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Migraine Treatment Experiences: Behavioral Pain Management

It was just as I reached the end of the options for things to try to prevent my chronic migraine attacks that the best opportunity for living a quality life despite the disease came into my life.

Seeing a pain specialist

After diagnosing me with occipital neuralgia, which he suspected was triggering at least some of my frequent migraine attacks and referring me to a local pain doctor for occipital nerve blocks, my local neurologist referred me to a different pain specialist in the metro area. That pain specialist performed a procedure called a radiofrequency nerve ablation on me. It’s a fairly common procedure for patients with occipital neuralgia. When I returned for my follow up appointment and reported that it hadn’t helped one bit with the frequency of my migraine attacks he had three suggestions: (1) an occipital nerve stimulator, (2) a visit to the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute, or (3) a referral to a local pain management program.

Intensive pain management program

I reluctantly accepted the referral to the local pain management program and left feeling defeated and abandoned. The pain management program called me for an assessment, and I showed up with a serious chip on my shoulder. They said they thought there was a lot they could do to help me, so I reluctantly agreed to participate in their intensive program, which consisted of six weeks of Monday-Friday classes. It ended up being the best thing that has ever happened to me since I started living with chronic migraine disease.

The program I attended at the Lemons Center for Behavioral Pain Management is similar to the program offered at the Mayo Clinic. In fact, Dr. Jim Lemons helped develop Mayo’s program, so I got the information directly from an expert in the field.

Finding success in a well-rounded approach

The program takes a well-rounded approach to helping you live your best life despite living with chronic illness. They teach you how to address:

Coping skills I could take home

I highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go through this kind of program to jump at the chance. The program gave me confidence that I could do more than I thought I could despite living with chronic migraine and taught me how to cope when things are difficult. All of the skills were things I’d tried to work on by myself at home, but having their support and guidance brought all the pieces together for me for the first time. My family and friends noticed a change in me right away. I’ve been easier to be around even though my pain and illness really haven’t improved at all. The way I’ve related to my pain and illness has changed, however, and that has made all the difference.

Have any of you been through a behavioral pain management program? What were your experiences?

The purpose of the Treatment Series is to share personal experiences with migraine management techniques. Do not start, stop or change any treatment program without the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. For clinical data and safety information, please visit our Migraine Treatment pages.

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

Comments

  • body
    6 years ago

    Love the discussion! Thanks for the share, Diana. Migraine is truly a disease that affects our bodies, minds and spirits. Participation in a number of behavioral and relaxation techniques, regular acupuncture, and a change in my diet and lifestyle helped me revert from chronic migraine and MOH to infrequent episodic migraine. It would be wonderful to see more programs like the one you attended available for all migraineurs, and covered by insurance as the cost may be prohibitive otherwise:).

  • tucker
    7 years ago

    This is very interesting. Just last month at my appt, my doc got pretty serious about the cause of my headaches/migraines (I also have some other medical conditions she is wondering about) and she finally gave me a prednisone taper to break my cycle of early morning wakeup calls. She did order some tests and records from my cardiologists and now I find out she will be out for over 6 weeks at my next visit. So I’m not sure if I’ll even find out what her thought process is if I see the other doc which is a bummer.

    But the buildup of my “brain pain” and all my other medical goings on for the past 2 years is finally at a breaking point and even this weekend at work I was just a wreck. I just couldn’t stay and “clean up the mess” like I would usually do. I left my boss a note and said I was sorry but the day was awful and I couldn’t handle it any longer, even though my head didn’t hurt one iota. I think my coping skills and sense of humor have hit an all time LOW. My 13 yr old son asked me today at 11am (a short 1&1/2 after I woke up) why I was mad and I said I wasn’t, then he said how come you’re not happy anymore. How do you answer that when you know the general answer is I am just over the chronic pain, the chronic exhaustion and the chronic stress of chronic illness.

    I will definitely have to look into these programs and see if there is something similar in our area – or at the very least find a counselor that I can talk to to get back into my happy mommy mood. After all – with 2 13 yr olds, and a husband who was a military brat, *I* have enough on my plate to deal with without adding my own drama!

    Thanks SOOOOO much guys for posting about this infomation. It couldn’t have been more timely!!! You don’t know how much of a difference this may have made for me and my family.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Good to hear tucker. Taking the first step always seems the hardest, for me, then I usually feel better. When I go to my PCP, I am always given the depression “quiz.” Probably because I am treated for depression.

    ANY doctor (one would think) should be able to pick up on the fact that if a patient is crying too much, something is probably going on. Or is that asking a bit too much??? Anyway, sounds like things may be moving in the right direction. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  • tucker
    7 years ago

    I called my PCP yesterday and got the name of a counselor. She’s a “do it all” kind of person, but he was really good with a recommendation for my son years ago so I’ll see how she goes. Of course getting the name just made me feel 100% better today! Irony!! But I’ll call anyways, October is a busy, hectic, stressful month.

