Lisa Jacobson was standing in her kitchen, cooking dinner and wearing some unusual garb -- sunglasses and earplugs. She was using these to block out the light and subdue the noise that aggravated the vicious migraine stabbing at her eye.
It wasn't the first time the 56-year-old had donned these items. She’d begun having daily migraines 25 years ago. But this evening was different. This time, the pain actually went away."It was like a black-and-white film turning into technicolor," says Jacobson, founder of The Daily Migraine, a web site for people with chronic migraines.
You’ve tried everything for your cluster headaches, and you've gotten no relief. Is it time to look into an experimental treatment called neurostimulation?
The basic idea is to use electricity to activate nerve cells, which alters your body’s pain signals, says Joel R. Saper, MD, founder and director of the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor.
Some of the devices that do that are hand-held. For others, you have to get surgery to implant them, usually in your head.
Lifestyle changes were key in her recovery. She had recently revved-up her exercise routine, bought a mouth guard to reduce stress on her jaw, and gotten rid of a lot of medications. These simple strategies were game changers for Jacobson. If you deal with migraines, you might want to try them along with a few of the other ideas listed below.
Take Fewer Meds
At the height of her migraines, Jacobson was taking triptans, a potent prescription drug, every 6 to 12 hours. But her headaches were only getting worse. She was probably suffering from what's known as a "rebound" headache. That’s when too many migraine meds add to your problem instead of helping it.
Major culprits are over-the-counter medications, especially those that contain caffeine or multiple ingredients. "Reaching for the pills is a negative lifestyle factor that brings short-term relief and long-term exacerbation,” says Richard Lipton, MD, director, Montefiore Headache Center in New York. If you're taking drugs to treat pain more than twice a week, think about cutting down. Ask your doctor about the right regimen for you.