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I want a cure!

This is the battle cry of almost all migraineurs. Here at Migraine.com, we often get inquiries from people asking how to cure their migraines. I sure wish we could offer a cure. Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraine at this time.

Webster’s Dictionary defines cure as “recovery from a disease; also remission of signs or symptoms of a disease especially during a prolonged period of observation”. To be truly considered a cure, a specific course of treatment would need to be universally effective and result in complete remission of all symptoms even when exposed to triggers over the course of many years. As it is, each migraineur is so unique and treatments so varied that a cause has yet to be discovered. It is impossible to affect a cure when the cause is unknown.

Even more unfortunate are the number of websites available that prey on our desperation by tempting us with a cure. As we get better at spreading awareness, charlatans and snake oil salesmen swarm like locusts to profit from our misery and desperation. This is the unwanted side effect of greater awareness.

Many of these “cures” are based on outdated information or focus on trigger avoidance. Still others offer a mixture of supplements that have limited evidence of effectiveness. Some even offer radical surgeries with a limited track record of success. None have a proven track record sufficient enough to qualify as a cure. That doesn’t mean they won’t help some people. Obviously, these “cures” have helped someone. The problem is that they call their treatment a “cure” when there is no cure for migraine. At best, these promoters are misleading patients. At worst, they are lying and preying on desperate people.

Trigger avoidance

While researching for this article, I discovered a popular health magazine with an article titled “Migraine causes and cures”. It actually contained pretty good information about trigger identification and avoidance. Sadly, it referred to triggers as “causes” and avoidance as a “cure”.

Most of us know that trigger avoidance is a lot like playing “whack-a-mole” at a carnival. As soon as we eliminate one another pops up. It’s not that we should ignore our triggers, but that triggers are so individual. It’s pretty rare to just avoid one trigger and never have another migraine.

Outdated information

Often, these “cures” are based on outdated science that has been disproven (i.e. vascular theory). Even worse are the ones based on stigma. If a “cure” starts talking about stress management, “migraine personality”, or staying positive that’s a sure sign of stigma. Sure, it helps to have good stress management skills and a positive mental attitude. But that alone won’t cure a migraine. I know lots of mentally healthy people who have chronic migraine. If positivity were the answer, they would not be suffering.

Supplements

There are dozens of natural formulas that claim to “cure” migraine. They usually contain a combination of Butterbur, Feverfew, Magnesium, Co-Q10, and Vitamin B2. These are all good options for preventing migraine and worth a try for most patients. But using these supplements is a treatment, not a cure. For some migraineurs, using supplements as a preventive can be effective. They just don’t work for everyone. If these blends were truly a cure, everyone who tried them would be migraine-free. That’s simply not the case.

Complimentary & Alternative Medicine

Most of us try CAM at one point or another. A massage can feel really good and chiropractic care has helped a lot of people. There’s also cranio-sacral therapy, myofascial release therapy, acupuncture, and more. It’s all good. None of it will cure migraine.

Surgeries

There are so many now that it’s hard to keep up. Neurostim implants are gaining popularity as a treatment for chronic migraine. It can produce good results at relieving the pain of a migraine, but does nothing to stop them from coming and will not help all the other symptoms. Nerve decompression surgeries are also common. These are based on the theory that compressed nerves trigger pain. By surgically moving or removing the offending nerve, the patient can experience relief. New to the party are surgeries involving the sphenopalatine ganglion. All of these carry significant risks of permanent nerve damage. Because of these risks, headache specialists only recommend surgery as a last resort when all else has failed.

Please be careful when searching for information about “migraine cures”. Remember, there is no cure for migraine. It is a genetic neurological condition involving hypersensitivity to a wide variety of environmental stimuli (i.e. triggers) with periodic attacks involving moderate to severe one-sided headache of a throbbing quality, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, possible visual aura, nausea and vomiting, and much more. There are a variety of medications used off-label that can prevent or reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. There are also acute medications that can stop an attack in progress. However, neither of these are cures.

A cure would be the complete elimination of hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli following a treatment that can be used for a limited time and then discontinued. Someone truly cured of migraine would no longer need to avoid triggers. They could stay up late, skip meals, eat foods containing MSG, and drink a glass of wine without fear that it would trigger a migraine. This is not possible right now.

So please use caution when searching for information about migraine treatments. Be very skeptical of any source that claims to know the cause of migraine or one that claims to have the ability to cure migraine.

Reputable sources for Migraine education

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

  • Kim Hamilton
    3 years ago

    I got my cure. I had all the symptoms you mentioned plus some more. I have not tried wine yet, but everything else I have accomplished. But you are right. My diagnose was that my migraines were neurological but that was wrong.

    This is not for everyone, but every person who suffers from migraines should rule it out. It was a simple day surgery and most all major insurance companies pay for the procedure. But I would not trust it to anyone but Dr. Smith since he has been specializing in migraine surgeries for over 20 years and has an 88% success rate. But I agree with you. There are some extreme surgeries out there and everyone should be careful and do their do diligence.

  • Kim Hamilton
    3 years ago

    Correction: should be ‘due’ diligence.

    Sorry.

