Alternative Treatment Results – Migraines

Those of us who have experienced migraines know they are not “just headaches.”  It’s a debilitating, excruciating experience.  A migraine leaves me with nausea, sharp and intense one-sided throbbing head pain and sometimes dizziness. I have to lie down in a dark, quiet room for several hours, and sometimes days, until it has run its course.  It’s impossible to function.  Since I prefer to be a functioning person rather than confined to bed, I needed to identify my migraine triggers and manage those.  I’ve boiled those triggers down to the following:

  • Stress
  • Certain foods
  • Hormonal
  • Fragrance/chemical sensitivities

Before my battle with migraines began, I rarely had headaches, even under very stressful situations.  My first migraine occurred one night when I was working very late.  Working very long hours was not unusual; it had been my typical routine for many years.  At the time, I had a one-hour commute to and from work, but for the first time, I was too sick and in too much pain to drive home.  Over the next several years, my work hours and responsibilities increased, and the frequency of migraines increased from once every six months to about three times a week!

I initially saw a Neurologist specializing in headaches who tried a few different daily drugs and as-needed migraine medications.  I didn’t do well with the side effects, so I focused more on reducing stress and eventually came off the medications.  I was still experiencing two or three migraines a month, which was an improvement, but not good enough.

My most significant improvement came over the past year when I started combining craniosacral therapy (CST), acupuncture and mind/body exercises.  My craniosacral therapist explained some common causes of migraines, and provided exercises and treatments for me to try when I feel a migraine coming on.

Some Causes of Migraines

  • Tight neck and jaw muscles – These tight muscles can have a tug-of-war with each other, resulting in tension in the head.
  • Tight jawbone – Restricts the flow of fluids to the head if the jawbone is unable to move well.  (Do you clench your jaw when you are stressed?)
  • Change in hormones – Affects the tissues in the head and the resulting flow of fluids to the head.
  • Change in structure (such as tight muscles, bones or tissues) – Affects hormones and the resulting flow of fluids to the head.  The tightness can cause tension or pulling on the pituitary gland, which affects the release of hormones.
  • Release of stress and the start of relaxation – This is when increased blood flow occurs.  Blood flow to the head travels through the neck.  Stress and tightness in the neck restricts blood vessels and blood flow, but when the restriction lessens from increased relaxation, the vessels dilate and result in too much blood flow.
  • Certain foods.
  • If a headache continues to get worse even when lying down, it is likely a migraine.  Tension headaches usually don’t get worse when you lie down and relax because the muscles are relaxing.

Treatments for My Migraines

  • Craniosacral therapy – the gentle stretches and pressure in the neck and head from CST helps release tension and improve the flow of fluids to the head.
  • Mind/body exercises and meditation, which are important for reducing stress and muscle tension.
  • If a tight jaw muscle is involved, lie down, face up.  Hook the thumbs behind the upper back teeth and pull the teeth gently towards the ceiling.  Hold for about four to five minutes.  This helps release the tension in the jaw.
  • Feel the muscles under the base of the skull (called the suboccipitals) to see if any are tight and tender.  I found that these also contribute to my migraines.  If I apply gentle pressure on a tight muscle, I will usually feel it soften.
  • Place ice on the back of the neck.  Since blood flow to the head travels through the neck, the ice helps to restrict dilated blood vessels.
  • Drink a strong cup of coffee.  I find with a hormonal migraine, the caffeine helps reduce or eliminate the migraine by restricting dilated blood vessels.  I used to drink coffee regularly, but now I only drink it when I have a migraine to maintain the strength and effectiveness of the caffeine.
  • Acupuncture has also helped.  I’m not sure how it works but I’m told it helps remove blockages in the flow of energy through the body, and also helps release the body’s natural pain killers.
  • Avoiding my food triggers.

Note:  All of the treatments above were provided by my healthcare providers after they evaluated me.  Don’t try anything here before consulting your healthcare provider.

My Results

The migraines are significantly fewer, with less intensity, and now occur about once every month or two.  I recently went a record three months without a migraine!  This is a significant improvement and I’m hoping for more.  Also, I do not take any prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs for the migraines.

So far, there hasn’t been anything that can help me with the fragrance and chemical triggered migraines.  They are currently my most aggravating triggers.  As long as I stay away from them, which is difficult to do, I can maintain good results.

If you experience migraines, what treatments have been effective for you?

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Alternative Treatment Results – Migraines « Ichigo Ichie | www.drfouly.org
  2. Meanderer
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 10:46:44

    It’s great that you’re finding remedies that work for you. I only had a migraine once and that was coloured lights and no pain but I’m close to people who do suffer with them. Thank you for the info.

    Reply

  3. granbee
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 13:16:54

    Ichi, I have been told by folks who have practice Zen forms of mediation for decades that you can actually block out those triggers, just kill them dead in their tracks! I have actually found this be surprisingly true for me in my own mediational journeys. Not perfect blocking yet, but am getting there. I am so very pleased to read here that these alternative (actually, more genuine) techniques have brought you relief from your migraines.

    Reply

  4. TBM
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 03:35:42

    That’s great that you found some treatments for your migraines. I watched a show in London about a little boy who had severe migraines and he went to a food hospital and they changed his diet and they went away. I don’t remember the foods or anything but it was amazing. The kid was pretty young and really struggled with them.

    Reply

  5. ElizOF
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 03:40:25

    I have a friend who gets terrible migraines. I will share your post with her… TY! 🙂

    Reply

  6. sweetopiagirl
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 09:28:27

    Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

    Reply

  7. Derrick Birdsall
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 19:45:32

    I hate my migraines… for me, they mostly seem to be caused by stress. If I’m not exercising regularly and dealing with my stress, viola!! Great tips, I’ll try some of them the next time around. 😉

    Reply

  8. Judy
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 20:31:35

    Thank you for your post. I’ve had migraines forever. I see a neurologist and I’m on preventative meds. Weather is a huge factor for me. (low pressure/heat/humidity). I stay on a low tyramine diet (nothing aged, no cheese, wine, a host of other food triggers). I do biofeedback…I consider it a form of meditation. They are definitely far less in intensity than years ago. I’d love to get off the drugs though. You have some ideas I’ve never heard of…..and I thought I had heard them all!! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  9. Colline
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 04:02:00

    It is interesting to see what you use to lessen the migraine. Thanks for the tips

    Reply

  10. buckwheatsrisk
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 17:57:58

    interesting, i never get any other kind of headaches either…

    Reply

  11. Xi Mena
    May 17, 2013 @ 12:56:54

    Congratulations to you! I’ve had some success with physical therapy (similar to what you describe in your craniosacral therapy), but I’m still on meds and still suffer several migraines each month. Hoping in time they will find the magic combination to do the trick for me. Hope things continue to improve for you! 🙂

    Reply

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