Any person with migraine can attest that migraine attacks are much more than ordinary, run-of-the-mill headaches. Often, migraine symptoms begin before the actual attack (the prodrome phase), knock you out of commission with pain, blurred vision, and nausea for hours or days (the attack phase), and leave you feeling weak, confused, and lightheaded afterwards (the postdrome phase).
While there’s no cure for migraine, there are ways to prevent the attacks from happening, decrease their frequency, and ease the symptoms when they do occur.
Dr. Stanley Mathew, our double-board certified physiatrist here at American Rehabilitation Center in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, specializes in relieving pain of all types, including migraine pain. Here’s how we can help you manage migraine and live life uninterrupted.
Avoid migraine triggers
Researchers don’t have a clear answer about what causes some people to develop migraine. We do know that those who deal with migraine often have changes in the way their brainstem interacts with the trigeminal nerve, which is the primary pain pathway. Certain chemical imbalances, such as too much or too little serotonin to regulate pain, may be involved as well.
However, while the exact cause of the condition is unknown, there are certain things known to trigger an attack. A trigger is different from a cause; the cause is the underlying reason you have the condition of migraine, and a trigger is something that sets off your condition and results in a migraine attack.
Knowing your specific triggers is the first step in mitigating your migraine attacks. The most common migraine triggers include:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Sleep problems
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Diet: processed foods, salty foods, preservatives
- Sensory stimuli: bright lights, loud noises, strong smells
- Medication overuse
- Weather changes
- Tension in the neck and shoulders
- Low blood sugar
The best way to narrow down your unique migraine triggers is to keep a journal that chronicles your activities, environmental factors, and diet leading up to your attack. You can even download an app to help you keep track.
Once you identify your personal migraine triggers, you can take steps to avoid them, and therefore, avoid the migraine attacks as well.
Get a massage
If stress is one of your migraine triggers, massage therapy may help you reduce the frequency and intensity of your attacks. Targeted manual massage can release tension in your neck and shoulders that may be the culprit behind your migraine attacks.
If you have chronic migraine — 15 or more migraine days per month — Botox may be the answer you’ve been looking for. Although Botox is best known for its cosmetic benefits, it actually got its start in the medical field when doctors discovered it could treat eye spasms and crossed eyes by relaxing the muscles involved.
In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration approved Botox for the treatment of chronic migraine. Dr. Mathew injects the solution under your skin, where it bathes your nerve endings and blocks the release of chemicals that transmit pain signals.
Regular Botox treatments can reduce the frequency and severity of your migraine attacks.
Consider migraine medications
When migraine hits, there’s no time to schedule a massage or a Botox appointment — what you need is fast relief for an acute migraine. Depending on your symptoms, Dr. Mathew may prescribe:
Also known as Compazine, prochlorperazine addresses severe migraine episodes by reducing nausea and vomiting and promoting the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that reduces pain.
Another pain-relieving dopamine agonist, metoclopramide eases migraine pain and treats the nausea that so often accompanies an attack.
When you suffer a severe migraine attack, the best way to get instant relief may be via an injection of sumatriptan. This powerful pain killer doesn’t work for all types of pain, but it’s highly effective at drastically reducing and even completely eliminating migraine pain in some patients.
If migraine has taken control of your life, there’s hope. Schedule a visit with Dr. Mathew today by calling either of our two locations or requesting an appointment time using our online booking tool. Migraine relief is closer than you think.