Treatments for Migraine
Treatment list for Migraine: The list of treatments mentioned in various sources for Migraine includes the following list. Always seek professional medical advice about any treatment or change in treatment plans.
- Supportive treatments
- Pain reduction medications
- Caffeine - small amounts at the start of a migraine
- Sumatriptan - a serotonin agonist
- Ergotamine tartrate - a vasoconstrictor
- Barbiturate compounds - usually for combined migraine and muscle contraction headaches.
- Female hormone therapy
- Lifestyle changes
Treatment of Migraine: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to treatment of Migraine:
- Capsicum key to curing chronic headache and sinus problems
- Heart transplant has a good prognosis despite difficult journey
- Magnetic pulse therapy may help depression sufferers where drugs fail
- Migraine sufferers face increased stroke risk
- Migraines frequently misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed
- Vioxx approved for treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Treatments of Migraine discussion: Drug therapy, biofeedback training, stress reduction, and elimination of certain foods from the diet are the most common methods of preventing and controlling migraine and other vascular headaches. Joan, the migraine sufferer, was helped by treatment with a combination of an antimigraine drug and diet control.
Regular exercise, such as swimming or vigorous walking, can also reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Joan found that whirlpool and yoga baths helped her relax.
During a migraine headache, temporary relief can sometimes be obtained by applying cold packs to the head or by pressing on the bulging artery found in front of the ear on the painful side of the head.
Drug therapy. There are two ways to approach the treatment of migraine headache with drugs: prevent the attacks, or relieve symptoms after the headache occurs.
For infrequent migraine, drugs can be taken at the first sign of a headache in order to stop it or to at least ease the pain. People who get occasional mild migraine may benefit by taking aspirin or acetaminophen at the start of an attack. Aspirin raises a person's tolerance to pain and also discourages clumping of blood platelets. Small amounts of caffeine may be useful if taken in the early stages of migraine. But for most migraine sufferers who get moderate to severe headaches, and for all cluster headache patients (see section "Besides Migraine, What Are Other Types of Vascular Headaches?"), stronger drugs may be necessary to control the pain.
Several drugs for the prevention of migraine have been developed in recent years, including serotonin agonists which mimic the action of this key brain chemical. One of the most commonly used drugs for the relief of classic and common migraine symptoms is sumatriptan, which binds to serotonin receptors. For optimal benefit, the drug is taken during the early stages of an attack. If a migraine has been in progress for about an hour after the drug is taken, a repeat dose can be given.
Physicians caution that sumatriptan should not be taken by people who have angina pectoris, basilar migraine, severe hypertension, or vascular, or liver disease.
Another migraine drug is ergotamine tartrate, a vasoconstrictor which helps counteract the painful dilation stage of the headache. Other drugs that constrict dilated blood vessels or help reduce blood vessel inflammation also are available.1
Biofeedback and relaxation training . Drug therapy for migraine is often combined with biofeedback and relaxation training. Biofeedback refers to a technique that can give people better control over such body function indicators as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, muscle tension, and brain waves. Thermal biofeedback allows a patient to consciously raise hand temperature. Some patients who are able to increase hand temperature can reduce the number and intensity of migraines. The mechanisms underlying these self-regulation treatments are being studied by research scientists.
"To succeed in biofeedback," says a headache specialist, "you must be able to concentrate and you must be motivated to get well."
A patient learning thermal biofeedback wears a device which transmits the temperature of an index finger or hand to a monitor. While the patient tries to warm his hands, the monitor provides feedback either on a gauge that shows the temperature reading or by emitting a sound or beep that increases in intensity as the temperature increases. The patient is not told how to raise hand temperature, but is given suggestions such as "Imagine your hands feel very warm and heavy."
"I have a good imagination," says one headache sufferer who traded in her medication for thermal biofeedback. The technique decreased the number and severity of headaches she experienced.
In another type of biofeedback called electromyographic or EMG training, the patient learns to control muscle tension in the face, neck, and shoulders.
Either kind of biofeedback may be combined with relaxation training, during which patients learn to relax the mind and body.
Biofeedback can be practiced at home with a portable monitor. But the ultimate goal of treatment is to wean the patient from the machine. The patient can then use biofeedback anywhere at the first sign of a headache.1
The antimigraine diet . Scientists estimate that a small percentage of migraine sufferers will benefit from a treatment program focused solely on eliminating headache-provoking foods and beverages.
Other migraine patients may be helped by a diet to prevent low blood sugar. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can cause headache. This condition can occur after a period without food: overnight, for example, or when a meal is skipped. People who wake up in the morning with a headache may be reacting to the low blood sugar caused by the lack of food overnight.
Treatment for headaches caused by low blood sugar consists of scheduling smaller, more frequent meals for the patient. A special diet designed to stabilize the body's sugar-regulating system is sometimes recommended.
For the same reason, many specialists also recommend that migraine patients avoid oversleeping on weekends. Sleeping late can change the body's normal blood sugar level and lead to a headache.1
Physicians have many drugs to treat migraine in children. Different classes that may be tried include analgesics, antiemetics, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, and sedatives. A diet may also be prescribed to protect the child from foods that trigger headache. Sometimes psychological counseling or even psychiatric treatment for the child and the parents is recommended1
Medications for migraine may be taken on a daily basis to prevent attacks. Some medications developed for epilepsy and depression may prove to be effective treatment options. Medicines can also be used to relieve pain and restore function during attacks. The most promising of these are drugs called triptans. For some women suffering from migraines, hormone therapy may help. Stress management strategies, such as exercise, relaxation, biofeedback and other therapies designed to help limit discomfort, may also have a place in the migraine treatment arsenal.2
At the onset of a migraine, lying down in a dark room with a cold compress can bring relief, along with over-the-counter drugs including acetaminophen or aspirin with caffeine. You may want to talk with your doctor about ways to prevent future migraines.3
Women with moderate migraines may need prescription drugs for relief. These could include agents that affect neurotransmitters (the chemicals that are the messengers in the brain) such as sumatriptin and various antidepressants. Other drugs might include agents that dilate blood vessels in the brain. In some cases, doctors prescribe painkillers.
Some drugs can be given intranasally, through a transdermal patch (on the skin), oxygen inhalation, and laser therapy to the maxillary nerve.
Because migraine is affected by hormonal fluctuation, estrogen use during the premenstrual period is sometimes helpful. However, ironically, estrogen may also trigger migraines. Women should discuss with their physicians use of estrogen such as oral contraceptives and hormonal therapy for migraines.
To help your doctor find the right treatment for you, keeping a
"headache calendar" is important, documenting the time of day, point in
your menstrual cycle, your location (at work, at home, at the park, etc.)
and your activity when the migraine started.
1. excerpt from Headache - Hope Through Research: NINDS
2. excerpt from Migraine Update: NINDS
3. excerpt from MIGRAINE HEADACHES: NWHIC
Last revision: June 2, 2003
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