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Do you feel like you

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything?

“I’ve tried everything and nothing works for me.”

“This treatment is my last hope.”

“If X doesn’t work, there’s nothing else to help me.”

Have those thoughts ever crossed your mind? They certainly have mine, particularly in my early years of migraine treatment. After trying what seems like countless meds with no success or having yet another treatment fails, it can feel like you’ve hit a dead end.

Please take heart. Potential migraine treatments are so numerous that you almost certainly haven’t tried everything. If a doctor tells you you’re out of options, it means the doctor has exhausted their knowledge, not that there are no other treatments that might help you. It’s time to find a new doctor who knows more about migraine, preferably a headache/migraine specialist.

There are more than 100 prescription medications for migraine prevention. As Ellen has said on the forum, it would take more than 25 years to give each one an effective trial. Many drugs work best in combination with others, which gives you even more choices, though it also adds more rounds of testing. And some drugs that don’t work the first time you try them may work on a second try, especially if you’ve had any improvement in your migraine frequency, severity or duration between trials.

That’s just prescription medication. Even if you don’t want to take prescription preventives or are avoiding certain because of intolerable side effects or contraindications, you still have options, like herbs and supplements, acupuncture, physical therapy, Botox, biofeedback, neurofeedback, nerve blocks, nerve ablation, massage, yoga, cranial sacral therapy, nerve stimulation (implanted or external, like Cefaly), transcranial magnetic stimulation (which should be available to patients soon), food trigger identification and avoidance, exercise regimens, hypnotherapy, essential oils, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation, self-care (or lifestyle changes) and others I’m sure I’ve left out. There are also less mainstream treatments, like digestive enzymes (which have literally changed my life), homeopathy, reiki, even crystal therapy.

It is so frustrating to try multiple treatments with little or no success. When another fails, it’s tempting to throw your hands up and say, “I’ve tried everything and nothing is ever going to help me.” After you blow off steam, remember there are so, so many treatment options available and you’ll never know what will work for you until you try.

This isn’t a meaningless pep talk from someone who doesn’t know what it’s like. I had daily migraine attacks for years that grew worse and worse until I was housebound and nearly bedridden. I wanted to give up many times – and took several long treatment breaks – but somehow managed to pull myself up and try yet again. I found my first helpful treatment two years ago, then found a couple more that are even more effective. I’m not migraine-free, but I feel great. With all the disappointment and grief along the way, the elation of having a migraine-free day is indescribable.

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.


  • tony46
    2 years ago

    After one full year of head pain my wife was referred to the only clinic in the country specializing in migraine head pain located in Ann Arbor, Mich. They made a diagnosis and admitted her to their hospital and are treating her inpatient with meds one of which is DHE migraine. They looked at an MRI of her neck and she is getting C-2 injections. She is on an IV. She has gotten injections inthe back of her head. After a year of terrible pain on the left side of her face and head she is nearly pain free. She is expected to be discharged this Friday pain free with a maintenance plan for the physicians to follow in Atlanta. This clinic is solving patients’ head pain. My wife has been talking to other patients there from all over the country and they report the same pain relief.

  • seagypsy
    2 years ago

    I’m so happy for your wife!

  • Jessica Madore
    3 years ago

    What’s really frustrating is when your doctor tells you the one treatment you need is the one your insurance won’t pay for and you can’t afford. I have lots I could & should try but I can’t pay for them on a disability budget and medicare/medicaid. That’s what all these articles leave out of the discussion. I can’t be homeless and starve just to get Botox now can I? Hmmmppphh! So tired of my insurance telling me they won’t pay for the meds my doctor wants to use or try that he’s given up and why shouldn’t I give up too? They already took away one I’ve been successful with for more than 4 years and set me back and all they can say is sorry find an alternative that works but there is none. I wish the heads of these insurance companies who make these policies would suffer migraines and then make decisions on what’s covered or not. I bet they would change their tune then! Sorry for the rant but it really makes me mad when the issue that I know a ton of us deal with never gets mentioned and that’s how to get help when your insurance won’t cover the medications or treatments??? What option or hope do I have then?

  • Teresa
    4 years ago

    I have to admit that I was one of the people who thought that I had tried pretty much everything. Of course, it was a pretty long list. I have low blood pressure so that takes out about half of the preventative meds right there. I have tried all of the well known prophylactic meds and the only meds that worked at all had horrible side effects. I tried Botox and Cefaly, neither of which worked for me. My neuro had exhausted his knowledge when I decided to try something. I had started peri-menopause and my body had been going through some very strange changes (like new allergies even), so I asked my neuro to start over and put me back on Topamax, even though it had not worked for me in the past. He agreed, but also kept me on Robaxin which I had been on for stiff muscles in my neck, which gave me back of the head migraines. It took a couple of months to take hold, but now, between the two meds, I have had the fewest migraine days this month than I have had in more years than I can remember. So never give up hope. And remember, things do change, even our bodies. Something that didn’t work before, might work at a different time, or in combination with a different drug.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    Janet & Nonster,

    Our bodies naturally make digestive enzymes to help digest foods. Some people are deficient in certain enzymes and find relief from a variety of symptoms by taking supplemental enzymes (which, depending on the enzyme, can be derived from plants, foods (usually papaya and pineapple), fungi, or animals).

