How to Relieve Migraine Pain Quickly
Your head is getting sensitive. You don’t feel like yourself. But maybe, this time, it’s nothing.
Thirty minutes later, that sensitive feeling has turned into a full-blown migraine. Now, you urgently need to know: What’s the fastest way to relieve this migraine pain? We’ve collected 7 approaches that can all be part of a migraine toolkit.
Please note that this post isn’t intended to serve as medical advice. Every person with migraine is different, and you should talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to manage migraine pain.
- Ice packs or other cold therapy: A cold compress or ice pack provides reliable migraine pain relief for many people. If you typically place a cold pack on your forehead, try it on the neck to see if that’s more effective. One study found that applying a frozen neck wrap to the carotid arteries at the neck at the onset of a migraine headache “significantly reduced recorded pain.”[i] Some people also find that heat therapy, whether applied to the head or elsewhere, can be helpful.
- Ginger: Have you ever tried ginger for fast migraine relief? Ginger — whether brewed as tea, concentrated in a supplement, or consumed another way — is a go-to for many people in the early stages of a migraine, as it can help with both pain and nausea. One randomized clinical trial found that ginger extract helped with pain reduction for ER migraine patients when combined with ketoprofen.[ii]
- Caffeine: The link between caffeine and migraine is still being explored. For some people, caffeine is a migraine trigger. For others, it can help relieve migraine pain. As the Harvard Health blog explains, “People prone to migraines may experience more headaches after coffee consumption (perhaps by effects on serotonin or brain electrical activity), but coffee itself, or the caffeine it contains, is not considered the actual cause of migraines.” Long story short: Some people swear by caffeine for fast migraine pain relief, whether from a cold Coca-Cola or an over-the-counter pain reliever with caffeine.
- A vanilla milkshake or other frozen drink: Some people, when they feel a migraine attack coming on, immediately hit up the nearest drive-thru or ice-cream shop for a vanilla milkshake. The intense cold may result in some migraine relief.
(Did you know that sensitivity to brain freeze — that unpleasant feeling you get when cold liquid contacts the roof of your mouth — is linked to migraine? One 2001 study found that women who had experienced one or more migraine attacks in the last year were twice as likely to experience a headache from ingesting ice-cold water as women who had never had migraine.[iii])
- OTC pain relievers: “Combination analgesics containing aspirin, caffeine, and acetaminophen are an effective first-line abortive treatment for migraine,” states American Family Physician, which also rates ibuprofen safe and effective for acute migraine treatment.[iv] However, frequent use of certain pain medications can trigger a medication overuse headache, also called a rebound headache.
- Prescription abortive migraine medication: Triptans are often prescribed for migraine with moderate to severe pain intensity. Triptans (serotonin receptor agonists) act directly on pain nerves, and should be taken at the onset of an attack. They usually bring some migraine relief within two hours. Other types of abortive medications include CGRP antagonists, ditans and ergots.
- CEFALY DUAL’s ACUTE program: What if you can’t tolerate medication and your pain resists other at-home remedies? CEFALY DUAL is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive medical device that offers clinically proven, drug-free migraine pain relief. In an extensive clinical study, 79% of acute migraine sufferers saw pain relief following one hour of treatment with CEFALY, and 32% experienced pain freedom.[v]
You should begin the 60-minute ACUTE program at the onset of symptoms. CEFALY’s PREVENT setting can be used daily to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
[i] Sprouse-Blum, A., Gabriel, A., Brown, J., Yee, M. Randomized Controlled Trial: Targeted Neck Cooling in the Treatment of the Migraine Patient. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2013 Jul; 72(7): 237–241.
[ii] Martins, L. B., Rodrigues, A. M. dos S., Rodrigues, D. F., dos Santos, L. C., Teixeira, A. L., & Ferreira, A. V. M. (2019). Double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) addition in migraine acute treatment. Cephalalgia, 39(1), 68–76.
[iii] Mattsson P. Headache caused by drinking cold water is common and related to active migraine. Cephalalgia. 2001 Apr;21(3):230-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-2982.2001.00211.x. PMID: 11442559.
[v] Chou D. E. et al. Acute migraine therapy with external trigeminal neurostimulation (ACME): A randomized controlled trial. Cephalalgia. 2019; 39(1): 3-14.