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Migraines and Other Headaches

PreventionLearning To Relax

You may have already found your own ways to relax. Listening to music is one way; talking with friends is another. Experts also suggest the following techniques. Try some of them and see if they work for you.

Imagery and/or Visualization

Once a headache has taken hold, it may be too late to use imagery or visualization. Don't wait for a headache to practice seeing yourself in a relaxing setting, free of stress. Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a quiet beach. You hear no sounds, except for the crash of waves against the shore. Inhale. Smell the salty ocean air. Imagine the heat of the sun on your shoulders and the burning sand under your feet. To make visualization even easier, get a tape with relaxing music and directions to guide you.

Conscious Breathing

Breathing is something we do twenty-four hours a day, but we don't usually give it much thought. Try paying attention to your breath. (Concentrating on your breath is one of many types of meditation.) Wearing comfortable clothes, sit in a chair in a quiet place. Inhale and count slowly to three. Exhale. Pay attention only to your breathing. Keep up this conscious inhaling and exhaling for several minutes.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Lie on the floor or on a bed. The idea is to squeeze every voluntary muscle in your body, hold the squeeze for a few seconds, and then relax. Start with your head, the source of your misery. Squeeze your eyebrows together into a frown. Hold that pose as long as you can, then relax. Then, squeeze your eyes tightly shut. Relax. Next, scrunch up your nose like a rabbit. Hold it. Relax. Get the idea? Move down your body, tensing and relaxing every muscle you can think of.

Lighten Up!

Studies show that laughter helps to relieve stress. In the middle of a migraine, you may not feel much like laughing. But in your headache-free periods, get in the humor habit. Watch funny movies. Make someone else laugh and laugh with them. Laughing relaxes your face muscles and is good exercise.


Biofeedback is a painless procedure that uses electronic equipment to measure your body processes. It then “feeds back” the information to you. After you become more aware of some of your autonomic, or involuntary, body processes, you can exercise more control over them.

If you want to try biofeedback, you will need to go to a biofeedback specialist, who may be a psychologist. He or she will take your headache history. You will have an opportunity to see the machines that record information about your brain waves and skin temperature. After several sessions, you may be able to visualize what happens to you during a migraine. You can then learn how to prevent future migraines.


Yoga is a very popular form of relaxation that helps to relieve anxiety and stress. It is an ancient system of exercises, postures, stretches, breathing, and meditation. You can learn yoga in a class or individually with an instructor.

T'ai Chi Chaun (T'ai Chi)

T'ai chi, a Chinese martial art, is also used to relieve stress and to encourage healing. It involves slow, graceful body movements. Chi is the Chinese term for the body's vital energy force. You can do t'ai chi by yourself or in a group.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaMigraines and Other HeadachesMigraines and Other Headaches - Prevention - Avoiding Stress, Learning To Relax, Liking Yourself, Migraine Prevention Medications - Avoiding Headache Triggers, Staying in Shape, Herbs, Vitamins, and Minerals