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Trying New Treatments: A Long, Long List

Physical therapy, craniosacral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, tai chi, pilates, meditation, chiropractic. While my migraines were too bad to keep appointments this fall, I kept a running list of the new treatments and therapies I’d like to try.

I have fantasies of doing nothing else than jumping in and trying all these therapies at once. They’d have to add up to more than 40 hours a week. Reality quickly usurps the fantasy: No blog, no decent meals, no organizing and downsizing. You know, all the other activities of my life.

Prioritizing treatments is more challenging than it seems.

  • My massage therapist’s physical therapist has aborted her migraines and his techniques are different than I’ve had in the past. No question I’m seeing him as soon as possible..
  • I tried a bit of craniosacral last year and the results were promising, so that’s in.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback and hypnotherapy have common threads. With my depression, cognitive behavioral therapy is the natural starting point. I expect that biofeedback and hypnotherapy will flow from that.
  • Tai chi, pilates and meditation also have similarities. I want to exercise more and learn to be mentally quiet. Pilates is more about relieving pain in my lower back, but tai chi is the perfect fit.
  • Chiropractic is last on my list. Last year’s attempt was a
    bust
    , but I’m planning to see a different chiropractor, whose approach
    is quite different than the one I saw last spring. Still, having not
    been effective in the past, I’m in no rush to try it.

Choosing one from each group leaves me with physical therapy, craniosacral, cognitive behavioral therapy and tai chi. Is that still too much? Combined with myofascial release and a yoga home practice, which are having good results, I’m afraid I’m overdoing it.

In fact, I know I am. This “narrowed” list would require appointments four days a week plus three tai chi classes. Ha! Like that’s possible. But they all seem absolutely necessary.

I’m stuck. What do you recommend?

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National Headache Foundation Answers Frequently Asked Questions

In one comprehensive page, the National Headache Foundation responds to common questions about migraine as well as tension-type, cluster, sinus, rebound headaches. The short answers include links to comprehensive information. Questions include:

  • Does weather affect migraines?
  • What are the triptans?
  • What alternative therapies are used to treat migraine?
  • What is biofeedback?
  • Are headaches hereditary?
  • What type of doctor should I see to diagnose and treat my headache?

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A Visit to My Headache Specialist: Migranal, Seroquel, Biofeedback & Headache Management

Another visit to my headache specialist, another round of medications and therapies. This is the first time I don’t have any anticipatory excitement that one (or some) will help. It’s not that I don’t think there’s a chance, I’m just too tired to get caught up in what ifs.

The prescriptions I left with are for Migranal, an abortive, and Seroquel, a preventive. I’ve never tried Migranal as on-the-spot abortive. I did use it when a three-week intensive treatment of injectable DHE caused muscle pain. (DHE and Migranal are essentially the same drug, just in different delivery forms.) That three-week treatment was cut short after I failed to respond even the tiniest bit.

Seroquel has been on my mind since reading this success story. I know what works for one person doesn’t always work for another, but I needed to ask. Since I’ve tried multiple meds in all the classes of drugs used for headache with no success, my doctor and I decided it was worth a shot. It can be sedating, but I have to wonder if being sedated with less headache would be better than the exhaustion that accompanies a migraine. (I need to read the full side effect profile before I fill the prescription.)

Biofeedback and headache management therapy are the other two treatments I’m going to try. That’s right, I have never tried biofeedback. I feel like an impostor writing a headache blog without trying it. I’ll be able to shed my shame soon.

Even though I don’t really know what it is, headache management is what I’m most excited about. Apparently I will learn tricks to help when I have a bad headache, like massage and neck exercises.

As I write this, my head is bad so my outlook is bleak. Whenever I have a low migraine, low pain, high energy stretch, like I did last week, I return to “normal” with a thud. Having had a total of three good weeks in the last two months, I now believe I’ll have more migraine-light days in the future. But I quickly grow impatient for the next time to arrive.

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Psychological Treatments for Pain

Even though your headaches aren’t “all in your head,” your mind can be a powerful tool for easing them. A study shows that biofeedback or cognitive-behavioral therapy can reduce back pain by about 30%. I assume that headache sufferers could have similar results.

Biofeedback has long been recommended to treat migraine and tension-type headaches, but studies show that it is not helpful for cluster headaches. This article from the Robbins Headache Clinic‘s website is a little technical, but is the best explanation I’ve found on why and how biofeedback treats headaches.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy provided greater relief to participants in the back pain study than did biofeedback. According to the article, this approach “teaches patients to divert their attention from pain and to think about it in a less alarming manner.” Since cognitive-behavioral therapy works to change overall thinking patterns, I wonder if it, unlike biofeedback, could be helpful for cluster headache sufferers.

I know I shouldn’t, but I still balk at such treatments (like with hypnosis). As if my headaches would be proven to be psychological if I were able to use my mind to relieve them. Yet I’ve been doing relaxation exercises during migraines for years. Like it or not, my mind has been involved the whole time.

Do you do biofeedback or other relaxation techniques? What does or doesn’t work for you?