What can I do for my migraine?

Treating the cause, not just the symptoms

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a young woman’s journey of chronic headache pain. For the past 15 years since childhood she had suffered from daily headaches. It was over the past few years that they had gotten worse. She called them “ocular migraines” as her pain was in her eyes, she had vision issues and her neurologist used this term as her diagnosis. Prior to starting Physical Therapy, she was missing work regularly and debilitating headaches occurred weekly. She had also tried medication for her migraines but had started the weaning process. A not uncommon situation, her side effects required the addition offive other medications! Her reason for stopping her migraine medication was not related to her headache pain anymore. Her “ocular migraines” were better. The side effects from her medication included loss of memory, irritability and other symptoms limiting her ability to work.
Unfortunately this story is all too familiar. During my years of practice, I hear a frequent plea. “There has got to be a better way.” There is a desire for a non-medication approach to treating headache pain.

The question we need to ask is, do we know where the headache pain is coming from? Pain starting in the base of the skull typically has an origin from the neck. A self-screening tool is to place your thumb behind the ear bone and push in gently but firmly. While holding this pressure if you start to have pain into the head or face this is called referred pain and your neck may be the cause.

There are a lot of treatments that can have a positive effect on migraine symptoms and headaches. Acupuncture can have a temporary effect on our pain. In a study looking at children with headaches, having them write down what they are thankful for and a positive experience each day for seven days reduced headache pain in the group. (Yes, being positive can help reduce pain and improve how we feel!) Decreasing our sugar intake and changing our diets can help with headache pain and triggers for migraines.
Botox to the neck and facial muscles can have a temporary effect on controlling headache pain. Trigger point injections and dry needling into muscles of the jaw and neck can also have a positive effect. If these treatments are helpful this is great news! A temporary improvement with Botox or muscle injections with or without a numbing agent tells us that there may be a neck and possibly a jaw problem. These issues can be assessed, and treatment options exist. It starts with asking the question, “why”?

There is a happy ending to our story of the young woman with “ocular migraines”. But don’t take my word for it, watch her video and hear ‘the rest of the story’.