Getting diagnosed with migraine can mean different things to different people. If you’re one of those patients who have spent years trying to get a conclusive answer from a range of doctors, a visit to a migraine specialist could be a defining moment in your life. On the other hand, if you’ve recently begun experiencing blinding headaches and had a quick diagnosis, you might be dismayed and alarmed to hear that you now have to deal with this medical condition.
A Step in the Right Direction
Whatever your situation, you can rest assured that an accurate diagnosis is a huge step in the right direction. Now that you have a name for your condition, you can begin exploring the treatments available to you. Here’s a breakdown of the various options, ranging from the easiest and lowest-risk to the more complex methods.
Simple, Low-Risk Migraine Treatments
Acute Therapy: If your migraines are new or relatively mild, or the specialist is still trying to determine your particular triggers, he (or she) may start off by treating attacks as they happen. This typically takes the form of medication using drugs such as:
- Triptans – Imitrex, Zomig or Maxalt, most of which are available as tablets, skin patches or nasal sprays
- NSAIDS – Ibuprofen, Advil or Motrin – these are usually either tablets, caplets or easily-dissolvable gel caps
- Ergot Alkaloids – such as Dihydroergotamine, which is usually delivered as an injection
In some cases, your migraine doctor may also recommend anti-nausea medication to take in combination with these treatments.
Clinical Massage: While various forms of massage are useful for relieving the stress that can trigger a migraine, you might benefit from cranial massage too. Also known as craniosacral therapy, this is the very gentle manipulation of the bones and membrane of your skull to relieve pressure.
Preventive Therapies: Acute migraine treatments are usually combined with preventive therapies to try and stop future migraines in their tracks. The most common of these are:
- Regular use of anti-depressants
- Calcium blockers and/or beta blockers, which help you to avoid increased blood pressure
- Lifestyle changes, such as a consistent sleep schedule and regular meals and exercise
- Use of a portable neurostimulation device, which resembles a headband and is worn daily for 20 minutes to generate and send micro-impulses to the trigeminal nerve
If your migraine responds favorably to any combination of these therapies, you can expect a reduction in your pain levels fairly rapidly.
Medium-Risk Migraine Therapies
If simple therapies don’t work for you, or your migraine specialist determines that your headaches are unlikely to respond to these, your next options are:
Botox: The use of Botox as a treatment for migraine headaches was discovered by accident 10 years ago, but it has proved effective since then for patients whose headaches are triggered by the nerves in your forehead. Botox paralyzes your forehead muscles so they can’t tense up and put pressure on these nerves. The substance is injected into the affected area and patients usually experience results after a few treatments. This option carries a small risk of side effects such as stiffness at the site of the injection, neck pain and temporary weakness of neck and shoulder muscles.
Homeopathic Treatments: Patients who prefer natural options or who are unable to use regular medication may benefit from homeopathic treatments, although the long-term effectiveness of these is largely unproven. Homeopathic remedies include various herbs and spices, substances such as fish oil and primrose oil, and infusions made from plants including Feverfew and Butterbur.
Migraine Surgery Options
In some cases, or if you have exhausted the simpler forms of migraine treatment without success, your migraine specialist will suggest you consider surgery for long-term relief.
- Minimally-invasive supra-orbital nerve (MISON) surgery relieves the pressure on constricted nerves in the front of your head, giving you long-term pain relief.
- Minimally-invasive greater occipital nerve entrapment (MIGONE) surgery targets constricted nerves at the rear of the head.
- Septoplasty straightens out a deviated nasal septum to reduce pressure on nerves.
- Surgical neurostimulation is the placement of electrodes under the skin close to the nerves causing the migraines, which block the pain signals from reaching the brain.
- Nerve blocks can be inserted under anesthesia to provide long-term relief.
Risk and Reward
All forms of migraine surgery are minimally invasive, but you will need to have a general anesthetic. That means this treatment option carries a small element of risk, and you’re also likely to have some mild pain associated with the incision.
The rewards are signification, though; informal surveys show that 90% of patients have some improvement, and 50% are able to live free of migraines within a few months after surgery.
Being diagnosed with migraines isn’t the end of your world. In fact, it can be the first step towards finally getting relief from the pain.