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New Year, New Chance to Adjust Your Migraine Treatment Strategies

The new year often brings thoughts of fresh starts and new beginnings, especially if you have a chronic illness like Migraine and are still struggling with the search for better management for your attacks.

I’m no different than any of the readers, and I’m ready to give it a try in 2013 hoping the mystical *13* will be lucky for us all.

Last year I talked about my journey and my hopes for 2012 in a post called “Estrogen, Supplements, Calcitonin and Starting Over in 2012”. I don’t tend to make resolutions for the new year, but I do try to create reachable goals that don’t overwhelm me. Last year I didn’t meet any of my goals.

Not one.

I still have similar goals however, but I have a different strategy for making them reachable. To begin with, January 7 is the date of my first appointment with a new headache specialist. If finding a new specialist is the only thing I’m able to accomplish for the year, I’ll be okay with that. It’s a big step for me since my old specialist moved away.

This year, my goal is to form a good, working relationship with my new doctor and open myself up to trying new treatments. As part of my doctor’s multi-modal approach I’ll be visiting with a physical therapist, psychologist and a dietician to see what changes they might suggest I try. What I’m doing now isn’t working too well, so it would be silly for me to continue along the same path and expect anything to make me feel better.

I wanted to tell you all about my decision, because I hope that those of you who are unhappy with your current strategies will consider thinking about what you need to do to get better control over your attacks. Maybe my approach will be helpful to you too:

  • Have you considered talking to a psychologist to see if they might be able to help you with strategies for living with a chronic, painful illness like Migraine? Maybe even discuss something like biofeedback, relaxation or distraction to see if that might help you during painful days?
  • Despite exercise triggers, have you met with a physical therapist familiar with Migraine patients to see if strengthening your frame or the soft tissues in your head and neck might be helpful to you? Maybe gentle stretching is enough to get you started, but you’ll want to know how to do this in a way that is constructive and not destructive to your current situation, right? Of course!
  • Migraineurs have special dietary needs. We all mess up our diet from time to time, but how does your daily diet compare to an ideal eating plan for someone with Migraine? Think you know all the possible trigger foods? Think you’re getting enough carbs to help your gut create the serotonin it and the brain needs to stay balanced? Do you know that how and when you eat is just as important as what you eat? I’ll bet you’d be in for some surprises that might change your life.

So, what will you be doing differently in 2013 to get better control over your Migraines? I’d love to see your comments. Maybe you have ideas that might be helpful for me too. You’ve always been a fabulous audience and I really love to learn from you!

This post is my response to the January 2013 Headache and Migraine Disease Blog Carnival

A blog carnival is a collection of links to a variety of blogs on a central topic. The Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival has been created to provide both headache patients and people who blog about headaches with unique opportunities to share ideas on topics of particular interest and importance to us. This month’s challenge was: New Year, New Chance to Adjust Your Migraine Treatment Strategies

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.


  • taralane
    7 years ago

    I changed health providers to an HMO starting in Dec 2012. I am still getting my records changed over to the new place, all of which is slow and time consuming, but I was encouraged that the HMO had neuros on staff which were headache specialists. I went to a headache meeting which was 2 hrs. long presented by a headache neuro who has migraines himself.

    There was nothing in the presentation that I did not know, and I added some information I had from this site for the information of people also in the meeting, as well as the doctor. The doc was not pleased, and appeared bothered when he had to interrupt his presentation, but I did it anyway.

    I spoke to him afterward because I have no rescue meds that work right now. This neuro said I had to go back to my PCP for a referral (again), so who knows when I will get to see a doctor. So far in January I have had only no days without a migraine, for at least part of the day, and nothing to try and abort the pain. I have to wait for a referral to a neuro at the new HMO in order to get new med scrips, and I had 21 migraine days in December, and with the 6 already in January I am a bit depressed with everything.

