The dictionary tells us that the word "migraine" is a Middle French word, modified from the Latin word "hemicrania", meaning a pain in one half or "hemi" of the head. To the person who sufferers migraine, the pain may seem bigger than that, however. In fact, the current definition of migraine includes not only repeating, excruciating headache, but also nausea and possible vomiting. The dictionary fails to include the many ways in which the aura of migraine affects the body. It fails to describe the visual disturbances, the sounds and smells that are not there.
Migraine prevention is important to migraineurs because the pain and other symptoms disrupt life almost completely.
Migraine Prevention Medicines
We discussed in a previous article entitled "Best Migraine Prevention Medicines" the fact that many medicines, prescription and non-prescription, are claimed to have migraine prevention properties. Some seem to work for some people, while others are more likely to provide migraine prevention for others.
There is some controversy, however, as to whether one should even try a migraine prevention medicine.
As of this article's writing (early 2007), the FDA has approved four drugs for migraine prevention: propranolol, timolol, topiramate, and divalproex sodium. Amitriptyline, an antidepressant, is also prescribed for migraine prevention. Botox has been used successfully, but is not highly recommended.
The down side of using migraine prevention medicines is the fact that all of them require the patient to take adequate doses of the medicine for a length of time to determine the effectiveness. This can cause a building adverse effect before the sufferer even knows if migraine prevention is being provided. Physicians often need experiment, finding the smallest dose that will work without undesired side effects.
Side Effects of Migraine Prevention Medicines
Merely as an example, consider the side effects of Topamax. The makers of Topamax offer on their website "Important Safety Information about Topamax" under which heading they admit that serious risks are associated with the medicine. Risks such as these are given:
* Lowered bicarbonate levels in the blood: This increases blood acidity. In severe reactions, the patient may experience irregular heartbeat or changes in their ability to remain alert. This side effect, if not treated, could eventually increase the risk of developing kidney stones or bone disease.
* Hyperventilation, ie deep, rapid breathing with a feeling of not being able to catch your breath.
* Increased eye pressure. Such pressure can lead to glaucoma and blindness.
The warnings continue, ending with "more common side effects" such as tingling in your arms and legs, losing your appetite, nausea, dirrhea, and changes in your taste that may lead to weight loss or increase.
Natural Migraine Prevention
Many believe the option of migraine prevention medicines is too risky, the side effects too numerous. For those individuals, there are natural migraine prevention options.
1. Migraine Triggers
One very natural method of migraine prevention is a migraine trigger diary. Make it important by purchasing a small blank book specifically for the purpose. It will cost less than a prescription, and will help you remember to use it. Place the book in a location where you will see it when you are not busy. Then faithfully record your daily meals, activities, weather, etc. When a migraine episode hits, look back and note what you were doing or eating just prior to its sunset. Were you stressed by something? Was the weather different? As you see a pattern develop, try to eliminate those things from your life and see if it aids in migraine prevention.
A second natural migraine prevention method is biofeedback. In biofeedback, special equipment is used to monitor physical tension in the migraineur. The goal is to teach the patient to control stress-related physical processes which may cause migraine. As the patient learns to recognize the physical tension without equipment, he can stop a rising migraine episode, or at least reduce the effects. Children seem to have a better response to biofeedback migraine prevention than do adults, probably because they are open to new methods and learn them quickly.
3. Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies are also being used effectively for migraine prevention. Butterbur and feverfew seem particularly helpful.
Butterbur is a shrub-like plant that grows in northern Asia, Europe, and parts of North America. Butterbur extracts are used to treat migraines. Several studies indicate that butterbur is good for migraine prevention. In the largest of these studies, 245 migraineurs took either butterbur extract or a placebo. After four months of treatment, butterbur was more effective than the placebo for migraine prevention. While 75 milligrams twice a day worked, 50 milligrams twice a day did not. Butterbur's side effects were mild, and included mild digestive complaints – mostly burping. Possible other side effects that were not experienced in the study include constipation, dirrhea, fatigue, headache, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. Pregnant or nursing women, children, and people with kidney or liver disease should not take butterbur. Please ask your physician before using this herb.
Feverfew, the second herbal remedy, has been used in Europe for centers for migraine. In England, it was especially popular in the 1980s as an alternative to conventional migraine prevention drugs. Several studies have evaluated the effectiveness of feverfew for migraine prevention. One examined the use of a feverfew extract as opposed to a placebo in 170 migraineurs. Those who took feverfew showed a significant decrease in migraine frequency as compared to those who took the placebo. Frequency of migraines decreased by 1.9 migraines per month in the group that took feverfew. In the group taking a placebo, migraine frequency decreased only by 1.3 migraines per month.
The Choice Is Yours
The choice between migraine prevention through prescription medications and migraine prevention through natural remedies is yours to make. Migraine is a very personal experience, and the migraine prevention method that works for one will not necessarily work for all. Before you make the choice, get as much information as you can, and take your time.
Disclaimer: The author is not a trained professional, and provides the foregoing information for educational purposes only. It is recommended that you seek professional advice from your personal physician.