When the Pounding Just Won't Stop
You can barely open your eyes. Your head is pounding, and nothing is helping it. Unfortunately, this happens to you with too much frequency if you are a migraine sufferer. Migraine pain can be moderate to severe and can focus on the whole head or seem to pinpoint in a specific place. Another hallmark sign of this condition is sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells that make the headache worse. Migraines also make you nauseated, sometimes to the point of vomiting, and can give you abdominal pain. Your vision is likely to be blurred, and you will not want to eat much of anything. You may feel extremely hot or cold. You will look pale, feel fatigued and dizzy, and occasionally run a fever. A few migraine patients see flashing lights, blind spots, or jagged lines that are identified as auras. Not many techniques exist to treat migraines, but a few types of medications are used at different times in the migraine cycle.
Migraines in progress: when you need relief
Medications that help relieve migraine pain are the most popular and the most helpful. Over the counter preparations that include acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine are often helpful for milder migraines, but they are do nothing for more severe headaches. The most commonly used prescription drugs for migraine relief are the triptans. This includes the drug sumatriptan, or Imitrex, that is widely advertised for migraine relief. They relieve the pain, nausea, and light sensitivity of migraines with few side effects, but taking a triptan with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as naproxen, is more effective than taking either medication alone. An older medication class used for migraines is ergots, but these are used for those who have headaches that last longer than 48 hours. Occasionally, narcotic pain medication is prescribed for migraine pain, but since these drugs are habit forming and have side effects, this is usually only done as a measure of last resort.
Migraines on the mind: prevention measures
Preventative drugs offer a mixed bag to the migraine patient. If you have more than two bad migraines per month, you might want to consider preventative therapy, but that does not mean that your headaches will stop. It does mean that they will become less frequent, less severe, and the pain relieving medications you take during the migraine will be more likely to help the pain. However, different patients respond differently, so you may have to try many therapies to find one that works for you. Some cardiovascular drugs, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other blood pressure medications, can help keep your migraines at bay. Unfortunately, they also cause dizziness and drowsiness. The tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, can help prevent migraines by effecting the amount of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Anti-seizure drugs have also proven helpful, but they come with many side effects. Recently, the FDA has approved the injection of Botox into the muscles of the forehead and neck every 12 weeks for migraine prevention.
Migraine therapy alternatives: magnesium, biofeedback, and more
Sometimes migraine patients may feel pushed to their limits and look to alternative therapies for possible solutions to their pain. Many herbs and supplements have limited scientific support for helping with migraines. For instance, people with these headaches often have low magnesium levels. When they are supplemented with the mineral, sometimes their migraines go away. Other supplements that are used include feverfew, butterbur, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10. Accupuncture, where a therapist inserts needles into strategic areas of the body to relieve pain, has shown promise as a pain relief method for migraines. The idea of biofeedback, or learning how to recognize stress responses in your body and learning how to relax them, is also widely studied as a method to reduce the severity and frequency of this condition. Before trying any of these alternative medicine practices out for yourself, be sure to check with your doctor first to ensure that it is safe for you.
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