Migraine headaches can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, causing the sufferer to lose valuable time at home and work. That's why it is so important to find treatment methods that work. Treatments are designed to reduce the frequency and intensity of these headaches so the sufferer can return to a normal life faster.
You must know first that there is no cure for migraine headaches. Early scientists believed that it was the brain that was hurting in some way. Scientists have since discovered that the brain doesn't have any pain centers. It is the tissues, blood vessels, nerves, and muscles that surround the brain and scalp which are in pain during a migraine episode. Managing pain then revolves around discovering how these areas are affected, and alleviating the symptoms.
Because migraines are not your typical headache, you need to discuss any medication or treatment with your doctor. And, if you are pregnant, do not try any treatment, even natural or herbal, without your doctor's approval. Here are the treatments that are normally associated with migraine headache management:
Over the counter medication
We reach for pain relievers that are familiar to us normally at first sign of a headache. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) seem to have the greatest effect, especially early on when symptoms are still mild. Taking one of these medicines at the first sign of a migraine headache can reduce intensity and possibly duration of the episode. You'll recognize them as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.
Triptans – This is a class of prescription drugs that doctor's may prescribe for those who have several episodes of migraines each month. Some examples of triptans you may have heard about include sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and eletriptan (Relpax).These drugs are not recommended for people who have heart disease or who are at risk for stroke or heart attack. There are side effects so discuss those with your doctor. Over time the migraines should subside as the medicine begins to circulate through your system.
Ergot – Ergotamines are often chosen after triptans because of efficacy. An example of drugs in this class is dihydroergotamine (Migranal). If your migraines last longer than two days, this may be for you. There are also fewer side effects than with triptans.
Anti nausea medications – One of the common symptoms of migraine headaches is nausea, with or without vomiting. Some migraine sufferers report the feeling of nausea is worse than actually vomiting, or even the headache itself. Your doctor may prescribe metoclopramide (Reglan).
You might not want to try medications once you learn the side effects. Taking too many over the counter medications can lead to an irritated bowel and other digestive issues. If you are concerned, you may be a candidate for alternative medical methods. Once again, consult your doctor before beginning any alternative treatment, especially if you are pregnant. Here are methods that have been reported to be beneficial for some:
Acupuncture – This ancient procedure involves the use of hair-thin needles inserted at different points on the body according to a meridian chart. The practice is done in order to awaken areas in your body where your flow of energy has been blocked. There are many success stories from people who have used acupuncture for migraines. Be sure you seek out a qualified professional. Your own doctor may be a good source for information in finding the right acupuncturist.
Massage – There are various types of massage that may prove helpful in reducing muscle tension. Specific massage methods can be used to improve functions, such as sleep. If lack of sleep is one of your triggers, massage may be able to help alleviate your migraine headaches. Deep muscle massage is also said to improve blood circulation, keeping small capillaries unrestricted in the head, which will also improve your chance of fighting off a migraine. Seek a qualified massage specialist who will consult with you at length before proceeding.
Herbs and plants – It is believed that the flower, feverfew, has properties that limit the inflammation of blood vessels in the head, which should reduce the severity of a headache. Butterbur is another plant that is purported to be an anti-inflamatory. Both can be taken as a tea or in capsule form. Consider also sipping tea made from ginger as it is believed to relieve pain and nausea, both. Another natural substance is ginko, which improves blood circulation. All of these are worth a try, but people have reported allergic reactions. Before ingesting anything to treat your migraines, even though it's a natural substance, consult your doctor. If you are pregnant, none of these should be tried without your doctor's permission.
Cold compresses – This is one of the easiest remedies you'll find. Cold compresses reduce the pain in aching muscles by reducing swelling. You've probably used a cold compress on your shoulders, legs, or back if you participate in sports. You can also use a compress on your forehead for relief of a migraine. A simple wet washcloth kept in the refrigerator will help relieve pain. However, it's worth the investment to have a gel eye mask on hand. You store them in the freezer and then apply to the eyes and forehead. These masks hold the cold longer than a wet rag and conform nicely to the contours around the eyes and forehead.
There are many treatment options for the migraine sufferer from which to choose. Each treatment should be discussed thoroughly with your own doctor before proceeding. Even though there is no cure for migraines, the right treatment can give you a chance at a life that is not debilitated by migraine headaches.