Migraine Headaches, Be Gone: Old And New TreatmentsBy: Ashley Olds - July 13, 2014
There’s something about chronic pain that’s a bit… how should I put it… soul sucking.
And migraines definitely rank up there as a day (or week or life) ruiner. It’s easy for the uninformed folk to wonder how big of a deal that little old headache of yours is when it’s caused you to cancel events and hide under the covers. But that may be because they don’t understand how debilitating these nemeses of the noggin can actually be.
What are migraines?
Migraine headaches are defined as a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision. There are more symptoms than this – like sensitivity to light – and the types of migraine headaches you could experience even get broken down into different classes. As medical news today describes, many are even preempted with sensory alarms going off in your body like headache hazard signs, “such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days.”
What happens during a migraine?
Generally it’s a mixture of your blood vessels expanding, followed by them letting loose a slew of chemicals from nerve fibers coiled around those now enlarged blood vessels. Specifically – just under the skin of your temple, an artery called the temporal artery enlarges, and the release of said chemicals is what causes that inflammation. So what you get is pain from the inflammation and then more artery enlargement which can make the whole ordeal feel like an eternity.
Why’s this happening to me?!
The Cliffs Notes biology lesson on why you’re suffering probably isn’t what you’re looking for. What you may want to look for instead are what the possible triggers could be setting you off. Do they tend to come after you’re exposed to certain perfumes or allergens? Do they happen after eating a big savory box grease infused noodles from your favorite Chinese place? Do they suddenly come on after verbal sparring with the spouse? Indeed, scents, MSG, and stressors are just some of the causes you may want to explore.
If finding and eliminating any of those proves futile, there are numerous plans of attack you and your primary care physician can map out. Although you should always consult your doctor before initiating a new treatment plan, there are indeed some over the counter medications that seem to prove helpful.
For example, there’s the tried and true Excedrin which lead author Jerome Goldstein says, has “been around for a long, long time and have had a big impact on treating migraine.” Goldstein, a San Francisco Clinical Research Center, worked on a trial testing these combo meds versus placebos and other types of pills. However, as a weapon against excruciating pain, these “mild-to-moderate” relievers may feel more like shooting a toy gun at giant grizzly nomming on your skull. Furthermore, Seattle migraine specialist Dr. Douglas S. Paauw makes a good point: “With many doses of caffeine per week, you may get rebound headaches,”
He added, “When people overuse medications for migraine they can give themselves chronic daily headache.”
Between tolerance and side effects, you might prefer to avoid meds altogether – whether they’re over the counter or through the prescription pad (understandable – part of me is always wondering if my doc is only pushing pills because of the game show host looking rep who just wheeled out of his office). So if you’re interested in non-pharmaceutical solution, WebMD offers a variety of possible methods to mitigate that migraine:
-Apply an ice pack to the painful area of your head. Try placing it on your forehead, temples, or the back of your neck.
– Take a warm bath or shower; take a nap; or take a walk.
– Ask someone to rub your neck and back, or treat yourself to a massage.
– Apply gentle, steady rotating pressure to the painful area of your head with your index finger and/or thumb. Maintain pressure for seven to 15 seconds, then release. Repeat as needed.
– Rest, sit, or lie quietly in a low-lit room. Close your eyes and try to release the tension in your back, neck, and shoulders.
– If you have excessive muscle contractions in the neck, it may be helpful to perform physical therapy exercises every day.
There’s also the method of “biofeedback” that works for all sorts of pain.
My physical therapist taught me a variation of this last year for my herniated disc pain. Since then, I went from Gimpy McGee to everyday jogger – but it’s a process. If you’re used to kind of “disconnecting” from your pain as an involuntary coping mechanism, it’s a journey; it’s all about getting your mind and your body to try and be pals again for the common goal of not feeling awful. Much like anything from basketball to yoga, it gets better with practice – but if you do try it out, the results can be pretty life changing.
There are different ways to do biofeedback – but one suggested for migraine relief includes redirecting blood flow from those enlarged blood vessels to somewhere else – like your hands.
Dr. Steven Baskin, director of the New England Institute for Behavioral Medicine in Stamford, CT and president of the Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, says: “In times of high stress, or when they have a feeling of a headache coming on, hand warming and relaxation will decrease the eventuality of having a headache — or at least one that’s not as severe.”
Or… how about binaural beats?
Some people swear by them while others say it just gives them a bigger headache. I’m not suggesting you do or don’t give it a try – but a bunch of comments from fellow sufferers seem to champion the effectiveness of listening to these tones with headphones. The only advice I’ll officially offer about this is my broken record go-to that applies to everything: check everything with your primary care professional first.
First, there’s the lady who disproved “pretty hurts” when her plastic surgery procedure ended up solving her migraine headaches. That’s right – she went in for a brow lift and her pain was lifted too. How’s that possible? Essentially, the lift took pressure off nerves commonly involved in migraine attacks and has been so effective that other doctors have followed suit and now use it to treat migraines specifically, calling it “surgical decompression.” As Dr. Jimmy Waldrop says, “Nerve decompression is a minimally invasive procedure performed by small incisions behind the hairline: five in the front, one in back,” He adds:
“The goal is to identify trigger points, which are in the temple and back of the head. Once identified, the goal is to decompress those nerves involved. Decompression involves cutting them away from what they are attached to, freeing them up from whatever is pressing on them. The irritation to those nerves causes migraines.”
But if brow-lifting idea makes your eyebrows raise in a “not for me, thanks” kind of way, there’s always the new contraption that looks like something a princess out of a Star Wars spinoff might sport. While it looks a tad science fiction, the Cefaly has reportedly proven to help with headaches a great deal.
Plus, you won’t have to go under the knife.
Rather, this metallic tiara is said to function by applying neurostimulation to the nerves involved by migraine attacks and claims that no side effects will be suffered. Indeed, a woman in the United Kingdom who has tried it, reported a vast improvement, sharing, ‘In the last week I have not had any migraines at all. If someone had told me six months ago this would happen I wouldn’t have believed them.’
Along with this headband, TIME magazine also listed a few non-traditional remedies, ranging from TMS (a device you can turn on at the back of your head during the outset of symptoms) to acupuncture to tinted glasses that apparently help when pattern or wavelength sensitivity is the cause of symptoms (seen in the video at the top of the article).
And, finally – there’s the Zecuity patch (which releases Imitrex that bypasses your gastrointestinal tract when a spoonful of sugar – or ginger – isn’t enough to battle the nausea):
Any readers out there have a remedy to share?
Have a beautiful and painless Sunday!
Image via Youtube