Keep Episodic Migraine From Progressing to Chronic

Keep Episodic Migraine From Progressing to Chronic

People with episodic migraine who have inadequate treatment are three times more likely to progress to having chronic migraine than those who have an effective treatment, according to a study presented at the International Headache Congress in June1.

Please, please, please, if you have migraine attacks that aren’t quickly and effectively treated by an over-the-counter medication, see a doctor. Not only can effective treatment prevent episodic migraine from becoming chronic, they can make the migraine attacks you currently have much less debilitating.

Here are some reasons I’ve been given for not seeing a doctor about migraine… and my responses to those excuses.

A “headache” isn’t a reason to go to the doctor.
Yes, it is and, more importantly, migraine is not a headache, but a neurological disorder. If it goes untreated, there’s a risk of episodic migraine attacks becoming chronic.

My doctor dismissed me when I mentioned my migraines.
Make an appointment specifically for migraine. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan take more time than can be tacked on to an appointment for other issues. If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, find one who will.

I’ve taken over-the-counter medications and they didn’t work.
Prescription migraine abortives are entirely different than over-the-counter painkillers. As long as you don’t have other medical issues that would prevent their use, a class of drug called triptans are an excellent migraine abortive medication for many people. Imitrex (generic: sumatriptan) is the first one you’re likely to be prescribed, but there are six others, two more of which are available as generics. If you can’t take triptans, other options include Migranal, DHE, Midrin, and Fioricet.

A daily preventive medication to reduce the frequency and/or severity of episodic migraine attacks is another treatment option. Episodic Migraine Prevention: Comparison of Drugs, Side Effects reviews preventive medications and explains which patients are best suited for preventive therapies.

I don’t want to take opioid painkillers (“narcotics”).
Perfect! Opioids aren’t recommended for treating migraine. See the previous answer for details on effective migraine abortive medications.

I don’t want to take medication.
Supplements, particularly magnesium, are often effective at preventing migraines. Biofeedback and relaxation techniques can help both prevent and lessen the impact of migraine attacks, as can acupuncture (which uses tiny needles that are almost imperceptible, nothing like the ones you’re used to seeing when you get your blood drawn). Diet modification can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks for some people, so can regular exercise and keeping to a sleep schedule.

My grandma/dad/aunt has migraines and just suffers through them.
That doesn’t mean you have to. There are effective treatments that probably weren’t available when your family members started having their attacks. Now there are. Maybe if you get effective treatment, your loved ones will discover they don’t have to “tough it out” and will also see a doctor.

I don’t like going to the doctor.
You’ll spend a lot more time at the doctor if your migraine progresses to chronic. And there’s evidence that the more frequent your migraine attacks are, the harder they are to treat. The sooner you find an effective treatment, the better off you’ll be.

I don’t want to deal with it.
Ignoring migraine won’t make it go away. It could even make it worse. If you don’t deal with it now, you’re likely to spend a lot more time dealing with it in the future.

Knowledge is power, but it’s only useful if you harness that power. If I’d had information like this 25 years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have spent the majority of my 20s and 30s disabled by chronic migraine. You don’t have to, so I beg you to see a doctor and get adequate treatment. Episodic migraine is bad enough; chronic migraine is hell.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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