    For someone who has a food intolerance that triggers migraines, they may be able to better tolerate the food if they take digestive enzymes when they eat. It’s possible to have a food intolerance and not even know that’s what’s triggering (at least some of) your migraines.

    Reading my experience with the digestive enzyme diamine oxidase might help you understand the connection: DAO is just one enzyme and histamine is just one type of food intolerance.

    In addition to DAO, I’ve started a broader enzyme called Similase. I know someone has found relief with one called M7. There are a lot of different ones out there and it can be complicated to figure out which one — if any — will work for you. I’m generally sensitive to plant material, so my naturopath recommended Similase made by Integrative Therapeutics or Digestive Enzymes Ultra made by Pure Encapsulations. I was able to buy them at the local naturopathic college, but they’re available online as well.

    I hope this helps. If you have a naturopath or dietician, I recommend working with them to try to find the right one for you.


  • seagypsy
    2 years ago

    I have to agree with Jessica above. I would love to try Naturopathy, but my insurance doesn’t cover it. I m so nauseous, that I stopped eating almost everything and lost 60 pounds​. I have had migraines for 23 years, and an intractable phase for the last 10 months. I won’t get into all the symptoms, but I lost my job and have been housebound. I tried to commit suicide two weeks ago from the depression. A doctor in the facility I was in had an experimental treatment at $1,100 per day, for 3 days that he “knew” would work. I finished it last Wednesday. It is called NAD and has some success in treating chronic migraine. I was cautiously optimistic.

    My nausea and vertigo were gone and the level 10 headache was down to a 5.5 when I left his office Wednesday afternoon. Thursday and Friday, so far, so good. Yesterday I woke up to an 8 with all my symptoms back. I bawled until I couldn’t cry anymore. $3,300 down the drain that insurance won’t cover, but I was willing to risk. Now, I still have to pay and there is nothing to show for the 21 hours I spent hooked up to an IV.

    I know there are other treatments available, but how do I find the money to travel where they are? Portland, OR is not the migraine study capital of the US. I’m done, worn out, and ready to give up. I’m not able to think straight any longer, my memory is going and I am of no use to my family like this. I am going to lose my house because of medical bills and a stupid neurological disease! Two doctors, three neurologists, and a neurosurgeon with perfect MRI’s and CT scans. So many preventative meds and triptans, food diaries, review of triggers, massage, physical therapy, etc., I’m sick to death of telling my story. I’ve had acupuncture and it helped the neck and shoulder pain. My insurance won’t cover it; lucky me I got while I was in the mental facility. I’d love to try it again; no money for it out if pocket.

    Yes, I’m pissed off and feeling sorry for myself at the moment. I feel entitled to right now. I cannot wait another four or five years to have someone help me figure this out. I will go stark raving mad! There are so few resources for us migraineurs. We have to muddle along as we go making it all happen. It’s really difficult when you are in pain.

  • Traci
    5 years ago

    I also have trouble with plant based products, so I will check out the Similase. I see you wrote this two months ago. Are you still using the Similase?

  • Anne
    5 years ago

    Thank you for the article – I have tried so many things, some have helped to lessen the severity and some have made me feel worse. I’m currently on my second round of Botox (injected by a neurologist) – which is helping. It definitely helps with the in-between days, when I’m not at full blown migraine, but have that migraine exhaustion and dizziness. I have actually been able to work out regularly again and am only getting about 2 migraines a week (which is a big improvement). I also like Relpax – that helps a lot. Over the counter medications don’t work for me at all. I cut out gluten, dairy, sugar/artificial sweeteners, soy, corn and alcohol – which seems to lessen the severity. I’ve done yoga therapy, acupuncture, epsom salt baths, etc. I’m currently trying remote healing and reiki – I’m not a huge believer in that stuff, but I’m also open to anything that can give me relief.

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Digestive enzymes were recommended for me also by a place where I purchased essential oils…which I now purchase directly through the company. Can you elaborate on the digestive enzymes..please..

    Janet Jones

  • kimberlyflick
    5 years ago

    My frustration lies in the fact that I can’t take time off of work or, if I do, I’ve often felt that I’m causing burdens on others.
    I just convinced my doctor to give me a prescription for Migranal and I’m just praying it works. But I don’t have a desire to return to this so-called “headache specialist” because he is very dead set on his idea of treatment.
    Also, I get so tired after a day’s work. How do you guys handle it? Do others still work or do you eventually just have to give up? There are times I feel like I’m going to have to throw in the towel.

  • Karen
    5 years ago

    Hi Kimberly, I worked this way for many many years and yes I dealt with the guilt of being out of work for a day and then working extra hard afterwards to make up for it.
    And yes I was exhausted especially after those days of throwing up all day and it was so hard to drag myself back to work the next day.
    It was not so back when I was in my twenties and this only happened once a week or so but as they became more and more frequent I did finally have to throw in the towel as far as work was concerned. As of 2010 I have not worked and thought the lack of stress would help, but I still have migraines 5-7 days a week. Even though I don’t work and spent a large portion of my life in bed, It doesn’t mean I don’t continue to try to find a migraine solution.
    I live for those migraine free days – I call them my Vacation days!! I celebrate a day just feeling normal!!

