Surely there is hope?
February 25, 2011 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone here ever suffered from chronic migraine, and ended up overcoming it?

That's it.
posted by sickinthehead to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I had chronic daily migraines with occasional auras for about a year. I was munching vicodin like candy. The numbing injections into the back of my scalp helped for a while, then stopped helping. Eventually I got sorted out with a daily regimen of amitriptyline. I'm on a fairly low dose.

Try to go and see a chronic pain specialist. Mine has an awesome russian accent. The approaches for chronic daily pain are very different from other analgesics. Often painkillers make the problem worse in the long run.
posted by poe at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2011

My mom had chronic migraines as a teen that she outgrew. Don't know if that's relevant but I hope it helps.
posted by bq at 5:09 PM on February 25, 2011

My roommate had god-awful migraines for years. On the advice of a friend who is a medical doctor, she tried a reputable acupuncturist and was pleased with the results. She still gets migraines, but they're less frequent and less intense.
posted by monkeymonkey at 5:14 PM on February 25, 2011

I guess I should have explained better. I am under the care of many specialists. What I'm asking is whether anyone has been able to go into total or at least 95% remission, without taking meds (or tapering off of them at some point and not having to go back).
posted by sickinthehead at 5:17 PM on February 25, 2011

As in, you just live a normal life now.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:17 PM on February 25, 2011

My roommate also had horrible migraines, decided to see if they were food or allergy related and cut out various things that are known to be problematic for many people, including chocolate and caffeine except in very small amounts, and nuts. This made a HUGE difference for her, and she found that small amounts of certain nuts were ok but others, like almonds, would trigger headaches even in miniscule quantities. She still gets headaches on occasion but the improvement was dramatic.
posted by sumiami at 5:26 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

What meds have you tried?

I've run the gamut of migraine meds, but what saved me was taking blood pressure meds that have the side effect of preventing migraines. (There was nothing wrong with my blood pressure -- this was a lucky try by my doc.)

I take atenolol twice a day, and seriously -- I get about three migraines a year now. It's awesome. And cheap -- $10 a month for a prescription. No side effects (unless you count lower blood pressure, which could be dangerous if you already have low blood pressure).

If you're tired of taking migraine meds that knock you out, make you nauseated, or otherwise inconvenience you during an attack, I highly recommend talking to your doc about preventive meds like these.
posted by vickyverky at 5:28 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I see you asked a migraine question before and I gave a similar answer -- you said you were worried about marijuana negatively interacting with beta blockers.

I hadn't heard about that -- maybe someone more medically inclined than I might have an answer. What in the cannabinoids might mess with the beta blockers?

I don't want to proselytize too much, but taking beta blockers gave me my life back from migraine.
posted by vickyverky at 5:32 PM on February 25, 2011

Yes! I had chronic migraines which were increasing in both frequency (3x/week) and duration (30 hours). I would take Advil when the aura began and it *sometimes* could keep the pain muted throughout, but usually not.

And then, in Feb'02, as a guinea pig for a friend who was learning a Chinese energy balancing technique, I submitted to a treatment. No migraines since.

And, for the record, I don't believe it was a placebo effect since I didn't expect any outcome other than a happy friend.
posted by DrGail at 5:37 PM on February 25, 2011

Like vickycerky, I take atenolol as a preventative. I still get occasional migraines, especially related to hormones and weather, but it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be. As someone who's prone to them and who has a long family history of migraineurs, I don't think it's realistic for me to think I'll never have a headache again, but my life has been significantly better since I started working with the neurologist five years ago.
posted by SashaPT at 5:39 PM on February 25, 2011

My dad outgrew his. YMMV.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:20 PM on February 25, 2011

My mother also found out hers were related to food allergies. She doesn't eat tomatoes or seafood anymore, and rarely gets them.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:24 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I take daily memantine (Namenda). It wins big; when it doesn't quite cut it, I pop an Imitrex at the onset of aura, and that works out.

I don't expect to outgrow them-- I'm 35, for one, and I'm the third or fourth generation of migraineurs in my family-- but I am confident that I have them licked to a higher degree than any of my ancestors or contemporaries in the Fairytale family. My neurologists have been pretty awesome about it.

