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Can you treat a migraine without pain medicine?

migraine, headache, medicine, painIf you have ever had a migraine headache, you know the pain is so intense that a trip to the hospital may be in store.  In this case, the ER staff may use an opioid  pain medicine as a first resort. However, a recent study has shown that this commonly used drug, also known for its addictive qualities, may not be the best choice for migraine relief.

What is a migraine?

A migraine headache involves a throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, usually along with other symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light are some of the most common symptoms of such headaches. Pain can occur for hours, or even days, and warning symptoms such as  constipation, mood changes, neck stiffness, increased thirst, or frequent yawning may precede a migraine.  In rare cases, right before a migraine you may get aura symptoms such as flashes of light or blind spots.  In the 24 hours after, you may have symptoms such as confusion, moodiness, dizziness, and weakness.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine may be used for treatment of most migraines. More severe cases may require medications such as Triptan or Ergot, which help constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways.  However, opioids are used if a person cannot tolerate such medicines.

Migraine Relief Research

A recent study in the journal Neurology looked at 127 patients who had at least trips to the New York emergency department for migraine headaches.  Half of the patients received the opioid hydromorphone and the other half received an IV of the dopamine-releasing drug prochlorperazine.

After 48 hours of treatment, sixty-percent of people from the prochlorperazine group versus thirty-percent of the hydromorphone group felt relief.  In addition, the prochlorperazine group was 30-percent less likely to ask for more pain medicine after treatment than the opioid group (6-percent versus 36-percent).  This study suggests that anti-dopaminergic drugs may provide more relief to migraine headache sufferers than opioids. However, you should be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment for you.

Natural Ways to Relieve Migraine Pain

  • Learn to cope (LTC) : This treatment gradually exposes patients to headache triggers to help them become desensitized to such triggers.
  • Practice consistent overall wellness: Be sure to get a good night’s sleep of at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night and eat healthy, balanced meals every day. Also, be sure to find healthy ways to manage stress such as doing yoga, engaging in relaxation breathing, or taking a walk daily.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise can help not only manage stress, but can also prevent migraines.  Exercise reduces such headaches by reducing tension in the body. Furthermore, staying active can help reduce body weight.  Since obesity is thought to be a risk factor for migraine headaches, weight loss could reduce such risk.
  • Other medicinal treatments: Cardiovascular or anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, and Botox may be prescribed to help prevent migraine headaches. However, for the more natural route, reach for Migravent by Vita Sciences.  Migravent contains natural ingredients such as PA-free butterbur, CoQ10, magnesium,  and riboflavin. This formula has been found to help prevent migraines and support reduced frequency of such headaches and related symptoms.

Disclaimer: Please be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new medication.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Mayo Clinic (April 26, 2017) “Migraine”

Medline Plus (October 18, 2017) “Skip Opioid Treatment for Migraine in the ER”

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