  • Karen
    5 years ago

    I’m feeling all of your pain and know exactly what you are going through. I have felt this so many times over the years, I have lost count. I started getting migraines at age 12 and I will be 49 in about a month so that makes 37 years of migraines of which the past 10 have been chronic. I have been unable to work for the past 5 years due to migraine frequency and severity. Of the list, there are only two things I have not tried – transcranial magnetic stimulation, because it hasn’t been approved by insurance for migraine yet and nerve stimulation which will be the next thing I try if the second treatment of nerve radio-frequency ablation doesn’t work. I have seen doctors from coast to coast and have tried every holistic and Eastern medicine treatment you listed. But, is it an exhaustive list?? There are so many days when I feel it is and so many days when I want to give up hope because I have so few days without pain. Luckily I have an amazing support system in my husband who pushes me to continue to keep looking even when I want to stop and give up. Even if the solution is not here today, it might be tomorrow.

  • Tripp
    5 years ago

    The only preventive that did work for me, I had to stop taking because it was messing up my kidney. It is very frustrating

  • Nonster
    5 years ago

    Kerrie, I am interested in the digestive enzymes. Please tell more about them as I’ve never heard of them in migraine treatment. Thanks!

  • Michele Harris
    5 years ago

    So many people are saying the same thing – that nothing works; we do know that there are some new options out there that work for some, but not for everyone. In this past year alone we have seen a prophylactic headband (prescription needed) and a homeopathic nasal spray (no prescription needed) containing capsicum annuum – both of which are getting good reviews by many users. I wish you best of luck!

  • Sonya
    5 years ago

    I had forgotten all about the nasal spray. (I have a horrible memory, I wonder if its all the drugs!)I ordered the spray the moment I got the article from I DO NOT want to discourage anyone else because REALLY everyone responds differently to everything out there. But the promotional information on the spray says that there is “a burn feeling similar to when you get water in your nose.” It also says that with continued use you adjust to it and no longer get the burn. The first time I used it I didn’t feel the spray so I thought I hadn’t “primed” it enough and I pumped a second time. The burn starts 10-15 seconds later and OMG! it was very painful and lasted 20 minutes or more. My husband was downstairs at the time and I shut the door so he would not hear me yelling! After that every time I got a headache he asked why I wasn’t using it, I really did not want to experience that again unless I was desperate. But I kept telling myself it might not be as bad if I only spray once like you are supposed to do. But desperation day came and I sprayed carefully, only once. And again I will say OMG!!!! it was worst than the worst migraine you can imagine. Again it lasted more than 20 minutes, I was here alone and yelling the entire time! Its not like you can wash the stuff out, it does say you can blow your nose after a period of time but it does not get rid of that awful pain. I was wondering if this site would have a “support group” of sorts like the one on the Cefaly; I have learned a lot from those posts.
    Again I will say that I don’t want my experience to keep anyone from trying it! Like I said in my last post, I had horrible side effects from Botox; it was as if I’d had a stroke and it lasted about 4 months. But many, many others have found much relief from Botox. Likewise, I met a lady who’d had 3 strokes in one day from Maxalt and BEGGED me to stop taking it. But I didn’t because it was helping me at the time.
    God bless all of you who are living on this terrible rollercoaster ride called migraine disease. Someday they may find the answers, but I think the reason it’s so difficult to do is that the answers are not the same for all of us.

  • Sonya
    5 years ago

    I DO feel like ‘ve tried everything although I know there’s always more like you said. I would really like to completely de-tox! I tried to get the nuero-stimulator (implant)but was turned down by insurance, now I count that as a blessing because of all the follow-up surgeries and complications. Botox gave me horrible side effects plus didn’t help. I wish I could do bio-feedback but no-one locally offers it. I’ve done I before years ago up at Diamond Headache Clinic. I do have my prescription for the Cefaly and can’t wait to get that. My “migraine specialist” so listed on this web-site, I had one appointment with. I called yesterday for a refill on one of my meds, today I get a CERTIFIED LETTER from him saying he called in the prescription for one month and he can no longer be my doctor!!! No explanation whatsoever!! I will check out your specialist list again.

  • kimberlyflick
    5 years ago

    Whoa! Hope you find a better doctor!

  • Sara
    5 years ago

    Hi Kerrie! I so enjoy your writing! I know I have not tried everything yet, although I had this conversation with my husband last night (what if the botox doesn’t work? You’ve tried everything?) to explain to my husband that my migraines have not even been chronic very long. I am switching headache specialists in October and he believes it is time to start exploring other causes as well (Family history of MS). I agree I should probably have updated scans since I haven’t had any in years and I have several new symptoms since my migraines became chronic but I worry about he will react if my diagnosis remains “just” chronic migraine.

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