(Are you sure they're migraines? "Migraine-like headache" is a feature of some mitochondrial disorders and other interesting conditions, like Chiari malformations and so on. Hopefully you're getting worked up to hell and back to rule out anything trickier than migraines.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:55 PM on February 25, 2011

I did, but I had to go to several specialists and deal with a lot of nasty ones until I found the right neurologist. Medicines were involved. So was physical therapy and pain management meditation techniques (the latter two did not work in my case, although I liked them a lot) Headache disorders are tricky and hard to treat.

You have to be proactive, but, and this will go against the grain here, I think that it is not particularly helpful look for answers online-- and I mean no disrespect to this community or others.

In my experience it is best to find a headache specialist who is not the busiest or most sought-after. Or a fellow at a "hot" research hospital. See one you can get an appointment with in a reasonable amount of time, and who will listen to you. See multiple ones until you find one you like.

You want to build a relationship that's going to last with someone who is up-to-date on the research and who's not going to be moving on after a year or two.

I find forums where people share symptoms and side effects bad news. What one person reports does not necessarily mean anything for another.

Don't get frustrated. You will find a solution. It took me two years and I had given up hope before I got rid of a headache that never ended. Good luck.
posted by vincele at 6:56 PM on February 25, 2011

Oh, and I avoid the hell out of aspartame. I was always dubious about that "fake sugar is such a trigger!" thing until I shotgunned two Coke Zeroes in a row one night and was promptly laid up with one of the worst migraines I've ever had.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:56 PM on February 25, 2011

I found out mine were due to jaw clenching. I stopped taking Welbutrin (known for causing jaw clenching), had my bite adjusted by my dentist, and wore a special bit guard at night for several months. I went from near daily nauseating, face-numbing migraines that sometimes included auras to no migraines.
posted by tamitang at 6:56 PM on February 25, 2011

Thank you all so much for your answers. I'm not really looking for advice - I am under the treatment of a highly qualified neurologist. I'm mostly wondering if it is indeed possible to overcome chronic migraine - if there are real people alive out there that have actually had the disease go into remission.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:59 PM on February 25, 2011

I mean, I do want to hear what worked for you, of course.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:59 PM on February 25, 2011

Amitriptyline (generic Elavil) has really helped me a lot... I've been on it 5 months now and only had 1 migraine, and it was a very mild migraine with almost none of the visual aura I'd normally get. Before I was up to about 1 migraine a week with visual aura, severe pain, and nausea which would progress to vomiting if I didn't take my Relpax quickly enough. My doctor says the goal with migraine prevention is to keep it below 2 migraines a month, and it's been successful for me. Though I do still keep a Relpax, Vicodin, and Compazine (or Dramamine) in my purse at all times, just in case.

My dad basically outgrew his as well.

I think it's important to discover your triggers. I know that mine are 1. being really tired and 2. being extremely stressed, especially if someone is trying to pressure me into doing something I really don't want to do.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:19 PM on February 25, 2011

I had migraines for many years, from several weekly, to one or more daily. The frequency decreased over time, as well as the severity. When I was reduced to getting just one or two a month a neuropsychiatrist suggested I try vitamin B 2 (riboflavin), which has research support as to its efficacy for 20% or so of migraine sufferers, those who, like me, don't respond to anything else. I began taking 2 daily (I believe that was 200 mg) and continued for about 6 years. I never had another migraine. This is NOT a miracle cure, but does work for some people. Beyond that, yes, time alone was a big help.
posted by mumstheword at 7:52 PM on February 25, 2011

I outgrew mine too. I get one a decade now, and move directly to IV Demerol. Despite that I studiously avoid my personal known triggers to this day.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:52 PM on February 25, 2011

I have had chronic daily headache for 15+ years and have sought many treatments for it. It's not the same as migraine, though I also get migraines occasionally. But I have cycled in and out of hopefulness over the years. In the last few years, my doctor and I have again been pretty aggressively trying things, and I have experienced significant improvement--as in, my bad days aren't only as bad as my "ordinary" days used to be, and it doesn't interfere with my life much. Several things we did have made incremental difference, leading to significant improvement. The big two have been being treated wtih prism lenses for a condition called "vertical heterophoria," in which the eyes are not perfectly aligned vertically; breast reduction surgery, which completely elminated the chronic neck pain that had gone along with the headaches; and treatment for sleep apnea. I'm now pursuing TMJ treatment, because I think that's another piece of my puzzle. I think I'll never be headache-free because I also have chronic allergies that contribute, but I can live very happily with "chronic very mild headache with occasional flare-ups."