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    Tammy, well written. Thanks.
    I really don’t like to hear or read trigger avoidance. I know that I overreact to that because some people do have triggers that can be avoided. The rest of us — not in this world. It is so true that too much of the Migraine treatment/cure advice is by people with either outdated science or have made up their own non-science.

    To Ellen H. — There isn’t something missing in our livers, there is something wrong with the medication.

  • Ann
    4 years ago

    I’ve suffered from migraines since age 13 and these questions always dogged me…..How can one piece of cheese cause a terrible siege that puts a sufferer in bed, gives the sufferer visual disturbances, causes paralysis of a limb, causes excruciating pain etc. etc. I don’t get it. How can glare cause the above or a whiff of perfume? How can not eating, eating too much not eating on time etc, etc. cause the above? One trigger? One would think a case of this strange phenomenon would be in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not or at least be in the forefront of some prestigious medical journal and tons of research be conducted to solve the mystery. What kind of affliction is this? I don’t know but I’ve had all of the above and still find it hard to believe a whiff of perfume can cause such a reaction. Is it an allergy? What is the genesis of migraine? It sure isn’t a whiff of fireplace ashes.

    I want a cure too…Thanks for letting me vent…let’s hope through postings like yours we can figure this horrific affliction out.

  • Ellen H
    4 years ago

    I have had migraines my entire life. I have never known a pain free day in my life. I have been on approximately 5 dozen plus medications over the past 30 years.

    In the meantime I have learned that many of us who “fail” (as if the “fail” were the patients fault) the new medications, or any medications, are also MISSING CERTAIN LIVER ENZYMES.

    So why do the drug companies ignore this phenomenon and actually do something about providing liver enzymes to help digest medications?

  • The Migraine Girl moderator
    4 years ago

    Ellen,

    Your venting is always welcome here! I often feel helpless when I think about the drug creation, testing, and approval processes. That’s all I’ll say for now, but trust me: I hear you on this!

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling okay today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Ellen H
    4 years ago

    Let me reword my last paragraph above:

    So why do the drug companies ignore this phenomenon and why don’t they actually do something about providing liver enzymes/or digestive aids to help us digest medications?

    It makes me crazy to think that those of us who “fail” a medication are being dismissed/ignored by those who make the medications. It’s as if we aren’t important enough for them to find a way to help us. Actually it really makes me really angry.

    Thanks for the space to vent my feelings! EH

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    thank you for this article. After 15 years of being diagnosed with migraine, I find myself in a crisis. The situation all too familiar to most of you. been unable to work past 2 months due to chronic and status migraines. my loving husband of 8 yrs is going through the grief cycle with my migraine disease as I am also. Until recently (1 week ago thanks to migraine.com) he no longer says “if you just avoid you triggers they would stop!” I finally listed them out along with coping skills and he could not believe the # (about 20). I even listed the types of things that stress me out. Since then, he has been more supportive. One more note, glad you mentioned what me see in print media. My first neurologist focused on trigger avoidance; I kept reading management of migraine is about trigger avoidance. How do u avoid 20 different triggers in ur life even though u r on 3 preventive meds? so, to prevent feeling judgement and guilt feelings, i would lie and so i am fine or i just need to manage my triggers better. some i can. don’t drink. done. some, well, difficult to avoid. Great job Tammy

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago

    Thank you for your kind words. You are right on about triggers. When you have that many triggers, you can drive yourself crazy trying to avoid them and then you stop living life. Your world becomes smaller and darker. That’s no way to live! I do the best I can to avoid dietary triggers, but I’m not the “food police”. Sometimes people assume that triggers are things we do to ourselves and therefore we bring the attacks on ourselves. When your triggers are bright lights, changing weather patterns, and somebody else’s perfume — how are you to blame for that? Society doesn’t blame an epileptic for his/her seizures. Maybe someday we will get the same respect.

  • Dr Andrew Knowles
    4 years ago

    Hello Ms Rome,

    I would like to give you the same offer I gave to Sarah Hackley to try my product. I will send it to you free of charge. I will not mention the name or website but will mention the ingredients: Feverfew, Butterbur, Magnesium, and Riboflavin (all mentioned in the supplements section of this post and the only clinically-proven ingredients to date). All in one easy-to-swallow caplet taken twice a day to help prevent migraines. Can also be used to treat for people not getting them so often (such as hormonal/menstrual migraines). If you would like more information, please let me know.

    Thanks, in advance,

    Andrew Knowles
    Anesthesiologist and Pain Management Specialist

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago

    Thank you very much for your kind offer. I am currently in the middle of a 90-day treatment trial. As you may know, any treatment should be given at least 90 days to determine its effectiveness. If this current trial proves unsuccessful, I will discuss other options with my headache specialist. FYI, I have a 40+ year history of multiple headache disorders and am a trained herbalist. I spent most of my adult life refusing allopathic medicine, trying to treat headache disorders holistically. If there is a natural treatment for migraine prevention, I have tried it. All have failed. Several years ago I was faced with the choice of using “natural”, yet illegal botanicals or turning to allopathic medicine for help. If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, you know which one I chose.

    Thank you again and best of luck to you. I certainly do hope your formula helps many people.

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