“Just about everyone has headaches,” reports the Migraine Research Foundation, “but migraine is not just a bad headache. It is an extremely debilitating collection of neurological symptoms that usually includes a severe recurring intense throbbing pain on one side of the head (although in 1/3 of migraine attacks, both sides are affected). Attacks last between 4 and 72 hours and are often accompanied by one or more of the following: visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. Of course, everyone is different, and symptoms vary by person and sometimes by attack.”
“About 36 million Americans – roughly 10% of the total population – suffer from migraine,” reports the Migraine Research Foundation and women are disproportionately affected, with approximately 27 million sufferers in the United States. Three times as many women as men suffer from migraine in adulthood.”
“Hiding my migraines on set may have been the toughest challenge of my career,” said actress Morgan Fairchild. “There were times when the pain from the migraine headaches was so severe that I literally had to crawl across my dressing room floor. But I couldn’t let anyone know. If they thought I might slow production, I figured that would end my career.”
Whether you are a celebrity like Morgan Fairchild, or a working professional, American employers lose more than $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to headache or migraine.
Food and beverage triggers have been identified for migraines but different people have different triggers. “Food triggers include foods that contain MSG and nitrates, says Dr. Vincent Martin, the director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute, and a Professor of Clinical Medicine University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Alcohol is a big trigger for many patients; particularly red wine. Sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose can trigger migraines in susceptible patients.”
There are two primary types of migraines – with and without aura. “A migraine with aura has visual symptoms, sensory symptoms (numbness, tingling) or motor symptoms (weakness on one site of the body) that precede the migraine,” says Dr. Martin. “It lasts a characteristic duration from 5 to 60 minutes. 70-85% of people with migraine have migraine without aura.”
What holistic options are available to prevent migraines? “Magnesium, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 are examples of vitamins and minerals that are used to prevent migraine occurrences,” says Dr. Martin. “Acupuncture has been shown to have some benefit as well, but the sham acupuncture (i.e., placebo) seems to help as well. Biofeedback and relaxation techniques are quite helpful as stress is a bid trigger for migraine patients.”
“Nutritional Magnesium prevents platelet aggregation, which helps to avoid the thickened blood and tiny clots that can cause blood vessel spasms and the pain of a migraine headache,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND is a women’s health and nutrition expert, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health and medical director for the Nutritional Magnesium Association. “Magnesium relaxes the head and neck muscle tension that makes migraine headaches worse. Magnesium, vitamin B2, and the herb feverfew are an important headache treatment combination. One of the most absorbable forms of nutritional magnesium is magnesium citrate powder which can be taken with hot or cold water and sipped throughout the day.”
Some migraine sufferers are turning to the MELT Method®, a simple self-treatment technique that helps people get out and stay out of chronic pain. MELT is the first self-treatment method of its kind that simulates the hands-on techniques that creator and manual therapist Sue Hitzmann uses to eliminate accumulated stress, pain, and dysfunction with her private clients. Because MELT focuses on restoring and improving the natural efficiency of the nervous system by re-hydrating the connective tissue within the body, one of the benefits it touts is that it can significantly reduce headaches and migraines.
The MELT Soft Ball Hand Treatment uses MELT techniques to gently rehydrate the connective tissue, which enhances neurological regulation and can help reduce pain. “Many don’t realize but tension and stress in the head, neck, and shoulders can be released through rehydrating the tissue in your hands and fingers,” says Sue Hitzmann, MS, CST, NMT, the creator of the MELT Method®. “Because of this, the MELT hand treatment is a simple, easy, and effective way for people to help relieve their headache – in less than 10 minutes a day. What’s great too is that it can even be done while sitting at one’s desk at work – or really anywhere on-the-go.”
Genetics play a role in whether you will be a migraine sufferer. “If you have one first degree relative with a migraine, then each child has a 50% chance of migraine and with two first degree migraine sufferer relatives, there is a 75% chance for each child to have migraines,” says Dr. Martin.
Prevention is worth a pound of cure as migraines can’t be entirely prevented. “A good response to a preventative medicine is a 50% reduction in the frequency of attacks,” says Dr. Martin.
“You can use MELT to help resolve an active headache,” says Hitzmann. “Of course, when you have a migraine, the only thing you want to do is find a position that reduces the intense pain and other symptoms. So the best choice is to be proactive. With my clients who suffer from chronic migraines, I have them on a daily MELT Hand Treatment and I teach them how to journal their day, so they can learn to recognize the pre-migraine symptoms that do exist and are usually missed by migraine sufferers. Then, when the pre-migraine symptoms appear, I have them immediately do the Soft Ball Hand Treatment and this has stopped many migraines in their tracks.”