A starbucks migraine remedy discussion

After reading all of the descriptions of the different forums, I decided the best fit was here.


This is not a substitute for medical advice. This post and the replies to follow are not to be taken as medical advice. If you suffer from migraines, you should visit a physician. Please consult your physician about any diet changes.


Is everyone covered? If not, I’m sure the mods will let me know after pulling on their hair and mumbling something about a “troublemaker” before editing/deleting. I don’t mind since it’s not my site.

I wanted to pass along a neat little trick I’ve discovered-How I get rid of my migraines without prescription medication!

Perhaps this won’t work on everyone, but the few I’ve told it’s worked on. And since there are some medical minds lurking about, I’d love to hear some insight on probable reasons as to why this might work.

Some history-

My mother had a history of migraines. They did all kinds of testing and never found out why. Mind you, this testing was back in the '80’s.

I get them as well. I saw a doctor about them who merely shrugged and said take some Advil and if that doesn’t work, I’ll consider writing a prescription after some tests.


No way. After knowing what my mother went through…nuh-uh! She went through extensive testing.

I decided to try diet changes and things before starting on medication and this is what I’ve found out.

Stress and then the absence of stress will trigger it. It has to be a large amount of it. Enough that my blood pressure goes up. When it comes down, bam! Migraine. I can almost count on it. Luckily, I handle stress very well.

I get addicted to caffeine as quickly as you can snap your fingers. If I go two days of drinking a caffeinated beverage, even just one a day, the day I quit, I’ll get a migraine.

And these are not just headaches, these are definite migraines.

If I completely miss two meals, I’ll get a headache. Then, once I eat, I’ll get a full blown migraine.

Since the majority of it seemed to center around blood sugar, I decided to try some sugar for the next time I got one. Well, it didn’t work.

Then, I heard caffeine can help if you don’t consume it regularly which I’ve nixed it completely from my diet (which, I could go on another tangent about how that has greatly improved my health). I began to use myself for research and purchased some caffeine tablets. I wanted to pinpoint what was the remedy for my migraines because logically, it could provide some insight as to their cause. Well, the tablets didn’t work either.

After that, I tried eating smaller more frequent meals. That greatly decreased the number of migraines I had, but I’d still get them occasionally.

I tried ice thinking that tension was the cause. Nope.

Heat, nope.

One day while out with my sister-in-law, I could feel one coming on. I tried my best to ignore it to get through the day. She wanted starbucks, so I decided to get one too. I ordered a caramel frappuccino.

The ice cold drink felt so good on my throbbing head. I sucked the cup dry as quickly as one could through the green straw and noticed something.

The throbbing was gone. I mentally raised an eyebrow and decided to remember this little trick.

The next time I had a bad one. Seeing stars, bowing to the porcelain god, etc. I sent my husband straight to starbucks and before I finished the drink, it was gone.

Starbucks has trampled the last five migraines I’ve had. I’ve searched the web for ingredients in a caramel frappuccino, but have had no luck in finding it. I didn’t think I would, but one can hope.

I began passing this to friends and family. I haven’t been told it didn’t work, but a few have said it did and they couldn’t wait to see if it worked again.

You have to get a fresh prepared drink. The store bought starbucks do not work.

So, after eating straight sugar and it not making the migraine go away, and after caffeine not making it go away, I wonder what else it could be? Maybe the combination of caffeine, sugar, and the cold? I haven’t taken anatomy, but a cold mouth would transfer more quickly to your head than an icepack on the back of your neck, yes?

Any theories would be nice to hear.

with all disclaimers of I’M NOT A DOCTOR:
Your story makes pathophysiological sense because:
–the starbucks version has crushed ice and the store bottle does not–so your “ice pack” explanation makes sense–i.e., you are basically administering an ice pack flowing past the inferior portion of your cerebral circulation as opposed to the superior or lateral portions (as with a real ice pack);
–caffeine inhibits vascular dilation and can therefore treat migraine
–but withdrawal from caffeine can increase sensitivity to adenosine and cause more vascular dilation–in other words, you are having “rebound headache”–basically a drug withdrawal symptom. For this latter reason many migraineurs, as you have, avoid caffeine altogether–after slowly titrating themselves off of it.
(That said, vascular dilation/constriction is no longer thought to be the ultimate cause of migraine–some suggest it is a downstream event stemming from aberrant brainstem regulation of blood flow)
If migraines are debilitating for you, you might consider seeing a neurologist with an interest in headaches rather than your current doc; there are a variety of approaches to migraine. My reading suggests that no test other than an accurate and complete history will be positive for migraines unless you have a rare genetic disorder called Familial Hemiplegic Migraine in which case a genetic test can establish the diagnosis. This is much much more rare than just a family history of migraines (very common) without a clearly identified genetic cause. Unless there are other red flags that suggest the possibility of a non-migraine cause of headache, few other tests will be useful. (For a full description of the rationales for testing, and treatment recommendations for options available up to 2000, see http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/full/55/6/754 ; you can let me know if this technical article does not make sense and I can help translate.)
Advil may actually be your doc’s first test: i.e., is the problem serious enough to warrant more intensive intervention? If Advil isn’t enough you deserve better, which I think is what your doc was off-handedly saying but perhaps not saying it optimistically enough.
I worked with a headache specialist last year in neurology and found that doing exactly what you are doing–keeping track of your triggers and seeing what works best for you–is the most fundamental part of treating migraines. But if that’s not working well enough to keep you out of trouble, you could benefit from more help if you need it.
You might be able to sort out the effects of the ice vs. the effects of the caffeine of the frappucino by testing the effect of an ice-containing smoothie without any caffeine or chocolate; and you might be able to even sort the sugar issue out definitively by trying a blender-mixed drink of ice with diet soda without caffeine (like diet 7-up)–I’m guessing you’d want to mix it at the same consistency as the frappucino, something like a margarita, right? If it is just the ice that is helping that would allow you to reserve the caffeine and avoid ending up depending on it and getting that same drug rebound effect again.
Good luck with the experimenting!

