How Can Mindfulness Meditation Help with Migraines?

Published by Dr. Brent Wells on

Migraines are a common problem for many. They aren’t only painful, but can cause many other health concerns, including increasing your risk for strokes and heart attacks. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to treat them. One of these is with the use of mindfulness meditation. Below you’ll discover more behind what causes migraines and how mindfulness meditation can help.

What Are Migraines?

Migraines are a type of headache that usually affects one side of the head. It can last anywhere from a few hours to multiple days and comes with a variety of symptoms, such as sensitivity to light or trouble talking.

Types of Migraines

Aura Migraine

An aura migraine causes strange shapes and colors to appear in your eyes. These side effects can last for up to 30 minutes and can make it difficult for you to see or speak. Aura migraines can linger for a few days and are mainly caused by bright lights and certain food.

Common Migraine

A common migraine is a migraine that only causes head pain, mainly on one side of your head. Most of the time, a common migraine is caused by a specific trigger.

Chronic Migraine

Chronic migraines are when your headaches last for more than two weeks in a month. Its pain can vary and many sufferers are often unaware that they’re experiencing it.

Cluster Migraine

A cluster migraine is considered to be one of the most excruciating types of migraines. When it strikes, the migraine will create a burning sensation throughout your head, especially around your eyes. It will also affect your sinuses making it seem as if you’re suffering from a cold.

What Causes Migraines?

Migraines are caused by many different things. Some of these include:

  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Stress
  • Bright lights
  • Weather changes
  • Processed food
  • Changes in one’s sleep pattern

Symptoms of Migraines

Unfortunately, migraines come with a handful of symptoms.

  • Dizziness
  • Stiffness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Throbbing pain on the side of your head
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Light flashes in your eyes

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation teaches you to be more present during the day, especially in stressful situations. It helps you to be more aware of the moment rather than dwelling on difficulties. This type of meditation also assists you in being aware of possible triggers and how to naturally avoid them.

4 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Can Help with Migraines

It Calms the Nervous System

One way mindfulness can help with migraines is by calming your nervous system. When you suffer from a migraine, it triggers brain activity, including the trigeminal nerve which is connected to this vital system. The trigeminal nerve can shoot out painful sensations if it’s irritated. This can result in migraines.

Mindfulness meditation calms erratic brain activity and your heart rate. This can help boost your blood circulation and prevent the constriction of blood vessels. It also reduces tension which can soothe tight muscles due to migraines.

It Assists with Pain Management

Mindfulness meditation can assist with migraines by teaching you pain management. When you practice this, you’ll find that your body will release a large amount of endorphins. After emitting these natural painkillers, many migraine symptoms will subside. This can help you not only feel better, but have more energy.

It Reduces Your Need for Medications

Many people often turn to medications to reduce their migraine symptoms. While these can help, they can also cause unpleasant side effects, like fatigue and dizziness. Mindfulness meditation helps you to naturally be in control of pain management, something which reduces your need for synthetic drugs.

It Prevents Future Migraines

You might be surprised to learn that practicing mindfulness meditation could prevent future migraines. This is because it can reduce stress, a common migraine trigger. It also gives you control over the brain’s frontoparietal network (the part that controls your attention and memory) which is believed to activate migraines.

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation: 3 Steps to Follow

Step 1: Find a Quiet Spot

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a quiet spot to meditate in. You can sit in a chair or on the floor. However, make sure the position is comfortable as you’ll need to stay still when meditating.

Step 2: Work on Deep Breathing Techniques

Once you’ve found a good place to meditate, start working on deep breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, and then gently exhale through your mouth.

Step 3: Focus on Your Breathing

After getting into rhythm, turn your focus to your breathing patterns. Think about how your body is moving as it breathes, especially your stomach. If you find it difficult to stop your mind from wandering, try to draw shapes in your head or think of words that bring you happiness. For best results, meditate for about 5-10 minutes.

4 Ways to Help Mindfulness Meditation Work Better

Meditation is always beneficial, but there are a few extra ways you can help boost its effects.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can keep your body hydrated. Many times, migraines can be the result of dehydration. By drinking enough water, it will refresh your body with oxygen and better blood circulation. To help with these headaches, it’s best to drink about six glasses of water per day.

Try Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on treating migraines. It’s believed that by moving your body through exercise, it can release tension and decrease pain. There are plenty of different types of aerobic exercises you can try to help with this. These include running, walking, swimming, or cycling.

Consume a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet can prevent migraines, reduce their effects, and keep your body in good shape. A few items you’ll want to add to your diet to help with this are:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Figs
  • Collard greens
  • Quinoa
  • Almonds
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Pomegranates

In addition to healthy food, you’ll want to stay away from options that are known to cause headaches. These include cured meats, chocolate, fermented items, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.

Apply Lavender Oil to Your Temples

When meditating, you might consider applying lavender oil to your temples. Lavender is well-known for promoting relaxation. One study also showed that participants who used lavender oil when having a migraine had faster pain relief than those who didn’t.

Keep in mind that you need to dilute the oil before massaging it onto your skin. Otherwise, it could irritate it. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, you could instead hold it under your nose and smell it while meditating.

When Do I Need Medical Assistance if I Have a Migraine?

While mindfulness meditation often helps even the most severe migraine cases, there are a few times when to get help for a headache. Some symptoms to keep an eye out for include a migraine that happens within seconds, a fever, convulsions, or sudden confusion. If you notice yourself having these, immediately contact your doctor.

Mindfulness meditation is easy to practice and comes with a variety of benefits for migraine sufferers. Not only does it naturally reduce migraine pain, but it can sometimes prevent future attacks.

References
[1] https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-019-0961-8
[2] https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/335249

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. is the founder of Juneau’s Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab. He designed the clinic to be a place where Alaskans can go to get natural pain relief. Dr. Wells attended Western States Chiropractic College and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association.

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