Thursday, February 19, 2009

Migraines, part 2

Ok, let me begin with the obvious: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. What I am is a lifelong sufferer of headaches and, more recently, migraines.

For years I didn’t realize that what I had were migraines because they came with none of the classic symptoms: no nausea, no weird vision stuff. I just got what I referred to as my "5-day headache". I would usually wake-up with a horrendous pounding in my right temple, which would get worse with movement. I found I could get the pounding down to a dull roar with a combination of over-the-counter meds. (My usual cocktail was 2 each of Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve).

This began in my late 20s and probably happened a few times a year until I had my daughter. After that it became a regular, monthly occurrence, usually beginning about a week before my period was due. At this point I finally realized they were migraines and went to my doctor for meds. I tried a few common migraine meds, but so far nothing has worked.

Recently my doctor referred me to a neurologist. Being the medical geek that I am (I love the “Annals of Medicine” stories in the New Yorker!), this was a fascinating meeting. I won’t bore you with the tests, etc. because what matters is the outcome. Basically he said I am a healthy person who gets cycle-related migraines and deals with pretty much constant, mild headaches the rest of the time. What was exciting is that he had some pretty benign suggestions as to how to approach treatment.

For the regular, ongoing headaches he has had a lot of success with a combination of two vitamins: Riboflavin (B2) and Magnesium Oxide. I take 100mg of the B2 and 400 mg of the Magnesium twice a day. Additionally, the week that I anticipate a migraine (which I can do since they’re cyclical), I take 1 Aleve twice a day (I could also take 1 Advil 3 times).

He also mentioned that the medical community is starting to see results with a supplement called Butterbur. I’d never heard of Butterbur before but when I mentioned it to the vitamin guy at New Seasons he got very excited and said a lot of people are using it for migraines now. I picked up a box of Petadolex for around $15, which was the brand he recommended. You take it at the onset of a migraine, much like you would a prescription medication. There is also a version that you can take daily, as prevention, but I didn't want to try too many things at once and it was quiet expensive that way.

I have only been doing this for one month but so far, the results are encouraging. I think I’ve only needed to take Advil one additional time for headache and managed to get through a cycle with no migraine. This could be a coincidence, but I’m encouraged. I will continue to follow this path and I’ll post results again in a few months.

Let me know if you decide to try this and what your results are as well.


Anonymous said...

Are you under pill?

If you are, why do you not suppress your cycle? Under pill the cycle is artificial (just for reassuring women that they are not pregnant).
Maybe an useful way for you to avoid this cycle related migraine.
Just a suggestion though :-)

Strongrrl said...

I'd rather not add hormones in as a way to deal with the headaches. I do know that some women find that an effective way to deal with the cyclical migraines though. Thanks for the suggestion.

Heather said...

Hi, I have had migraines for 20 years (since I was 12) and since my last child they have become terrible. They come in clusters about every few months (with aura). I just started the mag and b2 last week. I actually had an aura this morning and a very mild headache that just disappeared. I am not someone that likes to take meds at all so I thought this would be a good thing to try. I see this was written a few months ago and I am curious how your treatment is going. Thanks!

Strongrrl said...

Hi Heather,

I'm currently taking the vitamins 2x a day. I take 400 mg of Magnesium and 200 mg of B2 (riboflavin) in the morning and another 200 mg of B2 at night.

My daily headaches are basically gone. The migraines are less frequent, but not altogether gone. However, if I take a dose of Butterbur AS SOON AS I feel a migraine coming on, I have had success in greatly reducing the intensity and duration.

Also, the only month I had a bad migraine happened to be right after a night of drinking a lot of red wine, which my neurologist mentioned is a huge factor in migraines. Could have been a coincidence this time, but I have cut back my wine drinking in general and virtually eliminated red wine from my diet.

Hope this helps!


Anonymous said...

I get migraines without aura too. Fortunately I was diagnosed when I was in my teens, so at least I knew what was going on. I also used to get low-level headaches all the time, literally every day. After years of the daily headaches, a (new) dentist talked to me about bruxism (I clenched my teeth all night long) and now I wear a mouth-guard like thing when I sleep. Took 3 months but now I get those regular low-level headaches 1-2 times week, not daily. You might have similar success.

Good to hear about these vitamin supplements, I might talk to my doctor about them.