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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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Visit With Naturopath, Part Deux

I finally realized what bothered me about Tuesday’s appointment with the naturopath. I talked and talked, got little response and walked out empty-handed. I’m not blaming the naturopath at all, this was just the nature of the appointment. And it was dissatisfying.

Her goal in the initial appointment was to get to know me, my personality and the circumstances of my life. Then she’ll take that information, along with results of blood tests, mull over all of it (she even enters it into a database!) and come up with an appropriate treatment for me.

I’m used to a give and take situation. When I describe my symptoms and such, there’s feedback beyond “ahuh” and probing questions. The end of the appointment is usually full of suggestions and ideas about treatment.

Draining myself during a conversation can be OK — as long as I feel like I get something for my effort. Wow, could I be any more American?

I’m over it now. It led to a bad 27 hours, but I finished my book yesterday and my head was a lot better after my nap. I managed to work on eBay stuff for six hours before bed, cleaned the kitchen and read about Costa Rica. That many good hours is not bad for a bad day. Besides, I feel pretty good this morning.

I’m tired of writing about me, me, me. I’m looking forward to writing some posts that aren’t Kerrie-centric.

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Discombobulated After Seeing Naturopath

Yesterday started off with a wonderful yoga class, followed by a fall-off-the-edge downturn. I saw (yet another) naturopath yesterday.

The main selling point of alternative and complementary medicine is treating the “whole person” instead of the illness. I’ve never wanted so much to be a collection of symptoms.

The best question of the visit: What was your life like when your headaches turned chronic? Gee, I was in junior high/early high school. It was obviously the happiest, most well-adjusted time of my life. HA!

How did I deal with the stress at that time? Umm, I slammed doors and listened to loud music. How else do kids that age cope?

Then came the tears. I get it, OK? Crying is healthy. You can’t heal until you process every little part of your life to bits. Any questioning I’m resistant to indicates something I need to work through.

I’m usually an active participant in this. But my head hurt and I was exhausted. I wanted to go to bed, not talk about my deepest insecurities. Tears and sadness are the antithesis of migraine abortive.

It’s not even that I dwelled on the issues after the appointment. I just felt crappy and drained. My attention span was shot. Blogging, working on eBay listings and reading, all activities I’d been excited about earlier in the day, were out. Instead, I took comfort in garlic and basil gnocchi and a movie.

Today I stayed in bed for an hour after I woke up, but managed to gather myself up. I took a long bath, read and ruminated on this post. I was excited to get on with the day. Thirty minutes later, my head hurts and I’m dizzy and tired.

I’m going to go “home” for a while and add some Dave Matthews Band in for good measure. (Funny that part of my coping strategy of nearly 20 years ago has a similar component to my current methods.)

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A Naturopathic Medicine Primer

While many headache sufferers consider naturopathic medicine, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Certain supplements are highly touted, but there’s so much more to it. Naturopath Stephanie Draus describes how naturopathic doctors (NDs) practice and how to find an ND in your area.

In describing the six guiding principles of naturopathic medicine, Stephanie writes, “You see, it isn’t so much the natural methods we use that make us different; it is the way we work with our patients.”

To read more about Stephanie’s approach to naturopathic medicine, visit Nature Goddess Speaks, her new blog.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides an in-depth look at the many types and treatments of alternative medicine.

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Cautiously Optimistic

Eliminating triggers, particularly food triggers, is the main headache treatment that all the naturopaths I’ve seen use. While effective for some, only about 25% of people with migraine have food triggers. In recent years, certain supplements — magnesium, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10 and feverfew — have also been added to the naturopaths’ arsenal.

To my immense relief, the naturopath I saw yesterday wanted to move beyond the obvious (and mostly ineffective for me) treatments. The first step is to equalize my elimination pathways. That’s all I’m going to tell you about my bowels, but I think you get the picture.

While I’m glad she wants to treat different pathways (a word she used at least 20 times), I am a little skeptical about her knowledge of and beliefs about migraine. She always referred to a problem, like toxicity in the body or postural alignment, as causing headaches. The cause of headaches is a neurological malfunction, everything else is a trigger.

Foods, stress, weather, toxic blood can all trigger a particular headache, but they are not the underlying cause of the headaches. If they were, it follows that anyone with one of these issues would have headache, particularly migraine in this case. But only people with a neurological predisposition to headaches will actually have them.

But since she’s working on other areas, I’m not too concerned about this. I’m also more lenient because the friend who recommended her will only see excellent health care providers. And this friend’s recommendations, from acupuncturist to general practitioner to restaurants, are always spot on.

Before I tell you about my treatment, a disclaimer is required. I’m not recommending that you take any particular product, nor do I work for any of these companies. Infomercials and the like are evil and do nothing to persuade me. The more hyped up a claim is, the more skeptical I am of it. But I’m willing to try anything that doesn’t harm my body.

My treatment includes a “greens drink,” which are said to “contain grasses, sprouted grains and green vegetables which infuse your body with easily absorbed vitamins, minerals and amino acids.” The website of the drink I’m using, Greens First, claims that “one serving of Greens First contains more phytonutrients (health promoting chemicals in plants) than ten servings of fruits and vegetables and much more!” In any case, it tastes good and doesn’t appear to be harmful so I’m trying it.

Next I’m taking a probiotic called “Fortefy.” The best description I can find of it is on a website selling the stuff: “. . . contains elite strains of friendly Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. . . . Proprietary blend of 20 billion organisms: lactobacillus acidophillus, bifidobacterium bifidum, lactobacillus salivarius.” Funny how the description doesn’t explain the product.

The other two things are ones that I’ve taken off and on before, magnesium and fish oil. If you’re interested, I recommend Pharmax fish oil with orange essential oils. It is good mixed in a smoothie and doesn’t make you burp fish oil. Sorry to break my promises by recommending a specific product and also mentioning digestive functions, but the orange makes this oil far superior to any others I’ve tried.

These are on top of Migratrol and Gentiana Complex, which my acupuncturist (who is also a licensed Chinese herbal medicine practitioner) prescribed on Monday. Migratrol is self-explanatory, the connection between gentiana and headache is more complicated. The quick explanation is that a blockage of chi (energy) at the liver contributes to headaches.

The naturopath also recommended having my posture checked and having craniosacral therapy. I’ll probably check these out in the future, but I’m going to focus on acupuncture for now. If I’m shelling out lots of money for all this bodywork, I want to be able to figure out which ones are worth the cost.

I’ve gotten to the point that I know so much about headache and it’s characterization in western medicine that it’s easy for me to understand it in those terms. Even if I don’t understand something I know how to learn about it and which resources are accurate. With “alternative” medicine, I’ve been plunged into the deep end without knowing how to swim. Where are my water wings?