Expert Advice

How can I treat a migraine?

A combination of pills, scents, and acupressure can ease disabling headaches.

How can I treat a migraine?
Pin it Bonnie Holland

A Migraine Specialist says:
It’s crucial to treat the symptoms of these painful headaches (often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound) as soon as they appear. Most sufferers know when a headache is going to morph into a paralyzing migraine—they have premonitory symptoms (called prodrome) like irritability, light or sound sensitivity, or food cravings. As soon as possible, take medication such as Advil or Exedrin, or prescription triptans, medications designed to reverse the dilation of blood vessels and interfere with dilation before it begins. To prevent migraines, find out what triggers the overstimulation of your nervous system. It’s usually a combination of factors like stress, diet, and weather. Then take steps to reduce stress with a nurturing activity like exercise, sleep, deep breathing, or talking to a friend. —Robert K. Cady, M.D., director of the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Mo.

An Acupuncturist says:
Acupressure releases blocked energy (or qi), which can help relieve discomfort and disease. Try this acupressure treatment for migraine relief and prevention: Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and focus on relaxing. Using your thumbs, put pressure on the points under the base of the skull—located in neck hollows about three inches apart at the back of your head—known as the Gates of Consciousness. Tilt your head back slowly and begin breathing deeply, allowing the weight of your head (and gravity) to match the force of your thumbs. Hold for three minutes. Meditate or practice deep relaxation for five minutes to prevent the pain from returning. If self-treatment doesn’t help, find a professional acupuncturist at, the website of the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia. —Michael Reed Gach, Ph.D., director of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

An Aromatherapist says:
Aromatherapy is thought to work on the limbic system of the brain— considered the regulator of emotional and hormonal reactions—where scents can have a calming effect. For migraine treatments, I first determine what’s causing the pain. If the cause is hormonal, I use essential oils— like clary sage, geranium, and sagelavender— on the back of the neck or on the abdomen. To combat digestive triggers like lactose intolerance, I use lemon and basil scents. For selftreatment, add a drop or two of lemon oil to a glass of hot water, or apply a 3 to 15 percent dilution (using hazelnut oil) of either lemon or basil oil all over your body while inhaling the scent. Good scents for stress triggers include blue chamomile, valerian, and mandarin orange. Essential oils are available at health food stores; also try Learn the contraindications before using oils at home. —Emily Via, owner of Emily’s Oils & Essentials in Fair Oaks, Calif.