Here’s How Long a Migraine Typically Lasts

It’s important to note that you may not deal with all the stages every time you have a migraine, and even if you do, you might start to see some variation in how long they last as you experiment with treatments to cut down on your pain and other symptoms. In general, “many of them resolve within 24 hours,” Amit Sachdev, MD, medical director in the department of neurology at Michigan State University, tells SELF.

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Will a migraine go away on its own?

If you have a migraine and don’t know how to treat it or don’t have access to medication at the moment, rest assured that a migraine attack doesn’t last forever, even if you do nothing. “Many migraines resolve on their own or with simple measures like sleep,” Dr. Sachdev says.

But given how painful it can be to experience a migraine, it makes sense that you’d want to do what you can to get rid of it ASAP. “There are a lot of measures that can be taken to make that migraine livable or very mild,” Dr. Mikhael says. Some are as simple as going into a dark room and trying to sleep it off, while others require targeted migraine medication to get things under control,” he says.

Big picture, though: Migraine attacks tend to be a recurring thing. Meaning if you’ve had one, you’re more likely to have them again in the future, Dr. Mikhael says.

Some people who experience heavy hormonal changes have seen their migraine attacks stop after becoming pregnant1 or after menopause.2 “It does fluctuate from person to person, but migraines tend to get better as you get older too,” Dr. Mikhael says.

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What is the fastest way to get rid of a migraine?

Lying down in a dark room with an ice pack or heating pad on your head (depending on your personal preference) is a good place to start, but you’ll likely need what’s known as an acute or abortive treatment to get rid of the pain completely, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen; prescription meds such as triptans, which make your blood vessels constrict and block pain pathways in your brain; and CGRP antagonists, which block receptors for calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a protein in the brain that can cause migraine disease.

If you have severe migraines or frequent headaches and pain relievers don’t seem to help, there are preventive medications available, like beta-blockers, which work by reducing your blood pressure, and tricyclic antidepressants, which affect your levels of serotonin and other brain chemicals linked to migraine, according to NINDS. CGRP antagonists can also be taken as a preventative (they come as a monthly or quarterly injectable), and Botox injections given once every three months can prevent chronic migraine (meaning you have 15 or more headache days per month) by interfering with pain transmission between your brain and nerves, per the Mayo Clinic.

Another key to preventing migraine is knowing your migraine triggers, Dr. Mikhael says, since continued, repeated exposure to these migraine-inducing factors can cause more attacks. If you’re having trouble figuring out what sets off your migraine attacks, it may be helpful to keep a journal for a few weeks (or however long it takes to have a few episodes) to see if you and your doctor can chart a pattern.