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Migraines are more than just headaches. They are part of a neurological syndrome which includes not only painful, debilitating headaches, but also nausea and often altered perception. There are many different treatments for migraines, including prescription and over-the-counter medication as well as alternative treatments for migraines such as acupuncture.
Medical treatments for migraines fall into three main categories. These are prophylactic medications to prevent migraines, treatments to control migraine symptoms, and avoidance of situations which trigger migraines. Treatment for migraines is usually a three-pronged approach which includes aspects of all of these categories.
People who suffer from migraines initially tend to try treating themselves with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Often those medications are insufficient to treat migraine symptoms, and it is at this point that many people will turn to their doctors for prescription medication. Several prescription-only medications can help treat migraine symptoms or reduce the frequency of migraines. Certain types of anti-depressants are effective as prophylactic treatments which reduce migraine frequency, while a family of drugs called triptans is often prescribed to treat migraines when they occur.
Other treatments for migraines are preventative, meaning they take steps to avoid situations which trigger symptoms. A large number of different migraine triggers exist, of several different types, such as environmental, behavioral, and dietary triggers. Possible triggers may include weather, loud noises and bright lights, specific odors, stress, cigarette smoke, alcohol, caffeine, and food additives such as nitrates.
Depending on the type of trigger involved, many people find it beneficial to avoid triggers as much as possible. In some cases, however, it may be impossible to completely avoid a trigger. For example, up to 50% of people may be triggered by changes in weather, which is one trigger factor which is unavoidable. This does not mean weather changes always trigger migraine symptoms, as exposure to just one trigger factor does not automatically mean a migraine is imminent. It does mean that people can reduce the frequency of migraines by paying attention to factors they can control, so that those which aren’t controllable are less likely to trigger a migraine.
People who prefer not to take medication, or find that medication is ineffective, may choose to try natural treatments for migraines. Possible options include herbal preparations, acupuncture, and homeopathy. Studies have shown that the herbs feverfew and butterbur can help treat migraine symptoms, for example. These herbs do have their own risks and side effects, however, and should not be taken without medical advice.
Acupuncture is a safe type of treatment which some people find can reduce migraine frequency or reduce the severity of headaches. During acupuncture, fine needles are inserted into pressure points on the body to stimulate specific nerves. Homeopathy is a holistic treatment which, in some cases, can prevent migraines occurring at all.