Migraines: Options for Pain Relief and Proof of What Really Works
No doubt about it, migraines are a real pain. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association calls them a pain in the neck! This is actually a literal statement, and we will discuss later how migraines are related to the neck. First, let’s talk about what migraines are and look at some of the traditional ways to care for them. We will then explore a type of care that is natural and proven to work for many people.
Migraines are neurological in origin. They are not just really bad headaches. That is one of their most common symptoms, but there are many other symptoms which go along with the head pain. Some of these symptoms are listed below:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and certain smells
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Visual disturbances
- Throbbing and pounding head pain often on only one side
These symptoms can be so severe that they can cause you to have to lie down in a cool, dark room until the pain subsides. Most of the time, those who are suffering want to know how to get rid of the pain as soon as possible.
Traditional Care for Migraines
For one thing, you may want to be aware of certain things which may trigger migraines. These may be alcohol, certain foods, flashing lights, or certain smells. This can be different for each person. By avoiding your personal triggers, you may be able to cut back on the severity and frequency of migraines. Some other suggestions we will take a closer look at are using preventative medication and making lifestyle changes.
Preventative Medication for Migraines
Your primary care doctor may recommend taking medication to help you have fewer migraines, make them less severe, and help them go away faster. If you are someone who gets migraines often, this can be appealing to you as medications are known to reduce migraine occurrences by half or more.
The following drug groups are often suggested as care for migraines:
- Anti-seizure drugs: These drugs work by calming down the nerve cells located in the brain. Some of the most common drugs in this category follow:
- Topamirate ( Qudexy XR, Trokendi XR, Topomax)
- Valproic acid (Depakote, Depacon, Stavzor)
- Beta-Blockers: These drugs are usually used to care for heart disease and high blood pressure. It is not really known how they assist with migraine pain, but they do help many people. It may be due to the increase in the flow of blood they promote.
- Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
- Propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL)
- Antidepressants: The way that these medications work to help migraines is by affecting the level of the brain chemical serotonin. Some of these medications have proven to be effective in keeping migraines away.
- CGRP inhibitors: CGRP stands for calcitonin gene-related peptide. It is a molecule involved in causing migraine pain. CGRP inhibitors block the effects of this molecule. This is a relatively new class of drugs, with Aimovig (Erenumab) being the first medication officially approved to prevent migraines. It is a monthly injection you give to yourself with a pen-like device. Clinical trials revealed that people using this drug had one or two fewer migraine days per month than those who were taking a placebo. Side effects include mild pain and redness at the injection site.
- Triptans for menstrual migraines: This type of drug works to stop migraines when they are already in progress. One of these drugs, called Frova (frotriptan), might work to help prevent migraines. This medication also impacts serotonin levels.
- Botox: Botox or botulinum toxin is used to get rid of wrinkles. However, it also helps people who have chronic migraines (15 days per month or more). It is theorized that Botox keeps the brain from giving off chemicals the body uses to send pain signals.
When taking any medication to care for migraines, please remember the following:
- Your doctor will begin at a low dose and gradually increase it over time until you find what works for you.
- Never stop taking preventative medications suddenly. This can lead to more powerful headaches and other health problems. You must gradually taper off under your doctor’s care.
- These medications are not addressing the root cause of your migraines. Rather, they are caring for symptoms. To find the possible root cause, keep reading.
Lifestyle Changes for Migraines
Some people find that lifestyle changes are beneficial for migraine relief. Below are some recommendations:
- Get enough sleep and keep to a regular sleep routine.
- Exercise on a regular basis, even if it is low impact on your bad migraine days. Rather than triggering migraines, exercise can combat them.
- Eat regular meals. Do not allow your blood sugar to drop by skipping meals or fasting.
- Keep your stress under control as much as possible. To help yourself be calm, you can listen to relaxing music, take a short walk, or do some breathing exercises.
Taking Migraines to the Professionals
Sometimes migraines need a little more attention than you can give them at home or with medication and lifestyle changes. The root cause of migraines often lies with a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine. Whether this is hindering the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain or putting pressure on the brainstem and making it malfunction, it is often the underlying reason migraines occur. This is why we can confidently say migraines are a literal pain in the neck!
We use a gentle method to encourage a natural realignment of the upper cervical bones. This is not popping or cracking the neck. Rather, the bones are helped to move back into place on their own. This often results in an improvement in migraine symptoms or an elimination of migraines altogether.