My journey with migraine disease has been a long one. Starting with the first migraine at the age of four, the patterns of these headaches have changed significantly throughout my life. As a child, I experienced migraine 2-3 times a year. They would last days on end, but they were infrequent. In high school, I had chronic headaches every single day (probably caused by rebound headaches from popping advil on a daily basis) and migraines infrequently. In my twenties, my migraine disease intensified to the point of having the worst pain of my life (including a trip to the emergency room). I needed serious help so I turned to Western and alternative treatments.
My family doctor and neurologist gave me samples and prescriptions for medications. The neurologist gave me a hand-out of a migraine diary to track my migraine, but she never even looked at it. Not even once! She had nothing else to offer me when the triptan medications didn’t work and tylenol with codeine and fiorenal just knocked me out and I still woke up with migraines. I wasn’t a candidate for daily preventatives because I was only getting migraine pain twice a month but each one lasted about 5 days.
For alternative treatments, I explored many different modalities to see what they could offer and how they could help. Over the past 15 years, I tried acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, physical therapy, osteopathy, feldenkrais, biofeedback, cranio-sacral therapy, massage/bodywork and hypnotherapy. I went to a psychotherapist for support with the emotional impact of the migraine disease and how it affected my life and relationships. The holistic practitioners gave me supplements and herbs. I changed my diet and tried many different elimination diets. I did alternative testing including blood and saliva tests to determine my neurotransmitter levels, my hormone levels and my adrenals. I also tested for food sensitivities. I did x-rays of my neck and spine.
All of these alternative treatments helped in different ways and gave me a more complete understanding of the pattern of my migraine disease. Some of them helped decrease my pain, some didn’t. And for those modalities that didn’t help my migraine disease, I am still grateful for the experience because I learned about what works for me. I now have tools to support myself. I now have my own combination of modalities that help prevent migraine pain.
In my practice, I offer an integrative approach which means that I respect the integration of Eastern and Western medicine. I believe that a holistic approach is really helpful especially for prevention. I also believe that medications can be a necessary part of migraine management for some people. Prescription medications didn’t work for me, but they do for many of my patients and it’s comforting to know they have an emergency medication that they can take to stop a migraine in it’s tracks.
In my experience, once I was able to focus on whole body health, my migraine disease decreased in frequency and severity and I no longer needed to consider prescription medications for my migraines.
But here’s the truth: I still get migraine pain; when the weather changes (yes, those barometric changes), when I mistakenly eat a food that triggers, when my neck goes out of alignment, and sometimes with hormonal shifts. But now that I understand my pattern, I can be pro-active in taking care of myself to lessen the migraine attacks. I schedule appointments with the practitioners that can help. When I feel the signs of a migraine coming on, I can take an over-the-counter pain medication and my migraine goes away. (in the past before I learned to manage my migraines naturally, these never even touched the pain).
I have come to see migraine pain as a sign that I need to re-evaluate my habits and get back into alignment with things that work for my body- like getting regular acupuncture treatments, making sure I eat regular meals, keeping my caffeine intake in check and much more. I have come to understand what my body needs to make me happy and healthy- like rest, laughter and being kind to myself.
Migraine reminds me to prioritize myself and my health. I now feel like migraine disease and headaches are just a small part of my life- whereas before they ruled my life.