It is estimated that as many as 30 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Specialists say that migraines are frequently underdiagnosed and undertreated. The majority do not get effective preventive treatment that could help avoid a debilitating attack.
New guidelines from the American Headache Society offer seven approaches to avoiding migraines including anti-seizure drugs such as topiramate or divalproex, beta-blockers like metoprolol or timolol or the non-prescription herb butterbur. Other approaches that may be helpful include magnesium, vitamin B 2 and the herb feverfew. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can also be helpful for some people.

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  1. J. David Auner
    Springfield, MO, USA

    Migraines happen to people who are different in vascular reactivity from the majority of the population. Several other diseases occur in individuals and families along with migraines and reflect the underlying vascular differences. A few unfortunate people have developed every item off the menu and keep doctors busy and usually confused which usually leads to blaming the patient.

    Migraines and several other chronic disease states (atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus) are better approached from a Family Medicine angle with multi-system, multiple risk reduction approaches which can relieve the “chronically ill” label given by docs and the patients themselves. Painting this picture which can organize a patient’s understanding of the disease process and the opportunities known to fix deficiencies or intervene in a cascade of events is difficult on the radio but could be combined with the website which also allows more time for study. Docents of different background, locale, patient mix and other variables may have competing views but can all be accommodated with viewers, national experts and others rating and criticizing a particular system review. I can think of 3 totally different approaches to Hepatitis C induced liver disease – all of which have helped patients but rarely offered to patients as options. Psychiatry views REM sleep as a problem to be suppressed but could present their view along with the diametrically opposed views of sleep experts in neurology, primary care, and others. If you could produce one presentation a month for 2 years, you would make Medicine progress dramatically. A pay per view model or subscription could be used with different rates for read and download only and the experts who want their comments to be a fixture on the presentation. Patients could be offered the chance to call in their experiences on subsequent radio shows. Docents could present their ideas without the pressure from billionaire drug guys to plug one expensive intervention which happens now in most CME courses. Ideas which don’t have corporate sponsorship – like how to use Magnesium for migraines could get some oxygen.

  2. DianeTC

    Jeff, I just came across your comment while looking for help for a friend who is also suffering from migraines, although hers are not as dreadful as yours.
    You sound like a very caring person, one who has always been there for others. You gave of yourself unselfishly when your country asked you to come to the aid of others half a world away, and that’s something that not everyone would do or does. I greatly admire you for gallantly serving our country on behalf of people who were suffering invasion through no fault of their own, as I admire your steadfastly hanging in there while your doctors have searched for answers. And now you are are the one suffering, the one waiting for troops to rescue you from your own invasion–by migraines.
    You have been through a lot, and it would be a miracle if you didn’t feel tired of all this. Considering your history, I see you as probably much stronger than you see yourself. Thank God some progress has been made, and the headaches are no longer causing you to scream. Your shutting out the light makes sense to me; I just know that I’d be doing the same thing, and probably also considering moving to the Pacific Northwest. Your saying “I really do not know how much more of this I can take” is understandable, but it concerns and worries me. I wish that I were able to give you concrete help, but I don’t have any answers. All I can do is simply care about you as a brother who is worn down from hurting, and to hold you in my prayers, which I am doing. I’m writing because it seemed important that I let you know that someone you don’t know cares about you, wants you to be cured of your pain, supports your returning to a good job, and joins you in praying that you will return to living a long, happy, healthy and fulfilled life.
    Jeff, I hope and pray with all my heart that the Graedons have been able to provide you with the help and relief that you seek. From this moment on, may you receive all that you need to turn your migraines from present-day reality into seldom-recalled memories.

  3. Jeff M.

    I have been diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome and have been having migraines in stretches since 2004. My current stretch is at 26 months every single day and counting with no relief in sight ! My Dr.’s and I have tried everything and nothing has stopped them ! I am now on one med as a preventative that has helped knock the pain down from out-right screaming my head off to something I would call more …normal. But I can no longer work. Light hurts and I live like a vampire blocking my windows and praying for cloudy rainy days. I really do not know how much more of this I can take…..

  4. Paul43

    I would like to hear what else works

  5. evc

    I found that ARBs (for high blood pressure), specifically Benicar, almost totally stopped my frequent migraines.
    I find that if I do get a migraine, an extra partial or whole dose aborts it.
    My doctor did not “buy it” at first, but now agrees with me.

    • J. David Auner

      Benicar, Atacand and Avapro are the ARB’s which prevent the arterial spasm which precedes all migraines (some people experience a particular aura – some don’t) Benicar is the strongest, fastest working but in many people doesn’t last well for 24 hours. Avapro was used by the most people successfully in my practice in a high allergy area which triggers many migraines. These ARB’s are the only prescription preventative agents which seem safe in children – small doses at bedtime make the most sense before the headaches become frequent. There is a small study on Atacand which showed more effect than anything the FDA approves but these drugs were close enough to patent expiration the companies tried to suppress any of this info.

  6. C.S

    Feverfew works very well for eliminating migraines. It is inexpensive but must be taken every day to prevent the headaches. The only side effect that may be of concern for some people is that it could possibly raise blood pressure. It has been my observation that many people who suffer from migraines have lower than average blood pressure, so a slight elevation of blood pressure is not a major concern.

  7. BAP

    I suffered from occasional migraines which progressed over a number of years to daily headaches and frequent migraines. I only found relief after a neurologist gave me a list of foods to watch. Eliminating several foods at a time didn’t help, so out of frustration I eliminated almost everything on the list — and the improvement was amazing!!

  8. TA

    This week I read that some people who eat ice cream fast enough to create “brain freeze” stop their migraines before they become too bad. Anyone try it?

  9. AA

    I have had migraines, on and off, since I was a young teen (I’m now 45). There have been periods in my life whey they’ve occurred with much greater frequency & intensity and times when they weren’t so bad.
    I had been a couple of years without having them and thought maybe I’d turned a corner then, wham! Back they came. After several months of battling a near constant migraine (sometimes it wasn’t so bad but rarely was it completely gone), I stumbled upon the suggestion to include a magnesium supplement. It’s been several weeks and I’ve only had one slight migraine that went away quickly. Magnesium has become my new best friend – I take one first thing every morning! It would definitely be worth a try for someone battling migraines.

  10. Cindy

    Although I am loathe to admit it, I am finding that the newly available generic Imitrix stops any migraine I get. It is actually affordable, too, for those of us without insurance. After menopause, I’ve found the migraines are fewer and much less severe. However, a migraine just doesn’t seem to respond to any OTC medications for many of us.

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