Few medical maladies are as complex and misunderstood as migraine headaches. Even though there has been a lot of research, definitive answers about the causes and effective treatment of migraines are elusive.
Migraines are more severe and serious than regular headaches. Read this article to learn some of the ways migraines are different.
Unfortunately, even many medical professionals don’t understand migraines, so patients who go to them for treatment end up frustrated and still suffering. The result can be desperate migraine victims who will try almost anything for relief.
The Mayo Clinic reports migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Other causes could include brain chemical imbalances, including serotonin, which helps regulate nervous system pain.
Because the problem is complex and not fully understood, a great deal of misinformation about migraines exists. Here are some of the more common fallacies.
It’s just stress
Stress can definitely play a factor in migraines and other types of headaches. It might even act as a trigger. But migraines come from a serious and complex neurological disorder. In addition to stress, weather changes, altitude changes, bright lights, sleep problems, smells, cheeses, caffeine, monosodium glutamate, nitrates and aspartame are just some of a long list of potential triggers. Every migraine patient can have a specific trigger pattern, but those triggers are not the underlying cause.
Believe it or not, some people still believe migraines can be caused by disorders like depression or anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports up to 40 percent of people suffering from chronic migraines also experience depression, anxiety and even panic attacks.
The connection isn’t surprising. If you regularly experienced head pain so severe that it caused problems like distorted vision, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and noise, you might easily become depressed. If you felt symptoms of a migraine coming on and you knew there was nothing you could do, you are likely to feel anxiety and might start to panic.
Doctors can’t help
Admittedly, there is still much medical science doesn’t know about migraines. For example, migraines occur more often among teen girls and women. Female hormones such as estrogen appear to influence migraines, though it’s not clear why. Additionally, genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role.
Sometimes, even going to the doctor after a few times fails to help. Even though the exact causes remain unknown, doctors have many ways to treat the debilitating symptoms of migraines. The key is to find a physician experienced in dealing with migraines and other types of chronic pain.
New treatments offer hope
Since no two migraines are the same, personalized treatment and fine- tuning existing treatments are proving to be effective approaches to treating migraines. There are new drugs available to help people with migraines, and there are old drugs being used effectively in new ways.
There are also new ways to treat migraines that don’t rely on drugs, such as an implanted device that provides electrical stimulation to block the pain signals from a migraine.
If you are among the millions of patients who endure chronic or periodic migraine headaches, it is important that you don’t give up in frustration and discouragement. There are many different treatments available and more are being tested all the time. Go to a doctor that specializes in migraine and pain therapy and keep trying until you find a treatment that works for you.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.