What Patients Say Works (And Doesn’t) for Migraines

For the live-updated, fully-labelled, interactive version of this infographic, click here.

For the live-updated, fully-labelled, interactive version of this infographic, click here.

Eight of the top ten patient-reported treatments for Migraine are simple lifestyle changes, not drugs. CureTogether — a free resource owned by 23andMe that allows people to share information about their health and treatments — surveyed more than 6,000 people who self-identify as having Migraine. They reported that interventions such as sleeping in Migraine Photoa dark, quiet room, avoiding smoke and red wine, and using ice packs helped them feel better.

Migraine can involve debilitating pain for many hours or days, sometimes interfering with work and day-to-day activities. Participants in the study said they found that prescription medications like Imitrex, Treximet, and DHE, as well as relaxation, hydration, caffeine, and exercise were among the most effective treatments. The survey also found that some common treatments such as alcohol, contraceptive pills, headstands, Paxil and Effexor XR actually made the symptoms of Migraine worse.

The Migraine Research Foundation estimates that over ten percent of the population, including children, suffers from Migraine, with a frequency ranging from once a month to every day. Nearly one in four US households has a Migraine sufferer in it. The condition can be extremely painful and is not well

Most Effective Rated Treatments for Patients with Migraine
1. Dark, quiet room
2. Sleep
3. Eliminate red wine
4. Passage of time
5. Eliminate MSG
6. Avoid smoke
7. Wear sunglasses
8. Intravenous DHE
9. Imitrex injection
10. Ice packs

understood, and finding accurate recommendations on treatments that work well can be challenging, so CureTogether asked people who experience Migraine to rate the effectiveness of 204 different patient-reported treatments.

Where did this data come from? This is the result of a four-year CureTogether study on Migraine, in which 6,259 people shared information about their symptoms and what treatments worked best for them. We’d like to thank those who participated. And just as they shared their experience with treatments, we’re freely and openly sharing the results of the Migraine study.

This is part of a regular series of CureTogether research findings. CureTogether’s research findings are different than
associations with illness, traits and drug response. But as we continue our work with the CureTogether community, 23andMe hopes to incorporate more of this kind of self-reported information into our own

23andMe customers can view their results in the Preliminary Research report on Migraines.

Not yet a customer? Visit our store!

research. CureTogether present its findings just as they are — patient-reported data — to stimulate discussion and generate new insights for further research.

Please tweet, blog, or pass this along to anyone who can benefit or is interested in Migraine. Thank you!






  • Martin Forde

    I used to suffer from chronic migraines. I noticed that popular practice is to avoid caffeine. Which is really interesting, because it’s actually the other way around. Caffeine is a vasodilator and if useful for treating migraines. That’s what the “headache medicine” (i.e., excedrin) contains caffeine.

    • Dana

      I used to think that too. Then I got the caffeine monkey off my back. I had also stopped eating wheat, which was the biggest help, but then I got morning headaches instead, and when I got over my caffeine addiction those went away as well.

      Caffeine is not a naturally occurring substance in the human body, and is not naturally occurring in plants all over the world, and it doesn’t make sense that we would need it to avoid health problems. I think proper nutrition has a greater role to play there.

  • Aaron

    One thing that would be very interesting to me is if then after collecting data on treatments for many conditions, if then you did a scatter plot like the one above showing what treatments were most effective for a LOT of conditions. There might be some lifestyle change trends that form across the board good at curing conditions. I would be very interested in those findings.

    • ScottH

      That’s a great suggestions Aaron. Thanks.

  • Brandon K ;)

    Thank you for the information ! Keep it up ! The world need you guys to have a better day ;D

  • Brian Bennett

    Beginning at the age of 35, I began suffering chronic migraines. I was having them 5-6 days a week, and they were all preceded by sinus inflammation. I started reading that many grains were the cause of many people’s migraines, due to the high amount of inflammation promoting omega-6 fatty acids. Sure enough, this diet change literally did away with my migraines and sinus inflammation. I increased my omega-3 (inflammation inhibiting) intake, while dramatically decreasing my omega-6 intake. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in our diet should ideally be 3:1, but in many American diets, the ratio is closer to 30:1. I’m not claiming this diet will work for everyone, but if your migraines are bad enough, it may be worth trying out. It took me about a week to start seeing the results. And, the new diet wasn’t as difficult as I had initially thought it would be. I hope this may help others.

