources of treatment, nutritional advice, and news related to migraine care.

The INvisible Project

The INvisible Project, the flagship program of the?U.S. Pain Foundation, produces online magazines with real stories and photographs of people coping with chronic pain. Several editions are dedicated to people with migraine, who share how they deal with pain-related challenges in their everyday lives.

Migraine Again

Migraine Again calls itself a lifestyle website for people with migraine and the people who love them. It features expert information and advice, tips and personal stories from people who have migraine, and articles on just about every aspect of living with migraine.

Migraine Patient Toolkit: A Guide to Your Care

The downloadable resource was created by the?Society for Women’s Health Research?to assist those with migraine in getting the care they need, dealing with health insurance issues, and incorporating wellness practices into their lives.

Migraine Apps

iHeadache

This app gets strong ratings from people with headache and migraine who use it to track medications, disability, and triggers, and share data with their doctors. The app also analyzes your data to determine the type of headache you’re having.

Migraine Buddy

Designed with neurologists and data scientists, this graphic-heavy app makes it easy to record and monitor migraine. The technology helps patients identify likely triggers associated with their migraine and prevent future headaches. The website also features interesting articles on the effect of alcohol on migraine, how pets may help, migraine auras, and other topics.

Migraine Diaries

The Migraine Trust

This British organization dedicated to supporting people affected by migraine offers a template for tracking attacks and any drug treatment you may be taking. Finding patterns in migraine can help with treatment.

Hartford Healthcare Headache Center Migraine Diary

The PDF from this center for headache care gives a comprehensive system for recording episodes and medicines. A key helps pinpoint types of triggers and evaluate migraine severity.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

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