People who suffer migraines know that not even the best medicines may get rid of all the pain all the time. “Preventive medications help 50 percent of patients by about 50 percent,” Sheena Aurora, an associate professor of neurology at Stanford, tells writer Aviva Patz. In September’s edition of Health magazine, Patz suggests three of the “more promising, less traditional” alternative therapies that can be used along with drugs or by themselves as part of a migraine-relief strategy. And she includes comments from both clinical specialists and migraine sufferers. They are:
Cefaly: This is an FDA-approved band, worn across the forehead, that electrically stimulates the trigeminal nerve, said to be where migraine pain begins. Worn for 20 minutes a day (whether the user has a headache or not), Cefaly reduced monthly migraine days by 30 percent among participants in a study published in the journal Neurology last year. A tester for the magazine reported she used to get three to five migraines a week; in the four months after she started using Cefaly, she had only two. The headband costs around $325, and users need a doctor’s prescription.
Elimination diet: Some foods are known to activate an inflammation response that triggers migraines. The most common of these triggers are red wine, aged cheese, cured meats, MSG, dairy, artificial sweeteners, chocolate and gluten. Clinics typically recommend cutting out all these foods for six weeks, see if you feel better, then add them back into your diet one at a time to see which ones may cause pain. “Not all migraine sufferers have food sensitivities, but for those who do, eliminating a problem food can cut headaches by 50 to 60 percent,” says Merle Diamond of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. Consult a doctor before beginning this.
Botox: If it can relax facial muscles to smooth wrinkles, scientists wondered, could Botox also dull migraine pain? Studies published in early 2010 reported that migraine sufferers who received Botox injections experienced a major decrease in the number of headache days; later that year, the FDA approved the drug as a treatment for chronic migraine. A tester for the magazine reported that not only did Botox help her headaches, but the effect lasted longer after successive treatments. Insurance should cover the costs, Patz says. Warning: Potential side effects include bruising and neck pain.