    But to try and keep things on a lighter note, I am going to be trying vitamins to help as preventatives diligently in 2013 – I just need to get them set up with my other meds (some are, some I have to add). I will also be slowly working in an exercise routine so that I can build up to the 30 min. a day 5 day a week minimum they would like me to be doing. I don’t know whether this will help or hurt, but I have nothing to lose by trying. Beyond that I am trying to get an app’t with a new neuro/headache Doc. but I am on a wait list and have no idea how long it will take.

    I am keeping a diary, eating well, writing down my triggers, and collecting information for my new doc, in hopes that will pay off when the day comes. Signing off now – I need a hot pack for my head. I was hoping this would be a pain free day, but the familiar stabbing through my eye has just appeared, and I need to hydrate, and try to relax with the pain.

    I am hopeful that some of my tx adjustments, even though self designed and administered, will work.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Sounds great! A good plan is in place and sounds like you are ready to go, good for you. Please check with the doctor about any supplements you take including vitamins. They do interact with other medications we take and any conditions we have so it’s important that everything checks out before we start a new vitamin regime. Vitamin D and B12 are blood levels important blood levels to look into because some people with migraine tend to be low in these areas. Please keep us posted on how you are progressing.

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    Dear Hangingbyathread. I am so sorry you are suffering so. Insurance companies and their red tape is such a pain in the rump! To be in such pain and not have any abortives I’d be banging on some doors and rattling some windows demanding they speed up the process. So much for Standard of Care, huh. As for vitamins I am taking some my neuro who is a headache specialist who too has suffered from Migraines. I take Butterbur 50mg 2x daily, Riboflavin (vit B2) 250mg 2x daily, Magnesium Gluconate (he specified no other form of Magnesium) 250mg 1x daily, Vitamin B6 200mg 1x daily and then my regular Caltrate Calcium 500mg 2x daily, Potassium 99mg 1x daily, Vitamin C 500mg 2x daily. I just found out I was deficient in Vitamin D. I was at level 14 and on the low end women are suppose to be at 50 I believe the lab sheet said so now I have to take 5,000 units 1x daily and get rechecked in 3 months. I cannot take Feverfew, as some recommend that for migraines-I’m allergic to it. If you have fall allergies to ragweed because this is in that family of “herbals” you cannot take it in which I found out the hard way. So no feverfew for me. And I was just newly diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and just started taking Cymbalta so I’m hoping that will help with my constant non-stop migraines. I will keep you in my prayers hoping you get the much needed help you need and deserve ASAP. Take care and keep us updated. God Bless You.

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    Well I’m not sure what you mean exactly other than filing a complaint with the supervisor and then with the hospital administrator which I plan on doing. My husband is taking me there this Saturday for my yet 3rd blood draw and of course he can be very vocal so we will voice our displeasure to the staff but I’m sure that will get us no where as it is a Saturday and no supervisors are usally on staff on weekends. So I will find out who these people are that day and will correspond with them the following week. As for my MD when my final results are in and I get my “follow-up” appointmet to go over the labs I will denfinately voice my displeasure over this whole scenario as well. I will let her know if she cannot treat me with respect and dignity as a patient she can quit or I can fire her, that I will not tolerate being pushed aside and be ignored and left to suffer for indefinate periods of time to meet “her” time schedule and “her” rigid criteria when she’s said all along what I have that there is no test to prove it she’s just nickle and diming the insurance to rule out other “possible” conditions that I don’t have. Why are good doctors so hard to find? Oh well I’m back to searching for a new MD.