So far, this works for me. Should I have not found any relief, I would mark it as debilitating. And I’m happy that it’s without getting on a prescription medication, which is important to me. The doc I saw mentioned Advil…after I said over the counter medications do not provide any relief. I think he was rushed.

I will try a smoothie in order to rule out caffeine. Or better yet, perhaps I should try some fruit with ice and mix it in my blender. On the other hand, I would need to start it and run to the other end of the house to avoid the noise

Maybe I’ll start with Sonic first. Or, just a cup of crushed ice from Sonic. (Okay, I’m beginning to use this reply as a permenent record for future possible treatment options)

If anyone’s interested, I will report my findings on my next headache.

If anything, I want to be able to provide useful information to a doctor if/when I go to get them treated.

I’m really glad you brought this up. My sister & I are both afflicted with M’s, and are always discussing triggers and ways to make it better.
Once I was backpacking, got a migraine, and stuck my entire head in an ice-cold stream of water. It was so cold it hurt. I pulled my head out and the migraine was gone. I’ve never been able to duplicate that experience – I’d need snow-melt water to do it.
So if drinking the frapp doesn’t work, maybe I’ll throw it over my head!

has a series of tutorials on headache with various references. Emphasis is on medications, however–no discussion of ice!
Like any treatment modality, one must be concerned with side effects:
“Ice Cream Headache - Site, Duration, and Relationship to Migraine”: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1526-4610.1992.hed3201035.x
And the BMJ on the same topic:
There is apparently debate about whether migraineurs get ice cream headaches more often or less often than other people; the BMJ article describes the phenomenon in a way that makes it reasonable to think that your method might have a positive effect because of the mechanisms that create a negative effect in “brain freeze” sufferers.
The BMJ article is pretty brilliant–this kind of thing makes me love the medical literature:
"No treatment is usually required, and sufferers rarely seek medical attention. Since the posterior aspect of the palate is most likely to produce the referred pain of ice cream headache, avoiding contact of the cold food with this area can effectively eliminate the symptoms. Most people arrive at such preventive measures without the advice of doctors. Ice cream abstinence is not indicated."

Ice cream evoked headaches (ICE-H) study: randomised trial of accelerated versus cautious ice cream eating regimen
this may be the BEST STUDY EVER–the “ICE-H” trial conducted by an 8th grader, published in the BMJ.

somebody must be on a fun and easy rotation!

I checked out the articles. Thanks Joe!
It would be interesting indeed to find under normal circumstances cold will cause a headache, but during a migraine it may remedy or at least help.
I wonder if drinking through a straw might have a role as well. Most likely, the ice cream in the experiments were taken by spoon.

I know this post is like a little kid with a new microscope, but I love being a scientist. No matter how elementary!

I tried this last night. I used a straw with the frapp and gave myself a few ice cream headaches along the way, trying to keep the cold going. After the frapp I thought “well, that didn’t work”.
20 min later I was painfree. Those of you with migraines know how rare that is!


somebody must be on a fun and easy rotation!

Studying for Step 2. Neither fun nor easy! (Better than Step 1 though.)
Now for the head-to-head comparison of frappucinos to NSAIDS. It’s a clinical trial waiting to happen. You could probably even get drug company (i.e., Starbuck’s) sponsorship.


Ice cream evoked headaches (ICE-H) study: randomised trial of accelerated versus cautious ice cream eating regimen
this may be the BEST STUDY EVER–the “ICE-H” trial conducted by an 8th grader, published in the BMJ.

LOL… if he’s in 8th grade, and it’s in the BMJ… does that count as peer-reviewed? :stuck_out_tongue:
Sharp kid with an associate prof for a parent.
"All 145 students from six classes who were approached provided verbal consent. There were no refusals and no loss to follow up…
This work was supported by an unrestricted grant from mum and dad."
Best study ever!

I’ve been off caffeine for a bit too, and the tight temples come every day…Starbucks, huh? I just might have to renege on my decaf status.