I have a lot of personal and clinical experience with headaches. I suffered with headaches and vomiting as a child and sinus pain as a young adult. In my later years I discovered that I was also prone to menstrual migraines. Migraines are hereditary, and I remember as a child my grandmother lying in bed holding a cold rag to her forehead, telling me she should never eat chocolate. Unfortunately, my tween daughter has recently developed symptoms of migraine , with episodes of vomiting that can last for 3 hours.
During a migraine, nerve cells in the brain stem are activated. Signals travel from the area of the trigeminal and upper cervical nerves causing blood vessels involving your head, face and neck to become inflamed.
This cascade of events can lead to symptoms such as pain, sensitivity to light, nausea & vomiting. Migraines may occur with or without an aura, and may also present as sinus pain and congestion, dizziness, and neck stiffness.
The triggers for migraine can vary as much as your symptoms. My worst triggers are typically hormonal changes, storms ( changes in barometric pressure), and an allergic reaction that triggers sinus and facial pain.
Recently I discovered that children may experience migraines without a headache. These children may present with episodes of stomach pain and vomiting not related to a food borne illness. This is known as a stomach migraine.
For me, relief came in my 30’s when I decided to give acupuncture a try. My headaches were complicated by the fact that I also had allergies and constant pressure in my sinuses and ears.
After treatment with acupuncture and herbs, my allergies were gone and my headaches had decreased. I also noticed that the constant pressure and popping in my ears was gone.
Treating migraines for me, my patients, and now my young daughter has been a journey of learning and perseverance.
Medical Journals have verified what herbalists, acupuncturist, and holistic doctors have known for many years. There are several safe and effective options you may try before considering medications that have serious side effects.
A study from The British Medical Journal, found that acupuncture provided long lasting relief for adults with a history of chronic migraine. Researchers found that when compared to standard care, patients treated with acupuncture:
- Had fewer headaches
- Used less medication
- Made fewer visits to their doctor
- Took 15% fewer days off sick from work
A paper written by the American Headache Society “Evidence-based Basics on Nutraceuticals: Herbs, Minerals, Vitamins and Supplements in Migraine Management lists the following “therapeutic recommendations for the interested clinician.”
- Magnesium: 400-600mg a day for 3-4 months.
- Multiple studies have found low magnesium levels in migraine patients.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 400mg daily.
- One study found that this dose taken daily for 3 months, reduced migraine frequency. Another study using Riboflavin with the herb feverfew, found that 40% of patients reduced migraine episodes.)
- Coenzyme (Q10) 100mg three times a day.
- One study found this dose taken for 3 months decreased migraine attacks.
- Another study of 1,478 migraine patients found that low CoQ10 levels occurred in 33%.
- Butterbur root 150mg day
- This anti-inflammatory herbal has been approved in Germany for many years.
- The brand backed by the most research is called Petadolex.
- Ginger, another herb that decreases inflammation can be eaten or taken as a capsule.
- According to Dr. Tori Hudson: A dose of Ginger 500 mg four times a day, or 100–200 mg four times daily if the standardization contains 20% gingerol and shogaol, can be used for pain relief, as an acute dosing
Other things I have found helpful:
- Placing a soft ice pack on the back of the head
- Keeping a food diary and eliminating gluten.
- Dr Mark Hyman recently suggested that inflammation caused by eating gluten can trigger a migraine.
I am currently treating my daughter with weekly acupuncture, an herbal formula from Dr Tori Hudson, called Butterbur Plus and a gluten free diet.
Treating hormonal migraines are a bit more complicated, look for my next article soon on those treatment strategies.