    • Dana

      Seconded. I have not dropped all grains but I dropped wheat. I might occasionally get traces, but usually I don’t get any. (I do not eat other grains daily, either–more like a few times a week at most.) I had decided to make it a new year’s resolution for 2012. I lasted until the first week of March and then had a wheat noodle dish at a restaurant. Within half an hour I was sleepy. That scared me and I never did that again.

      But most notably, my migraines which had worsened near the end of 2011, complete with visual aura as a warning sign (predrome, I think it’s called), were almost completely wiped out.

      I did start getting morning headaches. I finally decided to wean myself off caffeine for other reasons, only to find that that was my last piece of the puzzle. Now I am virtually headache-free except when I let my caffeine consumption creep back up again. Those few headaches never get serious and they’re easy to knock out.

      Dumping wheat had other benefits for me, like a reduction in inflammation. I used to have problems with my knees that have now vanished, and I get other joint pains much less often.

      I don’t need it in my diet at all, so I don’t miss it. I can get fiber from vegetables.

  • Dana

    I would not touch Imitrex with a ten-foot pole. Patients have died of heart failure after using it, although they had no prior history of heart disease. And no one has tried very hard to discover what these patients had in common as far as underlying health conditions, so I have no way of knowing if I would be susceptible.

    I’m at greater risk of stroke anyway from being a migraineur, and being able to make the headache stop quickly would not change my risk. I don’t need to add another serious risk on top of that.

    • Francie

      I am 57 and the ONLY thing that worked for me was sumatriptan (Imitrex). I know now that my migraines were related to hormones. I used to get horrible migraines the day after I ovulated and they would sometimes last three or four days before Imitrex.. My mother, who also had migraines in her younger years, told me that after menopause, I would not get migraines. For the most part, she was right. I almost never get them now.

  • E.D.

    I have not found any type of over the counter medications to help with my migraine. They started as I was entering menopause and have eased up some now that I am in my 60s but still get them a few times a month. Mine are caused by the normal things: not enough sleep – too much sleep – too cold – too hot – hungry – certain foods – stress. Have tried 2 different medications, first one I was allergic to (Imitrex) but the 2nd one works fine. The side effects are not bad.
    Ended up in the hospital earlier this year with the worse headache ever. They did a CT scan and said nothing was wrong.

  • http://metadrin.com/chronic-migraines/ waynemarshalmetadrin

    This migraine we are talking about is the kind of severel headache which pains you badly and it takes long period to reduce the pain if you got this disease in your body.

  • scarlett

    My migraines are most definitely sinus related and oddly enough, I have no light sensitivity so thought for a long time that they were not migraines. WRONG! I cannot take Imitrex since it makes me severely nauseated. It seems to be the first migraine med that docs go to and is ridiculously expensive if you don’t have good insurance coverage. When it did not work for me, the doc switched me to Butalbital/APAP/caffeine50 which is very, very inexpensive and is the bomb for me! Thanks for everyone’s input… thinking about trying the grain elimination thing!

  • Diane

    I had migraines with aura after drinking coffee. Quit drinking caffeinated beverages and that helped. It took many years of eliminating foods and then reintroducing them to figure out that I am allergic to barley. Barley is in everything, cakes, cookies, desserts, breads, crackers, pretzels, cereal, anything with flour. I eliminated barley and I am now migraine free. I also pay closer attention to keeping my gut flora at peak efficiency. This has helped with my overall health. I took amitriptyline once and hallucinated. I will never take anything stronger than Ibuprofen for a migraine again.

  • Peter Darlas

    Need help of a cure for migraine pain. Happens every February to April. I have tried all medical miracles but nothing.. still suffering

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