Migraines are devastating — not just because of the excruciating pain, the light sensitivity, and the nausea, vomiting, or dizziness — but their power to stop your life. People with migraines must leave work or call in sick, miss fun events, and can’t play with their kids. People who don’t experience migraines may not understand that it’s not “just a headache,” making it even more challenging.
About 38 million American suffer from migraines; nearly one in four households contains someone who suffers. And 2 percent of sufferers experience chronic migraines, meaning 15 or more days per month. About 10 percent of children suffer from migraines.
Researchers say migraines are a neurological disease and that the attacks last four to 72 hours. Migraines feel different to each person; some people don’t experience pain. Those who do often describe it as feeling like someone is drilling inside their head. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and smell. Some feel a tingling or numbness in the face or fingers and toes.
Finding Help for Your Migraines
If you suffer from migraines, you’ve probably seen many doctors. If you haven’t, it’s worth visiting one soon. There are a variety of treatment options, including pain medications, preventative medications, and diet counseling.
- Pain Medications – Your doctor might prescribe something for you to take as soon as you feel a migraine approaching. Over-the-counter drugs such as Excedrin Migraine are a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine and may help moderate migraine pain. Triptan medications come as a pill, nasal spray or injection. They work by shrinking blood vessels and blocking the pain pathways to the brain. Ergotamine comes in a nasal spray or injection in a variety of formulations. Some people’s nausea worsens when using this drug. Opioids are sometimes used, but due to their habit-forming nature, these are typically a last resort. Your doctor may prescribe an anti-nausea medication in addition to a pain reliever.
- Preventative Medications – Not everyone should take preventative medications. But if you suffer from four or more debilitating migraines each month, ask a doctor about this approach. Cardiovascular drugs, anti-seizure drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and antidepressants are all used to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines, though most have a variety of side effects.
- Botox (OnabotulinumtoxinA) – has also been proven quite effective if given every 12 weeks. Botox injections are a service offered at Generations Family Practice and are administered by a medical provider. Call us today (919-852-3999) to see if you’re a candidate for this treatment.
While medication can certainly help you live a better life, there are other options to help control migraines, including:
- Diet counseling – Begin keeping a food diary and marking days when you have migraines. Many foods are triggers, such as foods with nitrates (hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, sausage), chocolate, alcohol (especially red wine), cheese with tyramine (cheddar, blue cheese, feta, Swiss, Parmesan), foods with MSG, pickled foods, beans, and cultured dairy products. GFP offers diet counseling, so ask your doctor for help.
- Headache diary – Even if you’re not tracking food, track your migraines. Doing so will help you find patterns. Try to include notes about how much sleep you’re getting, food, activities, and what treatments you’re taking.
- Muscle relaxation exercises. Many people have found that learning progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or yoga helps them manage migraines better (and not clench muscles) as they feel one coming on.
- Too much sleep and not enough can lead to more migraines. We know, it’s a delicate balance! But take care of yourself.
- Acupuncture/acupressure – Some people find these methods ease pain or lessen frequency.
- Massages – Regular massages help you stay relaxed and ease stress, which can trigger migraines.
People respond differently to various treatments. The right pain reliever should help you get rid of pain and function normally within a few hours. Other treatments should lessen the frequency and severity of your migraines. If you suffer from migraines or feel your current treatment is not working, speak to your Generations Family Practice physician.