Migraine Headache

 In Brain/Nervous & Psychological System

Migraine headaches affect about 18 percent of women, 6 percent of men and 10 percent of children in the United States. Migraines differ from normal headaches in that the pain is acute and it borders on unbearable.

Functional medicine doctors can recommend treatments that may help reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.


Acupuncture is effective at treating headaches and migraines. Studies show that acupuncture  can be just as, if not more, effective than modern treatments for migraine headaches.

Insurance companies have yet to list acupuncture as an accepted treatment for migraines in terms of coverage. That means patients may have to pay out of pocket for acupuncture.



Biofeedback uses technology to measure different aspects of the human body that could pre-empt a migraine. For example, sensors attached to the skin can monitor muscle tension ahead of migraines. When patients recognize that muscles start to tense before getting a migraine, people can learn to relax those muscles to try to prevent migraines from happening.

Biofeedback mechanisms provide a way to train patients to recognize biological conditions before a migraine starts. That way, people can take supplements or try to relax before symptoms begin to present themselves.



Doctors may suggest supplements for treating migraines. Physicians may suggest certain supplements based on the root cause of the migraine headaches. That means patients may choose to consume one supplement over another based on medications someone is taking, a person’s medical history and the effectiveness of supplementation.



According to recent studies, migraines may be brought on by a lack of magnesium in the brain. When looking at levels of this mineral in sufferers, these studies showed that patients had a significant drop just before a migraine. Some migraine sufferers appeared to have a general lack of magnesium in their bodies.

Two groups that seem to benefit the most from this supplement are women going through their menstrual cycle and young children. Doses up to 600 milligrams of magnesium seem to do an excellent job of curbing migraines. A common side effect of taking this much magnesium is diarrhea. Patients should use caution when supplementing with magnesium.

Magnesium has proven to be so effective for pregnant women battling migraines that the European Federation of Neurological Societies approved magnesium as a standard treatment for the affliction.



Studies show that coenzyme Q10 significantly reduces migraines in people when compared to a placebo. Regular doses of 100 milligrams can show results, which makes CoQ10 supplementation an affordable treatment option. After a few days of using this supplement, patients noticed up to a 50 percent reduction in migraines. This treatment was also tested on children and saw similar benefits.


Herbal Remedies

Some common herbal extracts can help people who suffer from migraines. Using natural ingredients is not an exact science, so patient may not get the same effects from these treatments as others. Medical science shows some evidence that these herbal remedies can help people who suffer from migraine headaches.



Butterbur has become more popular in recent years due to several studies that showed a significant correlation between taking it and reducing migraines. Studies were conducted on both adults and children and showed positive results for both groups. People who took as little as 75 milligrams twice a day saw reduced pain and frequency of migraines.

Butterbur contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which can be toxic if taken in high enough doses. Patients who take this supplement must make sure to get it from a reputable source and that it has a limited amount of these alkaloids. On the label, it should read “PA-free,” which means that it will be safe for regular consumption.



Studies on feverfew for migraine headaches are mixed. It seems that ingesting this ingredient when it’s as fresh as possible appears to have a better effect than when it is in capsule form in terms of treating migraine headaches.

When feverfew was first tested in the United Kingdom, participants claimed that the results were not as good as when they took bites of the plant from their home gardens. People who grow feverfew themselves can benefit from ingesting some of the leaves on a regular basis. Migraine patients who take it in pill form may have varying results.

Eating feverfew in its natural form can cause mouth sores in patients. While this side effect is not severe or dangerous, it can be unappealing for many people. Compared to overall numbers of people who took feverfew, this adverse reaction is relatively minor.

In several studies, patients who took feverfew as a supplement for a long period of time pointed out that they experienced withdrawal symptoms as soon as they stopped. Doctors should discuss this possible side effect when they suggest feverfew as a possible treatment regimen for migraine headaches.


Stress Management

For many sufferers, migraines are brought about mostly because of stress. Managing and controlling stress levels can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Doctors may recommend an appropriate stress-reducing regimen as a complementary therapy to standard treatments.

When it comes to stress management, integrative medicine practitioners keep an open mind to the patient’s well-being when it comes to possible treatments. People should go with what works and what is most comfortable for them when it comes to relieving stress for migraine headaches.


Breathing Exercises

Stress may come from an overwhelming feeling of too much work, a lot of responsibilities or financial difficulties. Whatever the reason, patients can find quick relief by performing breathing exercises anytime and anywhere. One simple exercise involves breathing deeply in and then deeply out three times in a row. People can try inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth as a way to concentrate on the act of breathing.

Breathing exercises help increase oxygen in the blood, and that, in turn, helps with several biological processes in the brain that reduce feelings of stress. People should learn to master these exercises by practicing them regularly, even when they are not stressed. Over time, patients perform breathing exercises out of habit.


Tai Chi

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art form that combines deep breathing, graceful movements and relaxation. Not only does it help the human body focus on the present moment, but it increases oxygen to the blood while helping the body go through low-impact exercises. Although information is limited on the effectiveness of tai chi for migraines, patients in a small randomized study experienced a better quality of life when compared to migraine sufferers on a waiting list for tai chi classes.



While not everyone is open to the idea of meditating, those that are say that it helps them in a variety of ways. Patients who take the time to clear their minds and re-center themselves means that they can manage their emotions better, including when stress starts to creep into their mind. There are many different meditation methods, so patients have a wide range of options to find the right fit. Mindfulness meditation, yoga and transcendental meditation are all options for patients who suffer from migraine headaches.


Milky Oat Seed

Patients who seem to have trouble mastering breathing or meditation techniques, there are some extracts they can take that achieve the same effect. These supplements are not designed for migraines specifically, but rather as a way to help people manage stress. Thus, taking care of one problem can help alleviate another.

In this case, milky oat seed can help people calm down and relax, thus making someone more capable of managing stress. Some people even describe it as meditation in a bottle. Best of all, it is completely safe for all users because milky oat seed has no adverse side effects.


Learn Various Triggers

One of the benefits of integrative medicine is that it looks at the whole picture of a patient’s health to see the problem from a more comprehensive angle. Even if someone looks for migraine treatments specifically, they could actually be a result of something else going on in the body. That means that if the patient can pinpoint different triggers that cause migraines, that person can start to eliminate them. Eliminating triggers leads to better migraine management without having to take as much medication or supplements.

While everyone is different, here are some common triggers that could lead to more frequent migraines.

  • Stress
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Emotional stress
  • Different foods
  • Menopause
  • Menstruation
  • Hormone treatments or therapy
  • Environmental factors (such as pollution)



When doctors determine the best course of treatment for migraines, it’s hugely important for patients to keep a migraine diary to look at when they happen, how often they happen and what could be causing them. Once people discover their triggers, then doctors can tailor a treatment plan to the individual to give people the best results.



National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Headaches: In Depth.” Last updated: September 2016. Accessed May 27, 2017. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/headachefacts.htm

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