How to Treat a Migraine

In an effort to cover some of the more basic aspects of living with migraines I’d like to address how to treat a migraine attack. Many of us have lots of experience with waiting them out, losing hours and days of our lives and experiencing tremendous suffering. The good news is there are some better options out there for us.


These medications have been designed for the express purpose of stopping a migraine attack. This makes them your best line of defense against an attack if you are able to take them. Examples of medications in this category are Relpax, Imitrex, Maxalt, etc. Many of these are available in orally disintegrating tablet, nasal spray, and injection form, which can help you get the relief you need without having to keep a medication in your stomach.

Anti-nausea Medications

As their name suggests, these medications can help with nausea and vomit many migraineurs experience as a part of their attacks. Examples of medications in this category include Phenergan, Reglan, and Zofran. Zofran comes in an orally disintegrating tablet, which can be especially helpful when you are nauseated.


These medicines were what was available before triptans came on the market. They are helpful for some people, especially as an option for those who cannot take triptans because of other health issues. In addition to being available by IV or intermuscular injection, there is a nasal spray called Migranal that provides an easy way to utilize this option.

Pain Medication

It is okay to take over the counter medications like Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, etc. once in a while if it helps with the pain. Unfortunately, these often do not help someone with a migraine and they can also cause more problems by setting your body into a pattern of repeating migraine attacks.

In addition to over the counter medications, there are many prescription options available. A candid conversation with your doctor about what might be appropriate for your situation is a good idea. It can take some trial and error to see what works well for you and what causes you intolerable side effects but can be worth it to find something that helps you function when you experience a migraine attack.

Alternative/Practical Remedies
aromatherapy – Buying your own essential oils and blending them with a carrier oil is a lovely way to soothe yourself during an attack. I find a lavender & peppermint blend especially helpful but experiment and see what works for you. Some people can’t stand one or both of these scents and even find they make them feel worse during an attack. Many companies offer lovely products that require no blending or mixing. I especially like the Origins Peace of Mind line. It’s subtle and soothing.
acupressure – Applying gentle pressure to certain spots on your body can help relieve the pain of a migraine attack. (How to Use Acupressure Points for Migraines)
hydration – Drinking plenty of water when you are able to can help your body recover faster.
a quiet, private, dark room
eye masks

Coping Skills

To be able to call upon any of these coping techniques when you are experiencing an attack you must practice them regularly whether you are feeling okay or not.
relaxation breathing
guided relaxation

These are some of the resources I recommend:
Break Through Pain by Shinzen Young
Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Articles by Sharon Salzberg
Tara Brach’s Podcast
Mindfulness Meditation Videos
Meditation Station Podcast by Stin Hansen
Meditation – Beliefnet
Mindfulness in Plain English
Practicing Focused Meditation
Overcoming Stress & Illness Podcast
A Quiet Mind Podcast
Tranquility du Jour Podcast
Minding Mindfulness – World of Psychology
Yoga & Meditation – Yoga Journal
Dharma Seed

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain, and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.