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Migraine Documentary in the Works

Out of My Head migraine documentary Kickstarter“Out of My Head,” the documentary that the Migraine Project is producing, looks to be an excellent film detailing the intricacies of migraine in an engaging, thought-provoking way. The filmmakers, director Susanna Styron and producer Jacki Ochs, have interviewed top experts in the field and many people who have migraine. The trailer includes top-notch information and illustrative descriptions of symptoms. As professional filmmakers, Styron and Ochs are working on what looks to be a high-quality film.

Neither Styron or Ochs have migraine. You may be surprised that I find this encouraging. To me, it signals a deep commitment to telling the broad story of migraine and its impact, rather than only the story of one or two people. I also think it provides an advantage in creating a film that appeals to people without migraine, which improves the chances of raising awareness. That’s not to say they’re disconnected from the emotional landscape — they’re both motivated by their love of people with migraine, including Styron’s daughter.

“Out of My Head” promises to be an excellent film that reaches a wide audience — the filmmakers have a distribution plan that includes screenings at film festivals, educational institutions, medical schools, clinics, hospitals and patient/advocacy organizations. But it’s not quite ready.

The Migraine Project is doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund the work necessary to finish the film. As I type, they’re $13,224 away from their all-or-nothing goal of $92,000, which they must reach by 6 p.m. MST on . Please watch the trailer and read about Out of My Head on Kickstarter and consider making a donation if you’re able. It’s an impressive project spearheaded by experienced professionals that I believe will result in an excellent awareness-raising migraine documentary.

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Migraine Research Excitement (With Reservations)

“This is potentially a very big deal,” I wrote about the study linking seizures and migraine in the brain. To be absolutely clear: this study’s findings could also be nothing at all. In science, a single study doesn’t prove anything other than the topic might be worth further investigation. Whether or not this particular study turns out to be pivotal research remains to be seen.

What I’m excited about is all the different ways scientists are looking at migraine. Important discoveries are announced frequently. Researchers are making connections that further the understanding of what’s happening in the brains of people with migraine, which will ultimately lead to more effective treatment.

I’m excited to see the discoveries as scientists look at migraine in new ways, but migraine research is still woefully underfunded. Part of the reason this research linking seizures and migraine caught my attention is the possibility of migraine being linked to a disease that’s perceived as real and life-changing. Seizure disorders are still stigmatized, but at least people get that they’re a brain disorder. Wouldn’t it be great if more people understood that migraine is, too? Not just for patients facing the stigma in their everyday lives, but the influence it could have on how research funding is allocated.

Migraine knowledge is fuller than it was when I began writing about it almost10 years(!) ago. I’m still hopeful about the future, but we’re taking baby steps when we could be making strides.

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Seizures, Migraine Linked in Brain, Research Finds

Seizures and migraine may be linked in the brain, according to new findings from Penn State researchers. This is potentially a very big deal and could have wide-ranging implications. I had to share the information with you, but my brain fog is too heavy to be able to explain it.

For details, take a look at the press release on the research: Link Seen Between Seizures and Migraines in the Brain. It’s scientific, but not entirely technical. I can understand it through brain fog, but can’t describe it. Popular news media will probably cover the story, so more accessible explanations should be forthcoming soon. I’ll take a stab at it when I can.

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Stem Cells for Headache, Migraine

Could stem cells reduce migraine or headache frequency and severity? Anecdotes and at least one study indicate they could be useful for migraine. They’ve also been studied for traumatic brain injury and trigeminal pain, according to James from Headache and Migraine News. Stem cells are used for a variety of inflammatory conditions, so their potential efficacy for migraine and headache is not unexpected.

Headache specialist Dr. Alexander Mauskop wrote about stem cells form migraine and headache last week, which is the first time I’d heard of the connection. He describes the research and why stem cells might be beneficial in an accessible and succinct way — far better than I possibly could. Read Stem Cells for Headache for the details.

Early stem cell research was done with cells from aborted fetuses, so it was highly controversial. Fortunately, stem cells can come from many different sources, including a patient’s own fat. Research into stem cells for a variety of conditions is exploding — I’m happy to see migraine and headache getting some attention.

Stem cells are definitely an interesting topic for research to explore, but this treatment is nowhere close to ready for widespread use. (I add that caveat because some companies who provide stem cell therapy do promote its use for migraine and headache.)

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Hormonal Birth Control for Menstrual Migraine & Insurance Denials

Despite the Affordable Care Act’s required coverage of birth control, some insurers are denying coverage of the birth control patch or NuvaRing, NPR reports. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but nearly all health plans are required to cover all FDA-approved birth control. If you have been denied coverage, NPR recommends appealing the denial and contacting your state insurance board.

How is this relevant to headache/migraine/chronic illness? Hormonal birth control is one method of managing menstrually associated migraine attacks, which tend to be more severe than the migraines a woman has other times of the month. The patch and the ring provide a steadier dose of hormones than a pill does, which makes them more effective for this purpose.

I’ve been using NuvaRing continuously (with one-week breaks every three or four months) since January 2010 and it has been tremendously helpful. Now, the most severe migraines I get happen the few times a year I have to stop the ring for a withdrawal bleed. (You can learn more about skipping periods on The Well-Timed Period.)

This method is generally not recommended for women who have migraine with aura, who are at greater risk of stroke if they use hormonal birth control. However, I recommend talking it over with your headache specialist to decide if it is a good option for you, whether you have migraine with or without aura. Given the frequency and severity of my migraines, my headache specialist said he’d advise me to continue using the NuvaRing even if I did have migraine with aura.

(If you don’t want to/can’t use hormonal birth control for some reason, triptans can be used to prevent menstrual migraine attacks.)

I always love to read your comments, but I’m on vacation and won’t be able to reply until the week of Sept. 8. Please don’t think I’m ignoring you!