Migraines: Ways to Fight the Pain

September 18, 2014 – Traci Patterson, Owner, Advanced Pathways Hypnosis

Thought there was no hope for treating your migraine headaches? Don’t give up.

In the past year, the Food and Drug Administration has given adults new options for treating migraines by allowing the marketing of two prescription devices for such headaches.  People who don’t tolerate drug treatments well might find relief by using the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator or the Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device.  Both devices have been shown in clinical studies to be effective and pose “minimal” risks and side effects when used according to their labeling.

A drug-free and noninvasive treatment option that may be an even better choice for many migraine suffers is hypnosis.  People don’t realize that this is a viable treatment for migraines and many medical conditions.  It has been utilized since the turn of the century and there isn’t a list of negative side effects.

There’s a growing need for noninvasive treatment options because many anti-migraine drugs have side effects that some patients can’t tolerate.  A drug or prescription medication may have the potential for systemic side effects because it’s ingested and metabolized, and those side effects will vary from person to person.  Patients have been looking for alternative migraine treatments for years.

Migraines and Treatment Options

Migraine headaches are characterized by intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine can last four to 72 hours when untreated. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 12 percent of Americans (about 37 million people) have migraines. These debilitating headaches affect children and adults, and women are three times more likely to have migraines than men (about 18 percent of women have migraines).

About one-third of people with migraines experience an aura—visual disturbances such as dots, flashing lights or a blind spot—that signals the beginning of the headache.

Cerena is the first medical device granted marketing by FDA to relieve pain caused by migraine headaches that are preceded by an aura. Patients use Cerena when they feel a headache coming on or when the pain begins. Using both hands to hold the device against the back of the head, the patient presses a button to release a very short (less than one second) magnetic pulse to stimulate the brain’s occipital cortex (the back part of the brain that processes visual information). Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) technology, used in the Cerena device, has been studied for quite some time but has only recently been authorized for specific clinical uses.

Cefaly is the first transcutaneous (passing through the skin) electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device granted marketing by FDA for use before the onset of a migraine, as a preventive treatment for migraine headaches. Patients can use Cefaly daily, and the treatment has been shown to reduce the number of days during which they experience migraines. TENS technology has been around a long time as a treatment for general pain, but this is the first time it’s been authorized as a preventive measure for migraines.

The portable, battery-powered Cefaly device resembles a plastic headband worn across the forehead. The user applies an electrode (a patch) to the forehead, connects the plastic headband to the electrode, and the device then emits an electrical current to stimulate one of the large nerves in the head (the trigeminal nerve), which has been associated with migraines. “It’s a set-time therapy—running for 20 minutes and stopping automatically,” according to a FDA spokesperson.

Both devices’ side effects include skin irritations, discomfort, sleepiness, dizziness and pain at site of application. As reported by the FDA, and they go on to state, “The safety and effectiveness of these devices have not been established in certain populations, including children, pregnant women and people with pacemakers.”

Hypnosis is a time tested option for migraines that is noninvasive and drug-free. To understand why hypnosis is one of the most successful treatments for migraines it is helpful to understand the nature of migraines.  Migraines are triggered by changes in your body that can be set off by stress, medications, certain foods, poor sleep patterns, and other factors that vary from individual to individual. The symptoms include debilitating pain.  This can include nausea and vomiting which may be the body’s reaction to the pain that seems to throb throughout the entire body.  Light can also negatively affect migraine sufferers and they often need to lie still in the dark to alleviate the discomfort.

Since migraines can last for days and since they often seem impervious to pain medications, it is imperative that a faster and more effective treatment be utilized. Migraine hypnosis has been studied and shown to be highly effective – more than three times the people treated with hypnosis stopped having migraines than those who stopped having migraines after being given the prescription medication prochlorperazine.

Prochlorperazine is used for treating mental and emotional disorders, such as psychotic disorders including schizophrenia. It controls severe nausea and vomiting and moderate to severe pain. Basically it covers the painful side effects of a migraine. Speaking of side effects, the side effects of prochlorperazine include body and facial tics.

Hypnosis on the other hand does not have side effects. It is also a lot easier on your body than prescription medication and other migraine treatment options.  The relaxation techniques included in migraine hypnosis work on the stress factor and other such triggers. Hypnosis can help with techniques that circumvent your usual migraine inducing elements.

Limitations of Drugs

Although there are effective drug treatments for migraines, they can have side effects.  This is why it is important for you, the patient to know what your options are for alternative treatments with fewer or no side effects.

There are many drugs to reduce migraine pain and symptoms, says Eric Bastings, M.D., a neurologist at FDA. “Although these drugs are quite effective, they are not for everyone. Some can make you tired, drowsy or dizzy. Some can affect your thinking. And some migraine drugs can cause birth defects; so pregnant women can’t use them,” he adds. “It’s important to note that medical devices have some limitations as well, and that the safety and efficacy of Cefaly and Cerena have not been established in pregnant women.”

Many people who have frequent or severe migraines may use preventive medications, including beta-blockers such as propranolol. Beta-blockers, which slow the heart rate, are used mostly to treat heart conditions. “These medications aren’t for migraine patients who have asthma, some lung problems or slow heart rate,” Bastings warns.

Migraines are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. You need to tell your health care providers about your headaches and see a doctor who specializes in migraines if you don’t get adequate relief.  Doctors should be aware of the medications approved for migraines and of alternative treatment options.

Be aware of your options because you have more treatment options available now than any other time, and hopefully you can find the one treatment that works best for you.

Traci Patterson is the founder of Advanced Pathways Hypnosis in Irvine, California. She specializes in helping suffers from migraine headaches, chronic pain and other health and wellness issues.

To learn more about how hypnosis can help you please contact Advanced Pathways Hypnosis.

714.717.6633 |  Traci@AdvancedPathways.com  |  www.AdvancedPathways.com