McLean, VA – August 31, 2011 - Are you one of the 36 million Americans who suffer from migraine each year? If you are, or if you know someone who suffers from migraines, then you understand how debilitating they can be. A migraine is much more than just a bad headache. The severity of migraine symptoms can make it impossible to function, and the symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. What can you do to prevent a migraine headache? Dr. Gary Kaplan, a physician from McLean, VA, who specializes in the treatment of chronic pain conditions, emphasizes, “You don’t have to just suffer through a migraine headache. There are concrete steps that can help you avoid getting a migraine, or at least to lessen frequency and severity of your migraines.”
1) Pinpoint what’s triggering your migraines. The exact chain of events leading to a migraine is still not fully understood, however, typically, a migraine is precipitated by one or more stimuli, commonly called “triggers.” Each person has their own individual trigger or triggers. According to Dr. Kaplan, “The most common ones include stress, lack of sleep, hormone fluctuations, and a wide range of foods, from caffeine to artificial sweeteners.”
To help to pinpoint your personal triggers, consider keeping a migraine journal. Recording when and where you get a migraine will help you figure out the foods, events, or other stimuli that typically precede your migraine headaches. Besides buying a notebook to record these details, there are great online resources to help you keep a thorough migraine journal, including printable forms, an online log, and a smartphone application.
Another way of specifically identifying what’s triggering your migraines is to get a comprehensive physical exam. There are also common migraine triggers such as nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances, and other underlying or co-existing medical problems, that without medical testing may go unnoticed. So, if you suffer from migraines, make sure that you get a comprehensive physical exam. Dr. Kaplan says, “Your physician may want to consider testing you for nutritional deficiencies or other coexisting medical problems that may be contributing to your migraines. For example, having low magnesium, Vitamin-D, Vitamin B, or Co-enzyme Q10 levels can predispose a person to suffering a migraine attack, as can Lyme Disease, Mercury Toxicity, eye disease, Celiac disease, (TMJ) Temporomandibular joint disorder, concussion, thyroid disorders and other hormone imbalances.
2) Avoid Your “Personal Migraine Triggers.” Once you’ve identified what sets off your migraine headache, the next step is to make a commitment to avoid your personal triggers. For you, this may be as simple as not eating certain foods. It may be necessary, however, for you to make more substantial changes, such as radically modifying your diet, eliminating or taking new medications, getting more sleep, or reducing your stress level through exercise and meditation. For most of us, making lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but migraine pain offers superb motivation. You can also ask your physician for advice and support. Remember, the best way to lessen the frequency of migraines is to identify and avoid your personal migraine triggers.
3) Explore Your Migraine-Prevention Treatment Options. There are a wide range of clinically proven preventive treatments that can help reduce the incidence of your migraines, including acupuncture, manual therapies, injection therapies, herbal remedies, prescription medications and combinations of these treatments. “So make an effort to explore your options,” urges Dr. Kaplan. “The important thing is to stay open-minded so you can determine what actually works for you!”
For example, Manual Therapies, such as Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), Physical Therapy, and Craniosacral Therapy can be effective in relieving tense muscles, tendons and ligaments, allowing the body to work more efficiently and without pain. Acupuncture, according to a review of 22 clinical trials studying more than 4,000 migraine sufferers, was found to be as effective as medication – and sometimes even more effective than medication – for preventing migraines! Herbal Remedies are most effective in helping to prevent the onset of migraines when they are incorporated into a comprehensive acupuncture treatment. But Dr. Kaplan warns, “Remember: herbal remedies can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications, so make sure to inform your physician about the herbs you take.”
In addition to their role in treating nutritional deficiencies, supplements, such as CoQ10 (100 mg/day) and Riboflavin (400 mg/day), can provide actual protection against migraines. Sometimes head pain can be caused or worsened by referred pain from the neck. In these cases, a procedure called prolotherapy, involving the injection of a benign solution into the injured ligaments, tendons, or muscles, can be very effective in resolving trigger points in the neck and back, and thereby reducing the incidence and severity of migraines. Finally, there are several FDA-approved medications that can help prevent migraine attacks. These medications are typically used for individuals who have severe or frequent migraines.
In sum, migraine symptoms and triggers can vary from person to person, according to each individual’s medical condition, history and needs. Says Dr. Kaplan, “Don’t just suffer: Take the time to identify your own migraine triggers, get a comprehensive medical evaluation, learn about your prevention-treatment options and find out what works best for you.”
About Dr. Gary Kaplan and The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine: The Center’s founder and medical director is Dr. Gary Kaplan. Board-certified in Family Medicine, Pain Medicine and Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Kaplan is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physical therapists, and other health care providers combine the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.
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