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Chronic Migraines: What To Do When Nothing’s Working

Chronic-Migraines-When-Nothing-WorksHave you ever had a migraine so stubborn and severe, it refuses to respond to any form of treatment? Be it medication, therapy, natural remedy or device, the pain is insatiable and you’ve reached your wits end. What should you do?A mulish migraine is your cue to take a good hard look at your current treatment regimen and routine to determine if the problem is the result of a physical change or behavioral trigger. Here’s where to start:

Don’t Take More Than What You’ve Been Prescribed

The fact that your chronic migraine medication has suddenly stopped effectively treating pain and symptoms is not an invitation to try taking more. Your doctor prescribes you a dosage that he or she deems safe for you. It is never, ever a good idea to alter that dosage without first consulting with them, as you could be harming yourself, inducing your migraine attacks or preventing future medications from working. The same is true for over-the-counter medications. Do not overcompensate for lack in efficacy. Contact your treating physician, instead.

You may also be interested in this: Understanding The Rebound Headache

Review Your Migraine Diary

If you haven’t started maintaining a migraine diary yet, consider this your reminder! If your chronic migraines aren’t responding to treatment, your migraine diary might possess the key to finding out why. A well-executed migraine diary tracks your episode patterns, medication intake, activity and diet. When you suddenly stop responding to the treatments that once worked, you can review your history to determine if a change in habit, medication overuse or some other factor may be to blame. If you find that you’re taking medications like Triptans or Excedrin more often than a few times per week, your resilient migraine could be what is referred to as an “overuse” headache, which will not respond to current treatments and may hinder the effects of future medications.

A migraine diary will also illustrate a history of the medications and treatments you’ve tried, giving doctors an excellent guide to use to determine what your alternative treatment options are.

Here’s more information on why you should have a migraine diary: 5 Benefits to Using A Migraine Diary

Avoid Triggers

Now that you’ve reviewed your migraine diary and have a refreshed memory of all the diet and activity triggers that may be causing your chronic migraine attacks, avoid them with a renewed sense of determination. It’s easy to forget how much certain foods, alcohol, caffeine or lack of sleep can instigate a migraine episode and your body’s failed response to treatment might be the aftermath of too many triggers working against you.

Examine All Treatments

Find out if there are any dots worth connecting. Make a list of every prescription and non-prescription medication, supplement, herb and therapy you currently use and review that list with your doctor. Certain treatment combinations (especially herbs and supplements) don’t mix well and can cause adverse effects. This list may also serve as a prequalifier for other, more long-term treatment options. Some minimally invasive and invasive surgical procedures may be an option for you, but a doctor won’t recommend them until all other treatment options have been exhausted.

Get a Physical

Chronic migraines can present as a symptom for a variety of other health issues, including:

  • Infection
  • Anemia
  • Hormone issues
  • Autoimmune problems
  • Lower back ailments
  • Cervical spine ailments

If you experience a migraine that suddenly stops responding to treatment, it may be because you aren’t treating the root cause. Schedule a full physical with your doctor and discuss with him or her, all experiences of pain. They may discover that something else is causing your migraines and in treating the root cause, your migraine pain may also dissipate.

Get a Second Opinion

Even if your doctor is a migraine expert, it’s not uncommon to run out of fresh ideas. If you and your doctor find yourselves standing at a dead end, seek a second opinion. Ask for a referral to a specialist or try a different doctor. Explore someone else’s perspective and benefit from a new set of experiences. When you meet with your new doctor, come prepared with your migraine diary, which will quickly bring them up to speed on what has worked in the past and what no longer works.

Use this article as inspiration to plan ahead. Know that a sudden lapse in treatment efficacy is possible and have a game plan in place for how to deal with it. Your best bet is communicating with your physician to find out what they recommend. You can also do your part to understand your condition by tracking everything in a migraine diary. Being able to refer back to an outline of your most recent activities might prove to be a priceless resource in deciding what to do next. It’s important to remember that you should never change your treatment regimen without the guidance and approval of a physician.

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Image Source: Alex Abian (Also on flickr.com/alexabian)

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