By Kate Wharmby Seldman
Migraine sufferers have long been caught between a rock and a hard place: they need painkillers to subdue their intense headaches, but if they take these medications too often, they run the risk of causing rebound headaches. Doctors say analgesics like ibuprofen should only be used for two days a week. So what can patients do the rest of the time? Alternative remedies may be the answer.
Migraine headaches leave sufferers in intense pain, often nauseous, and sensitive to light and sound. The pain is usually unilateral, or occurring on only one side of the head. Migraineurs, as sufferers are often called, might lose entire days to these intense headaches, which have been known to last up to 72 hours. It’s still unknown what causes migraines; it may have to do with serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, but as yet, there’s no conclusive evidence pointing to a definite link.
Traditionally, migraine treatment has involved pain medication – which, as previously mentioned, may exacerbate the problem if used too frequently; beta blockers, which have side effects like erectile dysfunction and fatigue; or tricyclic antidepressants, which have similar side effects to beta blockers. SSRI antidepressant medications haven’t been shown to be effective for migraines, even though it’s thought that serotonin plays a role in the problem. The last resort is migraine surgery, in which muscles and nerves are removed from the head and neck to prevent their causing pain during future headaches.
An article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper states that good sleep hygiene is an important part of natural treatment for migraines. This involves establishing a regular “window of sleep,” say, 11 PM to 7 AM, and sticking to that schedule. Exercise and nutrition also play a significant role in migraine prevention, as does avoiding caffeine – sometimes hard to do, as migraine medicines like Excedrin contain this substance.
Medical studies indicate that Coenzyme Q10, a vitaminlike substance used as a nutritional supplement, can reduce the intense pain of migraines when taken regularly. Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, has also been shown to help soothe migraine intensity. Guardian reporter Naomi Alderman said these two supplements reduced the frequency of her migraines – she usually had six migraines a month, and after two months of taking Q10 and riboflavin, she experienced only one. They also cut the intensity of the pain.
Oddly, Botox could be considered an “alternative" solution for migraines: when the wrinkle-removing toxin is injected into certain muscles in the head and neck, it helps future headaches hurt less. This treatment was FDA-approved in 2010.
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