Five Questions With a Neurologist and Migraine Expert
Last updated: June 2023
For those of us who suffer from migraine, we wonder: How can we best prevent and treat a migraine? When should we see a specialist? For some of these common questions, I asked neurologist and migraine expert Dr. Sara Crystal, Medical Director of Cove.
What are the best tips to prevent migraine?
Dr. Crystal explains that there can be various triggers for migraine, including alcohol, food additives, hormonal or sleep schedule changes, skipping meals, and dehydration. She advises her clinic patients to incorporate some habits to help prevent migraine:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Stay well hydrated (you can use an app to track fluid intake)
- Reduce stress
- Increase exercise as approved by your doctor
- Keep a migraine diary to help identify triggers
What is the most effective non-prescription treatment?
Dr. Crystal advises patients in her clinic that some OTC (over-the-counter) medications can be effective if taken at the first signs of migraine. Sipping a caffeinated beverage along with the medication can help as well. “Non-medication approaches that I suggest for my patients in my clinic include applying essential oils topically - peppermint and lavender oils have been shown to reduce pain during migraine attacks,” Dr. Crystal says. She also tells her clinic patients to apply cold or heat and rest in a dark, quiet room. “Also, you can ask your migraine specialist about electrical devices that can be worn during an attack to interrupt pain transmission that occurs during a migraine,” she says.
When should you see a neurologist/headache specialist?
Many studies report that migraine is underdiagnosed and undertreated.1 Dr. Crystal sees patients with frequent and/or severe migraine. “The first step is actually speaking about your migraines with your doctor,” she tells her clinic patients.
What do you wish all patients knew?
“That there is hope!” Dr. Crystal says. “There are many effective treatments for migraine, and many newer options for both the preventive and acute treatment of migraine which are safe, effective, and well-tolerated,” she says. Dr. Crystal reminds people with migraine to have an open conversation with their doctor, to establish an effective treatment plan.
Is there hope for patients to get rid of their attacks for good?
Dr. Crystal offers hope. “While there is no known cure for migraine, which is considered a chronic disease, a combination of lifestyle changes, along with medications, can significantly reduce migraine frequency, severity, and disability,” she says.
Dr. Sara Crystal is a neurologist and migraine expert who serves as Medical Director of Cove. Dr. Crystal completed her neurology residency at NYU, serving as a chief resident, and completed her fellowship in Headache at Montefiore/Albert Einstein.
In the past year, has insurance made it difficult to get your migraine treatment?