Are you planning a trip to a higher altitude? Do you experience migraines? If you do, you’re probably wondering how the combination of altitude and migraines could affect you. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed about this trip, we can help you prepare for what’s to come.

Migraines are a common symptom of altitude sickness. They can be more severe at higher altitudes, and can be a source of major discomfort if you’re unprepared. While altitude medications are available to help with migraines in some cases, it’s usually best to try natural remedies first. We’re going to discuss natural options you can try at home to help control your chronic migraines while you’re at a higher altitude.

The Relationship Between Altitude and Migraines

Migraines are characterized by a one-sided, intense headache, often accompanied by light sensitivity and nausea. These symptoms can be worsened at higher altitudes, which is why those with chronic migraines tend to feel relieved when they descend from a high altitude. Although the exact cause of altitude-triggered migraines is not known, one common theory is that there is a change in oxygen levels at a higher altitude. When you’re moving from sea level to a higher altitude, the normal air pressure can be reduced, leading to a lower concentration of oxygen in the air. Low oxygen levels can trigger migraines, even in individuals who do not typically experience them.

Breathing Techniques for Migraine Relief

With the theory of low oxygen being a trigger for migraine at high altitudes, it’s possible that increasing the oxygen concentration in your body by using a breathing technique could help. Breathing exercises promote relaxation by calming and balancing the nervous system. A common coping mechanism for migraines is to take deep, slow breaths.

One simple breathing exercise you can try when you start to feel a migraine coming on is the diaphragmatic breathing technique. To practice this technique, sit comfortably with your back straight and place your hands on your abdomen. Then, take a deep breath in through your nose and imagine that you are breathing into your abdomen. Instead of letting your chest rise, push your abdomen out with each inhalation. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this cycle of breathing in and out for five minutes or until your migraine symptoms resolve.

Another breathing technique you can try to help manage your migraines is alternate nostril breathing. Altitude sickness can lead to stress, which can trigger a migraine. This breathing technique is believed to help release tension and calm the nervous system. Sit with your back straight and tilt your head forward slightly. Then, bring your right hand to your face and press down on the right nostril to close it. Take a slow, deep breath in through the left nostril for a count of three. Then, close the left nostril with your right thumb and release the right nostril, breathing out for a count of three. Repeat this cycle, alternating between inhaling and exhaling through each nostril, for five to ten minutes.

Other Natural Migraine Remedies

There are many natural remedies you can try to help with migraine at altitude. These include:

  • Eating a balanced diet. Consuming foods high in magnesium has been shown to help reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Foods high in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Remaining hydrated. Dehydration can be a common trigger for migraine. Stay well-hydrated when you’re at a high altitude to increase your odds of avoiding migraine symptoms.
  • Mild exercise. Exercise has been shown to help reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines. Since intense exercise can set off a migraine, stick to moderate forms of exercise such as swimming, gentle yoga, or arming when you’re at a higher altitude.
  • Taking breaks. Give your mind and body time for rest and relaxation so you don’t become overly stressed—a common migraine trigger.
  • Heating pad or ice pack. Apply a heating pad to your temples or forehead to help relax the muscles. Alternatively, apply a cold pack to your head to help reduce inflammation.


Managing migraines at a higher altitude can be slightly more challenging than managing them at a lower altitude. Understanding the potential triggers for altitude-triggered migraines, like low oxygen levels, can help prepare you for your trip. Breathing exercises can help increase the oxygen concentration within your body while also providing a relaxation effect. In addition, consider using other natural remedies to help manage your migraines at a higher altitude, like eating a balanced diet and remaining hydrated. By taking steps to prepare for and manage your migraines at higher altitudes, you can greatly reduce the impact they have on your trip.