Book Review- Migraines: More Than A Headache

There are so many books and ebooks and websites out there riddled with outdated information or deliberate misinformation, promising cures and simple solutions for migraine. So when a reputable migraine specialist publishes a new book about migraine, I get really excited!

Migraines: More Than A Headache is an overview of current scientific knowledge and available treatment options for treating migraine by Dr. Elizabeth Leroux, M.D., creator of the charitable organization Migraine Quebec, migraine educator-at-large, and member of the Canadian Headache Society.

The book fulfilled my expectations for the most part. It begins with a clear outline of the symptoms that define different types of migraines and headaches, including helpful charts to assist readers in communicating their experience to health care practitioners.

Next, it provides a brief overview of historical theories about migraine and offers an explanation of the brain structures and chemical processes involved in migraine, while frequently pointing out that there is still much to learn and understand. I have frequently heard the term “cortical spreading depression” and understood to be part of the neurochemical process of migraine, but had little understanding of what it meant. Scientists are still a bit muddy on the details, but this book contains the best description I’ve found so far. Leroux also explains how imbalances in the brain’s metabolism can trigger this chemical process, and how the trigeminal nerve and referred pain are involved in migraine (not in the way I assumed!). If you are the kind of person who likes to know as much as possible about what is happening in your own body, but are not an academic medical scholar, this section could be quite satisfying.

After providing the scientific overview, Leroux walks us through more specific categories of migraine and its link to other diseases or “comorbidities”, explaining which health factors can contribute to migraine attacks becoming chronic. She tackles the tricky subject of choosing therapeutic approaches without offering any definitive answers (seems the ol’ trial and error at every massage therapist, chiropractor, and acupuncturist in town might still be the protocol until more research data is compiled), but does provide concrete information about Western approaches.

In perhaps the most useful section of the book, Leroux outlines the “Three Pillars of Treatment” explaining the existing options for acute and preventative medications, as well as lifestyle habits that have been proven to reduce migraine frequency and severity.

What I appreciate most about this book, and this final section in particular, is that at no point does Leroux suggest simple answers. You will find no fake “cures” here. The reality is made clear: managing migraine can involve every aspect of our lives; is very different from person to person; and it can take a great deal of time and effort to find effective tools. While this may be frustrating to hear -- especially for someone delving into treatment for the first time -- these realistic expectations set the reader up to succeed in the long run.

Leroux’s first language is French, and while the writing is not the most fluid or pleasing, it is clear and concise. The stock photos are a bit trite (if I never see another perfectly made up blonde lady grasping her temples it will be too soon!), but if you can look past a few clunky details to absorb the information within, I think this book will be well worth your while as a primer or a refresher on the most effective known approaches to migraine treatment.

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