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10 Uncommon Ways to Reduce Stress for Migraine Health

10 Uncommon Ways to Reduce Stress for Migraine Health

Stress is – for many of us – a compounding factor for migraine. Whether or not it is an actual trigger for you personally (there is controversy about whether it is a trigger at all, but I’m going to leave that topic alone and simply say it might not be your trigger), the things you do when you are stressed – eating infrequently, skipping sleep, not getting enough water, forgetting medicines, etc. – almost certainly are. If that is the case, then reducing your stress levels also can help you reduce the frequency or severity of your migraine attacks.

Many of us are at least passingly familiar with the most popular methods of stress reduction: yoga, regular exercise, mindful meditation, a hot bath, a cup of hot tea, a long chat with a friend. If those methods have not worked for you, however, or you simply don’t like some of those things, you’re in luck. There are nearly as many ways to reduce and manage stress as there are stress triggers. The trick, as always with matters of health, is finding what works for you.

With that in mind, here are a few uncommon, but scientifically valid, methods for reducing stress that you may not have tried:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  2. Belly breathing and breath control
  3. A mini palm massage (simply use the opposite thumb to massage the palm in a circular pattern)
  4. Accupressure
  5. Forced smiling
  6. Mantras and Affirmations (Example: I can handle this)
  7. Sexual intimacy
  8. Cuddling with an animal
  9. Chewing gum (Just make sure the muscle movements and jaw strain aren’t a migraine trigger!)
  10. Watching a funny video online or looking up a fractal pattern

Some of the above methods may sound strange, but researchers have found that each one reduces stress hormone levels and increases feelings of calm and/or happiness almost immediately.

Eliminating stress altogether isn’t possible, nor would we want it to be. (Certain types of stress are healthy and beneficial, as are the life events that accompany them.) Reducing chronic stress, however, is an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle, and doing so will dramatically improve quality of life for those of us with migraine – whether the stress itself is a trigger or not.

Do you have any unusual stress-reduction techniques that work for you? Please share them in the comment section below. They may help someone else.

Also, if you are a migraineur who tends to experience a migraine attack when chronic stress eases, please read “Keeping Stress Consistent: Avoiding Let-Down and Stress Migraines.” It may help you avoid, or at least reduce, any let-down attacks.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Tammy
    2 years ago

    Using fingers or a hard object to press and make short strokes over a hard knot at a pain level of 7 about 6 times helps to ease stiffness so I can do meaningful stretching and strengthening physical therapy exercises..
    Pranayama breathing daily helps give my neck and upper body muscles a break. It decrease my anxiety and panic attacks.
    Essentrics Pain-Relief workout has helped me to get exercise without using up all my energy for the day. It’s about 20 min. DVDs. But there are mini workouts on YouTube. My posture has improved slowly releasing some tense muscles and when I notice the pain I just get up and do 5-10 minutes and it settles down most of the time.
    Taking breaks to stretch or sit down while getting dinner ready, cleaning or other task has taken a while for me to adjust to and a key to maintaining my energy levels for other things. Saying no to others has been hard to learn but it’s given me crucial time to take care of myself.
    Diet really has improved my quality of life. It’s nowhere near a cure but my intense pain of 10 is most always a 4 now and at the most a 7 when life happens and I can’t be consistent with all the above things or I decide to push myself for an occasion. I adopted the vegetarian diet for my health after trying ketogenic diet and Paleo diet which were good but early heart disease runs in my family and my younger brother had just had a heart attack along with already dealing with his migraines. My family seen my improvement and is also eating vegetarian with me which has made this diet much easier. You tube and/or research just to understand supplements needed and getting greens is so important. After three weeks the cravings fall away and I found I could focus more on enjoying eating.
    Juicing celery alone without other foods has helped stabilize my orthostatic hypotension. This is really the only juicing I do because it’s not much juice and it can be expensive but drinking half a cup especially when the fatigue hits hard in the morning just gets me through the day and decreases my dizziness.