    You are right Nancy. I’ve always had such a great sense of humor that I think no one figured I’d break. But honestly, my PCP is pretty astute and should have seen it coming last winter when I was at my worst medically. Somehow I rarely have a bad migraine at an MD appt (well, one derm and one PCP) so the neuro or PCP never see that side either. Good grief. At the very least, they should ASK how you are handling things – home life, work, etc. My neuro asked my why I was crying so much this summer – uh, b/c I’m at work and can’t call in sick if I’m working for someone else and I’m the only one there? So I just take drugs and cry in the corner or the bathroom. Maybe it’s just pain, but maybe it’s also gone beyond that and you (doctor) should be asking more questions about my mental status at this point?

    Hopefully these will be the types of things they teach in medical school as they get all touchy feely in the years to come.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Hi tucker,

    Being in chronic pain is very taxing and frankly can make one cranky. I think every doctor should suggest their chronic pain patients, and anyone who has a chronic illness, learn how to cope with it. None of us have the automatic ability to handle chronic debilitating pain – we have to learn how to deal with it. The counselor I was seeing specialized in chronic pain and illness and was very helpful.

  • Cyn
    7 years ago

    I attended the three week pain rehab program at Mayo three years ago. It was a great experience. I’m actually thinking it might be time to take a refresher course! Wish there was one in Memphis!

  • kangi
    7 years ago

    I went through a week long intensive chronic migraine program at Tamps General Hospital(Tampa, Fl) which changed my life. Having approximately 12 to 15 migraines amonth had me at wits end. I learned coping behaviours that put me at cause rather than effect. I highly recommend such a program. I still have the same amount of headaches, but I handle them.

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    That’s exactly how my experience was! I’m so glad you had the opportunity to do this kind of program. 🙂

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    I’m sure Diana knows the drill as we all do that there are a slew of medications out there, too many to list in fact, all those old class medications they use as off label and all the different combinations that they use on all of us chronic migrainers. We are all pros at this or we would not be on this site sharing our stories and getting advice on what next to try to add to our long, long list of “what to try next”. I had not herd of the Lemons Center and I’m very interested in learning more about it. My brother in law on my husbands side was harping on me saying I had to go to Mayo. I just had to. Of course you get “those” that know exactly what you need to do next to make you all better. If only I had a penny I’d be rich for all the comments I get. That’s a different story. But what Diana said makes sense. This place gives you tools to help you better cope with your illness and gives you a better outlook so you can handle it better. God knows I need a better dose of that. If we get a better coping mechanisim for what were going through we have a better outlook. Mind over body. Makes a lot of sense. A lot of how we cope and deal with things is in our mind, as painful as our head feels, how we cope with it makes a world of difference. Diana, where is this place located and how do you go about getting your doctor to refer you to it and does insurance usually cover it-well that last question you probably don’t know about. I’d love to hear more about it. This is a disease there is no cure for, so why not get better coping skills on how to better live with it. It doesn’t mean you have to fall in love with it, but to handle it better and maybe your medications and relationships with your doctors will work better as an end result? We all need something positive, don’t we??

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    Hi, Julie! The Lemons Center is in suburban Kansas City. My insurance did cover the program. The Center works very hard to collect data to demonstrate the way patients are helped by the program, so a lot of insurance companies are willing to cover the program.

    Your doctor would simply contact them with a referral and they decide if you are a good candidate. http://www.lemonscenter.com

    There are other similar programs in other places across the country. If you want to contact me by email (dianalee@migraine.com) & let me know where you live, I’d be happy to try to help you find something similar in your region.

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    I just went through my RX records and I’ve had 40 different Prescriptions since Jan 2010 for my migraines, depression, panic attacts and PTSD. That’s as far back and my pharmacy printout would go. That’s too many prescriptions. And I’m sure there will be more to come. I should buy stock in pharmacuticals, huh? LOL.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Hi marlenerossman,

    I wonder with all the different medications you’ve tried (as we lots of us have) how long you’ve stayed on them. I think one problem we patients have is that some doctors do not explain it can take up to three months before we see a reduction in our Migraine pain and frequency as our body adjusts to the new medication. That’s a long time. You see, if we don’t give each new medication a fair trial, we’ll never know if that one med was “the one” that would have worked.
    Coping with Migraine disease is never easy, any help we can get is worth it.

  • marlenerossman
    7 years ago

    I have had three Radiofrequency Ablations all to no avail. I have tried twenty different medications, seen ten doctors and the only thing that works for me are the abortives–triptans. I am at the end of my rope…

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    This kind of program might be a good fit for you. That’s exactly where I was in my journey, and the program really turned it all around for me. I have the same number of migraines, but I relate to them differently. It’s been incredibly empowering for me.

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