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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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Update on the Migraine & Chronic Daily Headache Treatments I’ve Tried Since February

I’ve tried a variety of treatments since February, but haven’t kept you updated. It’s like I don’t want to talk about them at the outset because I might jinx it. After a treatment has failed, I push it aside so I don’t have to think about it. Here’s the surprisingly long update.

Naturopath
Shedding tears in the naturopath’s office the first time was enough to keep me from seeing her again. Against my hard fast rule that I not take anything I can’t identify (which I also broke with the acupuncturist), I took the homeopathic remedy, vitamin D and magnesium supplements she suggested. They did nothing.

Chiropractor
I gave the chiropractor two months, which is the maximum time she told me it would take to see results. I went five times one week, four the next, three for a couple weeks and so on. Turns out I hold my adjustments very well. Unfortunately my migraines didn’t changed and having my neck adjusted freaked me out. Once she stopped asking about my headaches and focused on pain in my lower back, I knew she had given up.

By treating me as a challenge for which she was sure she had the solution, the chiropractor made the classic mistake of nearly every “alternative” care provider and many physicians I have seen. That always makes me laugh, but leaves me wary that the overconfident provider is setting him or herself up for a fall. Which is what always happens.

Sleep Specialist
Many people with treatment-resistant headache disorders become much more treatable once they have sleep problems resolved. Although my sleep seemed fine, I saw a sleep specialist with a background in neurology. Sadly, my sleep is practically perfect. I sleep eight hours, wake up rested, nap when I need to without having it interfere with that night’s sleep.

New Headache Specialist
A Seattle-based headache specialist that I’d never seen before was recommended highly, so I saw her in May. We hit it off immediately. Too bad we focused on my blog, headache patients in general and clinical trials. I left enrolled in a clinical trial for Lyrica and with a potential advertiser for The Daily Headache, but without having discussed any of my questions or other treatment options.

I already had Monday’s appointment with my first Seattle headache specialist, so I didn’t make another appointment with specialist #2. Seeing specialist #1 again reminded me that she’s the right doctor for me.

Lyrica Trial
In the spirit of giving back — and possibly finding an effective drug — I enrolled in a clinical trial of Lyrica. Currently I’m keeping a headache diary and am to start the meds (Lyrica or a placebo) at the end of the month. I’m pretty sure I’ll drop out before then.

Six months, the length of the study, is a long time to wait before I can get a prescription and test Lyrica out on my own. I have other treatments in the works and don’t want to confound the equation. Besides my impatience makes waiting more than a year to find out if I took Lyrica or the placebo agonizing. I can’t decide.

Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Diet
This one needs it’s own post, which I’m working on. In sum, it looked like there could be a connection, then it looked clear there wasn’t. Now I have no clue.

That’s the update. Disappointing, huh? I have another round of ideas percolating. They seem like good ones this time, not acts of desperation. We’ll see.

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Chiropractors & Headaches: My Deep, Dark Secret

See end of post for supporting links. Including them in the text makes a mess of the first paragraph.

I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a few weeks. A gazillion people have recommended it over the years — everyone knows someone whose headaches have gone away after chiropractic. But I never intended to go to one. Not only is it potentially dangerous, evidence of its efficacy is mixed. And I’m well aware that many people make spurious conclusions of cause and effect.

You know I’m willing to try all sorts of alternative and complementary treatments. As long as there’s no chance the treatment could harm me. I’m still wary of chiropractic, but I just had my third adjustment of the week.

My neck and lower back have been acting up for the last six months. It seems more likely that a chiropractor can relieve back pain than headaches. What pushed me over the edge is Kelly’s, my friend and yoga teacher, trust in this particular chiropractor.

Out of everyone I know, Kelly is the last person who would endanger her body. Her extensive knowledge of anatomy and movement combined with her insistence on safety gives me confidence.

My back and neck do feel better, but I have to ask if the worsening of my migraines is coincidental or related to the chiropractic. Today started out well and I still feel good. I’ll give it a few more weeks.