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    I had my appt today (1-8-13) with my neuro-migraine specialist. He suffers from migraines also so he has given me empathy and support. I went with the outline that Diana Lee had posted a few months ago and he was appreciative of that as it was much clearer as it listed treatments I had tried in the past & what worked & what didn’t as well as medications to date. My reg MD is dragging her heels on formally diagnosing me with Fibro as the lab has botched up my blood work 2x now since late Nov to rule out other “possible” conditions but what has come back so far is ruled out, so she has not been treating me yet until I go to lab for a 3rd blood draw. My Neuro agrees this is incompetent and agree’s w/o a doubt I have Fibro & today he prescribed me Cymbalta & said it’s used for migraines as well. So needless to say I’m going to be looking for a new MD that doesn’t use the same lab. But I will be eating healthier, fresher, and he said in baby steps starting out on my exercise bike in 5 min increments in easy strides until I get up to 30 min then go to easy beginners yoga for non-flexable people but nothing strenuous. I’m to keep up on my migraine diary but do a simple one I can keep track of & not complicated. He is going to check with my new insurance to see if Botox is covered because he wants me to try it again. So I’m waiting to see what the verdict is on that. So that is the plan for 2013 so we’ll see how it pans out and if I can follow it and adhere to it-at least the exercise part because there is not a part of my body that does not hurt deep to the bone it seems. And doing simple stretches even the muscles will go into a spasm and it takes a while for it to ease up. I take a lot of hot Epsom Salt Baths but I cannot stay in the tub forever…… No matter how good it feels at the time 🙂

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    Julie – I am so sorry you’re having to go thru this stuff. I’m glad you’re seeing some results from at least one physician though. Having a chronic illness is not for wimps!

    One question: Did you hold the lab accountable for those messed up labs? I have found thru my experience, that making them pay for botched labs gets them on the right track pretty quickly. At least, it couldn’t hurt!

  • pamelamills-feierabend
    7 years ago

    Ellen… like you, I took my now 18 year old son to a new migraine specialist this afternoon at the clinic where my doctor practices. They wouldn’t see him until he turned 18, which happened to be last Friday. He’s been suffering from chronic migraines since September, but has had migraines since he was young. While the appt. was good, I’m not sure I like the nurse practitioner we saw. She couldn’t understand that when he gets a migraine, that the triptan meds don’t work, and his migraine will last up to 8 days. She did refer him to a sleep specialist to rule out sleep apnea, because he wakes with migraines. She added two preventive meds to the one he takes, and wants to try a different triptan when he gets a migraine. I’m hoping for you also, along with us that 2013 will be a better year. He’s missed 3 months of his senior year because of these, and we weren’t getting good help from the pediatric neurologist we saw.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    pamelamills-feierabend – Thank you so much for taking the time to add your thoughts and experience here!

    I’m actually fairly concerned about some of the things you mentioned in your comment. A board certified Migraine and headache specialist is a sub-specialty and a nurse practitioner will never be a “specialist” of this type. Please check out this link and consider getting your son to someone who will better be able to diagnose and treat him: This is really the best thing you can do for him and I strongly urge you to do whatever is necessary to get him there.

    Triptans often abort Migraine, but not always, especially if you’re chronic. This makes me wonder about MOH because this condition occurs in about 80% of chronic Migraineurs and makes treatment very difficult.

    I hope that there were some tests ordered for your son as well. There are a few conditions that need to be ruled out in order to be sure it is Migraine that he really has the problem with. With over 300 different headache disorders, and the fact that many Migraineurs don’t suffer just one type of headache, it is important to know exactly what is going on before trying to throw meds at him to see if they work. If the diagnosis is wrong, the treatment won’t likely work.

  • body
    7 years ago

    Ellen, the best thing I ever did for myself when I suffered from chronic migraine was to open myself up to new experiences. Mine happened to be a new internist along with a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both have been instrumental in my path to recovery. My wellness plan included physiotherapy (which did indeed strengthen the muscles in my neck), a change in diet and eating habits that helped eliminate many triggers, and the introduction of many relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and acupuncture.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    Sharron – I’m so glad those things are helping you! You perfectly illustrate why it is so important to integrate our health care with our day to day activities.

    Decades ago I started looking *outside the box* because traditional therapies weren’t working for me. I started with acupuncture and broadened my scope from there. Eventually I re-arranged my entire life to try to eliminate the triggers that I have control over. Physical therapy – for me – was a bomb, most likely because my PT really didn’t know how to treat a Migraineur. I actually did better on my own. In the *old days* I was a personal trainer and athlete and because I know my body and limitations better than anyone else, it worked better that way. Taking it slow and easy. Still, I am really looking forward to new ideas and a two-head-is-better-than-one approach to starting over! Fingers crossed…

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