Occupational Hazard: Migraines

Due to the nature of my work, I get a lot of migraines, both from allergies and tension, but I rarely can afford to take the entire night off. I'm not really big on medicine, especially meds in pill form, so I often try to resolve my headache holistically. I don't know how many of my readers suffer from migraines, but I hope my advice will prove useful to those of you who do.

When I first feel a migraine coming on, it's often a tossup between solving it with caffiene or with a menthol stick. A menthol stick is commonly available at most health food stores, and involves peppermint oil or menthol encased in wax. If you can't find such a thing, Burts Bees mint lip balm is a decent substitute. The cooling sensation of the mint/menthol often helps to allievate the headache, especially if applied on the temples, back of neck, beneath the nose, or around the eyes. You should be very careful when applying it around the eyes since it may sting, but for me, this pain is much less intense than the headache and often leads to alleviation of the migraine pain. When inhaled, the menthol may open up clogged sinus passageways, and allow your sinuses to drain, reducing the pressure inside your head. A menthol stick is handy because it is small, self contained, and discreet, but you should be careful because it will melt near body heat. A purse or an outside pocket is a good place to keep it.

If the menthol stick doesn't work, I'll usually reach for a cup of coffee. Caffiene has long been used as an active ingrediant in many pain medications (Midol being the first that comes to mind), and many headaches with migraine like symptoms may be the result of caffiene withdrawls. If you don't mind feeding into your addiction, caffiene may be the easy way to go. If coffee is unavailable, a dark, caffinated soda (Dr Pepper is my favorite) may do the trick, but I'll have to drink more of it.

If caffiene and menthol stick don't work, and I'm at home, I'll take a hot bath with peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil. As my pores open up in the hot water, the cooling sensation starts to relax away the stress that may the the source. The smell also gets my sinuses running. This is bad advice, but it works for me: Sometimes I'll take a nap in the tub, and wake up about thirty minutes later with my headache gone.

If this doesn't help, a light massage of the back of my skull and or an icebag placed there can help. Sometimes cluster headaches can masquerade as migraines, and cluster headaches can't be cured with medicine. The best cure is cold and dark.


  1. I used to have horrible headaches in Kyoto. I quit consuming caffeine and haven't had one since my caffeine detox was completed (couple of months).

  2. @Anthony McDavid

    I've given up caffeine before, allowing for detox time (several months for me, I've been heavily dependent since I was a kid), and it hasn't cured my migraines. I agree that giving up caffeine can aid a lot of people in their quest for curing headaches, however.

  3. I've suffered from chronic headaches for years, something that I've also been on medication for since middle-school. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the medicine I'm on, I can't take it forever, and even on it my headaches are getting worse, so I'm looking at a future full of headaches. Therefore, it's good to know how other people deal with the problem, as I'll have to do it a lot more in the future.


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