When my headache first improved after I got the prism lenses, I wouldn't even let myself admit it--I actually had several headache-free days in a row, which was unheard of--because I had been hopeful about so many treatments so many times. I wouldn't say out loud, "I don't have a headache." I wouldn't even think it to myself. That didn't turn out to be a magic bullet, but it was one piece that made a difference, but it was very hard to let myself hope after so many years. I feel lucky. There is always hope, I suppose, but after awhile I started to feel like hoping for improvement just made me a sucker.

I don't know if this helps. But I have seen massive improvement after having given up hope, so there is that.
posted by not that girl at 8:16 PM on February 25, 2011

I've seen information on cluster headaches, which I know aren't really migraines, but there's anecdotal reports that Lysergic plants have helped some people...

Cluster Busters LSA Page
posted by symbioid at 8:26 PM on February 25, 2011

I outgrew my childhood migraines (started at 5, disappeared by ~12; had them about 2x a month for those 7 years) with no changes in diet or medication, but unfortunately they started up again with a savage ferocity upon the onset of my Meniere's at 15. sigh.
posted by elizardbits at 9:13 PM on February 25, 2011

Had terrible, vomit-inducing migraines on and off for 20 years. Don't have them anymore. I thank Bikram Yoga and the Grinberg Method for my relief.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:48 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

It certainly is possible. I had daily migraines for a couple of years, even waking up with them, until I started taking Topamax nightly as a preventative, at my neurologist's recommendation. No other medicines worked to prevent them, and Maxalt just made my chest feel tight and heavy, like my throat didn't want to breathe. The migraines went away when I started Topamax, but I stopped taking the medicine when I started college because I didn't want to depend on it anymore. Luckily, the migraines just disappeared. I think it may have been due to all the walking around campus to and from classes.
posted by cp311 at 12:06 AM on February 26, 2011

I had migraines once every month or two from my late teens through my mid-to-late twenties (I'm 30). They were not terrible as migraines go - I certainly couldn't function, but the pain was merely really bad rather than unbearable and I'd be mostly OK after 3 hours. After some brief experimentation with prescription medication early on, I stuck to avoiding triggers as much as possible, taking too much Tylenol or smoking a bowl, and having a nap (not hard when one of your triggers is prolonged lack of sleep). Over the years, the pain became less severe and the episodes less common. These days, I get the auras sometimes but they usually don't develop into anything worse than a normal headache and inability to concentrate; it's been at least 6 months since the last one.
posted by twirlip at 12:32 AM on February 26, 2011

I had migraines monthly from about age 12 to age 17, and they have stopped. I still get the visual auras daily or weekly, but if I just stop what I'm doing, rub the back of my neck, and crack any joints that need cracking they virtually always go away. I've found that avoiding bright sun in the morning also can help. I recommend experimenting with dietary restriction as well.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:32 AM on February 26, 2011

I have had migraines since I was quite young (6, maybe?). A half-dozen per year when I was a kid, but suddenly in late high school they became much more frequent. My mom took me to a neurologist who put me on a very low dose of beta-blockers (propranolol), and I pretty much stopped getting headaches. Now sometimes I get lax about taking the meds, and then I'll start getting the migraines again, but if I really stick to my twice-a-day dose then I get maybe 1-2 per year.

Also (and I think this is just due to me getting older), my headaches now are much shorter than they used to be when I was a kid. When I was 11 or 12, I remember that migraines would keep me in bed for 3 days at a time. Now when I feel one starting, I go to sleep IMMEDIATELY in a pitch-black room, and when I wake up in the morning I feel completely fine.
posted by Bebo at 6:27 AM on February 26, 2011

Coffee. That's what did it for me, as soon as I started drinking at least one espresso a day my migraines went away. I'm now in my longest migraine free period since I was a very young child. I wish I'd started years ago.
posted by deadwax at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2011

Menopause? Many women have some relief after menopause. The magazine Whole Living (March 2011, Page 105) says "The migraine brain doesn't like change, so when estrogen is in flux or when hormone levels aren't where they're supposed to be, it's more vulnerable." Joel R. Saper, M.D. of the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor. The article suggests going to bed and getting up at the same times every day, and eating at the same times every day, and biofeedback.

Not sure how this figures in for males, though.
posted by Leah at 9:26 PM on February 26, 2011

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