The potent pain of Migraines: How to prevent and treat what is much more than ‘just a headache’
“Migraines are a chronic, neurological disease — it’s so much more than just a headache,” said headache expert Dr. Susan Hutchinson.
More than 36 million men, women and children in the U.S. suffer from migraines, which makes “You Are Not Alone” a fitting theme for the 2018 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, which takes place every June.
But do you actually know the difference between a migraine and a headache — or that the first-ever FDA-approved preventive migraine treatment was just released? In order to understand migraines better in honor of MHAM, Metro spoke with Dr. Susan Hutchinson, a California-based migraine specialist and medical advisor for MigraineX, earplugs that help manage weather-related migraines.
Metro: So what’s the difference between a migraine and a headache?
Dr. Susan Hutchinson: When people use the word ‘headache,’ they’re usually talking about a tension headache, which feels like a tight band around the head — I think a lot of us experience that at the end of a stressful day. Migraines are a chronic, neurological disease characterized by episodes of migraine attacks — it’s so much more than just a headache. Usually, there’s nausea and or vomiting, sensitivity to light, noise and sometimes even smells. The more severe the headache, the more likely it is a migraine, not tension.
What are the top migraine triggers?
There are many, but of the top triggers, number one is stress for men and women. Number two would be hormonal in women because of hormonal fluctuations, which is why migraines tend to peak in women during child-bearing years, typically 25 to 55. There’s oral and facial pain issues, neck issues, changes in weather, lack of consistency to healthy habits ... but every patient should be evaluated individually, and certainly, one solution does not fit all.
What are your thoughts on Aimovig, the first-ever FDA-approved preventative migraine medication?
It’s a very good addition to what we have to offer headache patients. It’s very target-specific for what happens during migraines. It’s a once-a-month injection that could be self-administered. Clinical studies show it appears to be quite safe, very well-tolerated, and it can be very effective — but it doesn’t mean patients won’t need their acute medication or natural options like MigraineX, but I think it’s going to make a difference for quite a few migraine patients. There are going to be some other similar medications coming to market later this year. This is just very good for patients.
What drew you to work with MigraineX?
I’m always open to things that are natural, not expensive and safe because most of my patients want to tap into what’s really good with prescription medication, but also what they can do to prevent their headaches and natural solutions.
MigraineX is an ear-pressure regulation device, they look like little earplugs, and they’re meant to address changes in barometric pressure. It’s best if used in conjunction with the app it comes with, which sends an alert when there’s a predicted drop barometric pressure. It lets them be proactive instead of reactive.
Beyond using MigraineX as a preventative measure for migraines, we asked Dr. Hutchinson for other natural remedies.
“I can’t emphasize enough a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “Try to get enough sleep; if you’re not, there could be a sleep disorder that needs to be addressed.”
Additionally, she suggests:
• drinking a lot of water, at least 64 ounces a day
• eating healthy, including plenty of protein, particularly early in the day
• avoiding processed food and diet sodas and being careful of nitrates, MSG and preservatives
• keeping alcohol and caffeine to a minimum
• not smoking
• using lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils may help, as might CBD oil for those in legal or medical marijuana states
• keeping a journal to look for patterns
• working with a provider who can help find a treatment plan — and reevaluate that plan every six months