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Your Headache Stories: From Sara

Sara has made major changes in the way she lives, which has let her control her headaches instead of having them control her. Part of her success has come from a realization that the good days are sweet and you’ve got to grab them when you can.

I have had migraines since puberty, although they got worse after I had surgery when I was 20. It was to treat thoracic outlet syndrome. So, no more first rib on the left side. I’ve joked for years that I mailed the damn thing back to Adam! My chiropractor has suggested that the healing process, with my left lung now attached firmly to the second rib, has caused changes I haven’t noticed in how my body moves. I suspect she is right! Freaked me out a bit when I read Jantha’s story, since she also has thoracic outlet syndrome.

I am now 36, and over the last six years have made major changes in how I live my life. I’ve found significant pain relief through this. I have had my depression appropriately treated, and more than likely will take anti-depressants for the rest of my life. I have arthritis medication daily and Tylenol 3 for the days I really need it.

Most important seems to be the other stuff I did. I quit smoking. I don’t eat anything that has artificial colour, flavour, or preservatives of any kind. Ever. No caffeine. I only drink beer, although of course that is questionable…but we all need our treats right? I exercise 6 days a week, at home on the floor, with a book that works very well for me. And, for the last 18 months, I’ve seen a chiropractor every 2 or 3 weeks. Since I drive over an hour each way to see her, I have a 30 minute treatment. She does neural linking, and 3 months ago started doing skull adjustments on me. Sounds weird….but it all works.

Over the years I’ve gone from 3 or 4 migraines per week to 2 or 3 per month. And I am getting more control over them every week, it feels like! Today I’ve got a twinge, rather than a full blown migraine due to the pressure changes and thunderstorm here this afternoon. I figure it is a great improvement!

I also work to keep a positive attitude about all this. I remind myself…I’m not actually dying. Just realizing how sweet the pain free days really are. It might sound a bit Polly-annaish. However…you haven’t heard the swearing that can accompany that statement on a bad day 😉

You can read previous stories from readers at:

If you’d like to share your story with readers (or just with me), please e-mail me.

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Your Headache Stories: From Erin

Erin, who blogs at Through the Eyes of a Migraine and has recently hinted that she’s pregnant, shares her story:

On October 31, 1994 I was getting ready to go out trick-or-treating when I started feeling something that I had never felt before. I was flushed, nauseous and I had the most severe headache I ever experienced. I couldn’t tolerate light, sound, or smells. Everything hurt. All I could do was lie down and be as still as possible.

That was supposed to be the last time I went out trick-or-treating (my mom said I was getting “too old” to do that). I never got to go out that evening.

Ever since that day, my life has revolved around my migraines. I’m 24 now and still learning to live with this beast that controls my life.

I used to get one a month – which correlated with my cycle – until age 16 when I was put on the birth control pill. At that point, they nearly stopped. Then for some reason at age 21, they came back with a vengeance.

I started getting them 1-2 times a month. A year and a half ago I developed severe, chronic insomnia. This exacerbated my migraines even more. I started getting 2-3 times a week. Then I got them every day.

I saw a neurologist. Then another. And a chiropractor. 6 medications, a blog and 18 months later, I think I’ve finally found something that helps. I’m on Effexor, a very effective sleep aid and still seeing a chiropractor regularly. I’m working with counselors and psychiatrists to work through the depression and anxiety that I’ve acquired as a result of all this. I still have horribly bad days. But now I also have wonderfully great days. I can go weeks at a time without as much as a dull ache in my head. I’m now living a life that I had lost all hope for.

Somehow through all of it, I managed to maintain my job even though I was taking sick time without pay. I was commuting at least an hour one-way. I was going to school and working an additional job a few nights a week. How did I do it? I have no idea. But I do know that I couldn’t do it without my wonderful husband to support me.

Erin, I wish you a wonderful pregnancy that reduces your headaches. You’re in my thoughts. I misinterpreted the hint. Erin is not pregnant, but is considering trying in the near future. She’s still in my thoughts, of course, and I hope that when she gets pregnant, her headaches will lessen!

You can read previous stories from readers at:

If you’d like to share your story with readers (or just with me), please e-mail me.