Why it is not worth waiting to act if you are having a migraine

You don’t have to suffer from migraines to know they are not ordinary headaches. Lasting from a few hours to a few days, they affect a person’s ability to function normally by causing throbbing pain, vision changes, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea. Such symptoms make sufferers want to lock themselves in a dark, quiet room and stay there till the pain goes away. No wonder that nearly all people who suffer from migraines end up with lost work days and decreased productivity; even worse is the time they miss out on with family and loved ones.

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Even though nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households includes someone with migraine, more than half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed because the majority of them do not seek medical care for their pain. Patients need to realize it is not just a bad headache; it is a neurological disease that requires thorough examination and treatment.

In a study of 690 migraine patients, 49% said that they often avoided or delayed taking their migraine medications when they felt an attack coming on. Two common reasons they gave for doing so?: “Wanting to wait and see if it is really a migraine attack” (70%) and “Only want to take medications if it is a severe attack” (46%). Although reasonable, this might not be the best course of action: As a migraine evolves, its sensitivity to treatment decreases.

According to our pain management doctor in Pembroke Pines, here is why you should consult a doctor immediately after a strong headache comes on.

1.     Preventive treatment will reduce your attacks  

Treatments fall into two categories: those that address the headache when you get it (acute treatment), and those that attempt to prevent the migraine headache from happening in the first place (preventive treatment).

Prevention is important even if patients experience only one attack a year.  Strategies used are intended to reduce the frequency, suffering and disability caused by migraine attacks. Although preventive treatment strategies rarely eliminate migraine, they do help to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of attacks. Beside their primary goal of lowering the number of attacks, preventive measures improve responsiveness to acute treatment of attacks.

2.     New, less severe treatment options have become available

Some relatively new options have been added to our doctor's arsenal in recent years to help head off these headaches before they start. These include botulinum toxin injections and anti-CGRP antibodies.

In 2010, onabotulinum toxin A, better known as Botox, was designed to help people with chronic migraines. Injecting this drug into the scalp and neck has been proven to block pain transmission and prevent migraines in a sample of people. This approach requires multiple treatments over time; one typically lasts between 10 and 12 weeks.

Anti-CGRP antibodies are expected to appear on the market this year. These drugs counteract the effect of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which, among other things, causes blood vessels to dilate. Experiments demonstrate that these antibodies have shown positive results in preventing migraines. They are believed to have fewer side effects and can be a valid option for patients who have not responded well to other medications.  

3.     Lifestyle changes as part of preventive treatment

Making lifestyle changes can help reduce migraines in some individuals. Our pain management doctors in Hollywood say that patients first need to identify factors that make their migraines more likely to happen, i.e., their triggers. For some people, migraines are triggered by caffeine withdrawal or alcohol consumption. Other may be able to reduce the likelihood of a migraine by eating regular meals and following other good health habits, such as getting enough sleep and employing stress relief strategies.

4.     Avoid the risk of sensitization

Central sensitization is a condition of the nervous system that is associated with the development and maintenance of chronic pain. It can occur if a patient suffers from chronic back pain, neck pain, injuries sustained in car accidents, tension headaches and migraines. During sensitization, sensory receptors, called nociceptors, experience increased excitability and become extremely sensitive to pain, lowering a patient’s effective pain threshold. Thanks to this condition, a person may experience an exaggerated pain response — pain that used to feel like a 4 may now feel like a 7.

The condition of sensitization has been proven to have multiple complications. Chronic pain patients, despite being sensible to touch, may report additional sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells as well, say our pain management doctors in Aventura.  A simple walk in the perfume aisle in the department store can cause a headache.

This is because the nervous system is responsible for not only physical sensations, like pain, but also emotions. When the nervous system is stuck in a persistent state of reactivity, patients are going to be literally nervous – which is painful not only for the patient, but those closest to him.

The good news is that early treatment of pain, before it becomes moderate or severe, can help reduce or even avoid sensitization. Visit the doctor at the early stage of symptoms and start feeling better faster.

5.     Stop worrying your family

Migraines are burdensome and difficult, not only for the people who live with them but also for the people they love. Pain has direct influence on family relationships, hobbies and other aspects of your personal life. Studies including patients, their spouses and children report that around 75% of sufferers reported that they would be better partners without the illness, and 60% reported that they would be better parents. While you cannot treat chronic pain, you should not delay your visit to the doctor, keeping in mind that not only you will be affected, but also your loved ones.  

Pain Management Aventura - Where you can get more information

The choice of either preventive or acute treatment needs to be tailored to meet each person’s individual needs and to avoid side effects. Therefore, consulting with a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment is a must. This is not the time to be patient with your pain. Consult our doctors in one of these locations: Hollywood, Aventura, Pembroke Pines and spend time enjoying your life instead of suffering through it.