Patient Perspective: Complementary and Alternative Therapy

Migraine disease affects everyone differently. I’ve had the great fortune to meet so many others with migraine, either in person or online. Our conversations have revealed how alike we are in our symptoms or how completely opposite we each experience migraine attacks.

Shared experiences with migraine

I asked five individuals to answer questions about a myriad of migraine topics. I’ll be sharing their answers with you in a multi-article series. I hope you find in their responses a feeling that you are not alone. Thank you to the brave souls who were willing to share their journey with the community!

Meet some migraine patients

Barb from Maryland, who has had migraine for 40 years, with the last 10 years being chronic.

Barbie from Florida, who has had chronic migraine for 18 years after a head injury from falling luggage on an airplane.

Rilla from California, who has had migraine since the age of four, which has continued into her 60s.

Tammy from Michigan, who has had chronic migraine for the past eight years.

Steve, who is newly diagnosed with chronic migraine after being episodic for 25 years. (Name has been changed for anonymity.)

Talking to a doctor about complementary and alternative medicine for migraine

If you practice any CAM methods, does your doctor know?

Barbara: I use some aromatherapy oils, because they calm me. My doctor actually mentions them in a book he wrote.

Barbie: My doctor is aware of some of the CAM methods I've done in the past
BIOFEEDBACK, Atlas Chiropractic, Massage.

Rilla:Acupressure (worked quite well), I’m still on supplements to support the entire body, not just migraines, I still use biofeedback, heat and cold compresses, a TENS Unit. My doctors do know this.

Complementary and alternative medicine recommendations

What type of CAM would you recommend to people?

Rilla: My advice to others is to research the options, make a list of those that sounds like it might be right for you and try them. Use the ones that help.

Steve: I have tried an herbal tea called Kratom which is supposed to mimic the use of painkillers. It has helped but only temporarily. Once the effects wear off, the pain comes back.

Complementary and alternative medicine fails

Have you tried something that didn’t work?

Barbara: Chiropractic, acupuncture.

Rilla: I’ve tried Acupuncture (didn’t work well for me)

Steve: I’ve tried acupuncture but it did not work.

Exercising with migraine

Can you exercise? If you can, what do you do? How consistent are you?

Barbara: Ha! Ha ha! Hahahahahaha!

Barbie: I do walk every day with my dog & ride my beach cruiser bike when I feel good.

Rilla: As far as exercise goes, my favorite was swimming. If you’re worried about getting in or out of the pool, call around and find those that have Chair Lifts to help you in and out of the pool. I walk, I have a “Half Bike” I use. It is the front of a bicycle, with foot pedals, handle bars that revolve both directions, and you sit in your own chair that you feel safe in. I also use hand weights.

Steve: I used to be very, very active and run 4 miles a day 3-4 times per week. Since my migraines turned chronic, I am not able to exercise at all. It only makes it worse.

Cost of complementary and alternative medicine

Is cost or accessibility to CAM an issue in pursuing an option or consistently using a certain method?

Barbara: Massage is lovely but out of the budget. I don’t think it helped with the migraine beyond being relaxing.

Barbie: I do find local activities that are low cost through GROUPON.

Topics in this series include Symptoms, Triggers, and Migraine Life. Thanks again to Barb, Barbie, Rilla, Tammy &; Steve for sharing!

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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.

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