5 Powerful Treatments for Headache and Migraine Pain Relief $0.00

5 Powerful Treatments for Headache and Migraine Pain Relief

By: Rebecca Moore |
5 Powerful Treatments for Headache and Migraine Pain Relief

For some, a headache is a passing indication of a stressful day at work, long exposure to loud noises or perhaps a long night out. For many, however, a headache isn’t just a one-time inconvenience; it’s a regular disruption to their everyday lives. Because of this, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month is celebrated in June to raise awareness and recognition, encourage those suffering to seek a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment and to let everyone know that new treatments are available.

The World Health Organization estimates that the prevalence among adults with current headache disorders is about 50%, and half to three quarters of adults aged 18–65 have had a headache in the last year.1 Even more severe are migraine headaches, the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world, affecting 39 million men, women and children in the United States and 1 billion worldwide - and the impactful data doesn’t stop there.2

10 Surprising Facts about Migraines

13 years ago, The Migraine Research Foundation was established to address the desperate lack of funding that was allocated to studying and understanding migraines. Since then, they have accumulated an impressive bank of migraine facts that paint a picture of the breadth of this condition. To name a few:2

  1. Every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain, and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks.
  2. While most sufferers experience attacks once or twice a month, more than 4 million people have chronic daily migraine, with at least 15 migraine days per month.
  3. More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine.
  4. Medication overuse is the most common reason why episodic migraine turns chronic.
  5. Migraine disproportionately affects women. 85% of chronic migraine sufferers are women, and about 28 million women are currently suffering in the United States.
  6. Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12. Migraine has even been reported in children as young as 18 months. Recently, infant colic was found to be associated with childhood migraine and may even be an early form of migraine.
  7. Healthcare and lost productivity costs associated with migraine are estimated to be as high as $36 billion annually in the United States.
  8. In 2015, the medical cost of treating chronic migraine was more than $5.4 billion, however, these sufferers spent over $41 billion on treating their entire range of conditions.
  9. Healthcare costs are 70% higher for a family with a migraine sufferer than a non-migraine affected family.
  10. Beyond the burden of a migraine attack itself, having migraine increases the risk for other physical and psychiatric conditions.

With the prevalence of headaches and migraine sufferers around the world, efficacious, practical and cost-effective treatments must be identified and made available on a wide scale. Alongside the treatment of hands-one healthcare professionals like physical therapists, chiropractors and pain specialists, here are some recommendations for treatment inside and outside of the clinic.

Try These 5 Treatments for Headaches and Migraines

1. Exercise

Movement is medicine for many physical ailments, and headaches and migraines are no exception. In fact, for people suffering with severe tension-type headaches, exercise therapies have been shown to be more effective than treatments like massage or acupuncture.3 However, evidence is scarce for the efficacy of exercise in reducing frequency, intensity and duration of headaches. A few years ago, researchers pursued this gap in knowledge, finding that low-intensity exercises focusing on cervicoscapular muscle-control reduced the frequency and intensity of cervicogenic headache, and a treatment program with special emphasis on neck and shoulder resistance exercises effectively reduced headache intensity among patients with chronic neck pain.3

To add to this evidence, another study compared the efficacy of three different training programs on headache and upper extremity pain in female office workers with chronic neck pain. 180 patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a strength group performing isometric, dynamic and stretching exercises, an endurance group performing dynamic muscle and stretching exercises, or a control group performing stretching exercises only. At the 12-month follow-up, the study showed that both long-term isometric strength and dynamic endurance training of the neck muscles is an effective treatment not only for chronic neck pain, but also for headaches.4

“Headache had decreased by 69% in the strength group, 58% in the endurance group and 37% in the control group compared with baseline. Neck pain diminished most in the strength group with the most severe headache. In the dose analysis, one metabolic equivalent per hour of training per week accounted for a 0.6- mm decrease in headache on the visual analogue scale. Upper extremity pain decreased by 58% in the strength group, 70% in the endurance group and 21% in the control group.”4

Because both strength and endurance training have been proven to improve headaches, there are a variety of training options that people can choose from to best suit their personal preferences and lifestyles. Choosing convenient tools that can be used anywhere, anytime will help people suffering with headaches or migraines get in some movement whenever they have a few minutes - even at work! Try some of these simple exercises anyone can do at their desks.

2. Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)

IASTM has been trusted for years to treat the fascial contributors to pain. While there haven’t been any studies that have specifically addressed the efficacy of IASTM on headaches or neck pain, clinicians may use these tools to treat soft-tissue restrictions and pain in the upper cervical region, particularly in the suboccipitals, sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius and levator.5 Evidence aside, patients have praised the combination of passive release, active therapy and IASTM with HawkGrips.

Click here to see footage of a HawkGrips treatment for tension headaches.

3. Postural Improvement

According to the American Posture Institute, poor posture can be a leading factor in chronic migraines.

“... tension placed anywhere on the spine can directly affect the brain stem. A reduction in the normal curve in the cervical spine, which can be seen in people with Forward Head Posture, was directly found to have an increase in headaches as well as an increase in weakness of the neck… Sitting in front of a computer, or looking down for extended periods of time without postural breaks develop this forward head posture. It changes the curve of the spine and adds pressure to the brainstem and nervous system.”6

To correct the posture and improve migraine symptoms, the American Posture Institute recommends the following:6

  1. Take Posture Breaks: Take a 20 second break every 30 minutes to stand up and stretch.
  2. Use a Posture Reminder: Place an object in your workspace within regular eyesight that serves as a postural reminder. When you see the object, sit up straight!
  3. Strengthen the Neck Muscles: Perform exercises that focus on the neck musculature. For example, stand with your back against a wall. Place a small cushion (pillow, towel, etc.) behind your head. Press your head gently into the cushion and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  4. Align Your Spine: Lay on your back near the edge of your bed. Place a cushion (pillow, rolled up towel, etc.) under your neck. Place your head slightly off the edge of the bed, and allow gravity to pull your head down, increasing the proper curve of the neck.

4. Hot and Cold Packs

Hot and cold packs are another treatment for headaches and migraines that, while not necessarily evidence-based, has been recommended for years. The National Headache Foundation recommends that those who suffer with migraines utilize cold packs, while those who suffer with tension-type or muscle contraction headaches try warm packs. “Alternate treatment for 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off. Cold packs should be applied on forehead and temples, warm packs on neck and posterior part of head.”7

5. Nutrition

We started with movement as medicine, and end with food as medicine. The American Nutrition Association has done extensive work identifying the correlations between diet and migraines, and notes that tyramine, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, nitrates, nitrites, fatty foods, frozen foods, food allergies, hunger and hypoglycemic issues have all been linked to the presence of migraines.8 For patients suffering from chronic migraines, they recommend avoiding the following foods:8

  • Aged or strong cheese
  • Cured meats (hot dogs, bacon, ham, and salami)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Chocolate, nuts
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Food dyes, additives
  • Pickled herring, chicken livers
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt, sour cream
  • Meat and vegetable extracts
  • Pork and seafood
  • Canned figs, broad beans, tomatoes
  • Caffeine-containing drinks (coffee, tea, all "cola" soft drinks)
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Alcoholic drinks (red wine, beer)
  • Aspartame, nitrites, sulfites.

Help Bring Relief to Headache and Migraine Sufferers Around the World

Better, evidence-based treatment for headache and migraine sufferers can only come from more dedicated research. This month, and year round, consider donating to organizations like The Migraine Research Foundation to help bring relief to millions of people across the globe. You can also raise awareness by joining the conversation and sharing your stories on social media with the hashtag #MHAM. With these small acts, you can bring well-deserved attention to an often-overlooked condition!


  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/headache-disorders
  2. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/
  3. http://www.thera-bandacademy.com/resource/x-showResource.aspx?id=3247
  4. http://www.thera-bandacademy.com/resource/x-showResource.aspx?id=2757
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3201065/
  6. https://americanpostureinstitute.com/chronic-migraines-your-headaches-are-being-caused-by-your-posture/
  7. https://headaches.org/2007/10/25/hot-and-cold-packs-showers/
  8. http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/role-diet-migraine-headaches