3 Causes of Migraines (and Holistic Tips to Manage Them)

3 Causes of Migraines (and Holistic Tips to Manage Them)


Traditional treatments not cutting it for migraine management? Explore the root of migraines and some potential options for support.

If you suffer from migraines, you know that the experience of them can be the difference between a good day and a bedridden one: the feeling of your head slowly unraveling from the inside, accompanied by sensations of heat and fatigue, with the most deeply inconvenient sensitivity to bright lights.

Moreover, with too much information online that relies on subjective, individual symptoms, trying to identify the root cause can often feel like a Sherlock Holmes-grade mystery.

Fortunately, if we break down the most common migraine triggers into their most elementary parts—my dear Watson—then you may have more solutions on hand than you anticipated!

Three main constituents of a migraine are as follows:

  • Tension

  • Inflammation

  • Dehydration

If we address each one of these as its own set of circumstances, then we can formulate a protocol based on what approach suits the situation best.


When it comes to tension, we understand that tension doesn’t just spontaneously manifest in the human body. It’s a product of our daily posture habits and movements as they accumulate throughout our life.

For example, consider the angle of your head when reading, typing, drawing, texting, or even carrying on a conversation or social interaction. Take a moment to bring mindfulness to this self-study of your own alignment and habits, asking yourself questions like, “Do I tilt my head to one side without realizing it?” “Do I clench my jaw in anger, anxiety, or frustration?” “Do I chew on my tongue when I’m trying to think or formulate a sentence?”

You might find that your personal posture habits create those tension patterns that lead to migraines down the line. Something as simple as reading for hours with your head tucked into your chest can compress the vagus nerve and activate the body’s fight-or-flight response instead of the rest-and-digest response.

To alleviate this, let’s bring your attention to the vagus nerve. Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation—i.e. gently massaging the head and neck to release the trapped nerve—has been studied to be an excellent migraine reducer. You can try your own head and neck massage, or consult a licensed massage therapist or other holistic bodyworker like an acupuncturist or acupressure specialist. That will ensure you’re getting to the root of the cause.

Warming herbs like ginger—which contains anti-inflammatory compounds shown to be as powerful as ibuprofen—are excellent to help encourage tight, anxious muscles to surrender into relaxation. That’s a big thumbs-up to brew your favorite chai when a headache starts to creep in!


Since we just mentioned ginger being anti-inflammatory, it’s important to now understand how inflammation is another root cause of chronic migraine activity.

Inflammation is the feeling of heat and swelling in the body, and often includes a loss of range of motion or mobility. Grander examples of chronic inflammation include arthritis and osteoarthritis, which localize themselves to bones and joints, but inflammation can also be widespread throughout the body due to lifestyle factors such as stress and lack of sleep.

Another mindfulness check-in can help identify your own stressors that could be behind your migraine. Consider how much sleep you have been getting in relation to how much you know you need to feel recharged, reenergized, and well-rested. You can also gently consider stressful situations or relationships in your life, which could be contributing to the feelings of heat and pressure that come with the production of stress hormones like cortisol.

Luckily, some of the best antidotes for this are meditation and breathwork. Although the simplest solutions can sometimes feel like the most challenging—it’s completely valid to feel as if you don’t have time to sit and meditate, and breathwork might seem like an esoteric mystery in and of itself—even a practice as short as 30 seconds can change your entire day.

You can also choose to work with anti-inflammatory cooling herbs, like peppermint or licorice, when it feels like the heat is too much and a warming herb would be counterproductive.


Last but not least, you might be surprised to discover that you are dehydrated when a migraine sets in.

If you’ve been good about water intake—i.e. drinking eight eight-ounce cups of water per day—then there is a chance that you might not be taking in enough electrolytes to support it.

Electrolytes are basic minerals that your body needs to function on a cellular level. These are: calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Yes, sodium! Salt has unfairly earned a bad reputation, but your body needs it along with all the other minerals to effectively ensure that water saturates your cells and allows nerve impulses to be carried through your central nervous system, which is crucial for your brain health as well.

If water can’t flow through the body properly, a migraine can definitely manifest since there’s less of a chance for your circulation to take care of the excess tension and inflammation discussed above.

Fortunately, however, you can easily add electrolytes to your food in the form of table salt, Himalayan pink salt, and Celtic gray salt, and there are wonderful low-sodium/high-potassium specialty options available if you have concerns about overdoing your salt intake. You’ll also be pleased to discover that fruits and vegetables are also great natural sources of electrolytes by themselves!

Now equipped with this new knowledge, you’re on your way to self-healing.

Explore how meditation can further support migraine healing.

Holistic Tips for Managing Migraines

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