  • kamadew
    3 years ago

    Acupressure on the trapezius muscle four finger widths from the neck junction is the only treatment I’ve had in 56 yrs. of trial & error that has consistently eliminated my migraines other than drugs. It works best if you have someone willing and able to give you the time (an hour) and significant energy the treatment requires: Consistent heavy thumb pressure on the bilateral pressure points (with increasingly frequent 30 second breaks to shake off our negative energy and restore circulation & refresh the muscles – as well as give the migraineur a break from the discomfort. At the beginning, one way to tell if you’ve located the pressure point is its extreme sensitivity and the pressure is excruciating. Remembering to breath through it is critical. The pain lessens as the muscles release their tension.
    Finding someone willing, able, and available when you need them, in my experience is nearly impossible. You can use a “do-it-yourself” version that is difficult and not always as effective but is very helpful. Although a tennis ball is recommended, I find I get much better results with a “hardball” baseball. If, in the beginning, this is too difficult, try using the larger softball. Be seated on the floor or in an armless chair that allows you to be flush against the wall. Using your hand, find your trapezius pressure points. If one is more sensitive than the other, start with that side. Take your time, remembering the importance of breathing, and position the ball on the pressure point, leaning against the wall to hold it in place and apply maximum pressure. Ease up when necessary, taking 5cleansing breaths, continue for 30 minutes and switch sides, stretching all over in between. Do another 30 minutes on this side. By this time migraine should be significantly better, if not gone. Repeat another 30 minutes each side. By now, if done correctly, trapezius pain should be minimal, mostly related to previous pressure. If migraine is not reduced, and trapezius is still excruciatingly tender, I would suggest a one time visit to an acupressure practitioner to learn how to locate trapezius pressure points and any other help that might be offered. It has “saved” me so many times when I had no other options. And keeping my “traps” relaxed has cut my migraines by 2/3rds over time!

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Great of you to share this with our community kamadew! This is great advice and I am thrilled to you hear that you have found something that has helped to decrease your migraines!! May it continue! Take care, Joanna ( Team)

  • kamadew
    3 years ago

    1). As hard as it may be, distraction therapy has proven to be ridiculously effective, even for severe post-operative pain. I have found it to be amazingly effective with most migraines if the stimulation is distracting enough. Watching a really mesmerizing action flick, spending time with my (almost) 3 year old twin granddaughters, can, with minimum medication, make me almost forget I have a migraine!

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    3 years ago

    I do that all the time too! In fact, when the pain is at it worst, is when I have to distract the most. I can’t lay or sit in a dark room by myself when it’s that bad, without wanting to slam my head through the wall! Amazingly, I’ve never heard that term. Thanks for sharing, and for letting me (and others use distraction as well) that we aren’t’ alone!

  • Meggietye
    4 years ago

    On the same vein as deep breathing I do something called Oxycise…it is deep diaphragmatic breathing with isometric and isotonic bodywork. I can do it in bed,if necessary, or in front of the tv with the DVD. There is a small learning curve, but I promise it is small! The website is called and there is lots to read so you can educate yourself. The board and threads are active if you wish to leave messages. I turn to Oxycise and my Chi machine to keep me together as I often can’t leave the house for days at a know the drill.

    Something I am doing daily is a very low carb food plan, high in fats and medium is called a Ketogenic, or Ancestral way of eating. In 3 mths I have gone from daily migraine to having 7 migraine in March, and 2 migraine in April!! I am stunned at my success. If you check out the book, The Migraine Miracle by Josh Turknett, M.D (neurologist) all the details are in there. I decided to try this instead of Botox..and I am Sooo glad I did!!

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    3 years ago

    Experimenting to find out what works best for us as individuals is key to migraine health. It sounds like you’re doing a great job! Thanks for sharing about the Oxycise. I’ve never heard of that, but I’ll look it up now.

  • Christi
    4 years ago

    Both my sister-in-law and I get mild to moderate relief by lightly tapping on the area of the migraine.
    Hope this helps someone else.

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    4 years ago

    That’s an interesting trick! Thank you for sharing.

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