Ask a Top Doctor: How Can I Stop My Migraines?
Question: I’ve suffered from crippling migraine headaches since college, and they’re getting worse in middle age. I have tried every prescription drug under the sun, and nothing works. Are there perhaps new, more experimental treatments I should be exploring?
Answer: Popping pills to alleviate the vice on your head could be tightening its grip. “If you’re using meds 10 or more days a month you could have medication overuse headaches,” says Stephen Silberstein, M.D., a 2009 Top Doctor who specializes in headaches and migraines at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “We don’t know exactly why it happens, but it’s like an addiction. The more pain relievers you take, the worse the pain gets. We believe it somehow turns off the body’s own pain-control mechanisms.”
The best bet? Stop the pain before it starts. Though acute treatment like triptans are good for the treatment of occasional migraines, if you’re having frequent headaches there are many different kinds of preventative treatments, including beta blockers, antidepressants — and even Botox. “We give you a shot once every three months. It works on the nerve endings in the skin and the brain to calm things down,” says Dr. Silberstein. If none of the above works, consider signing up for a clinical trial. “One of the newest things we’re working on is magnetic stimulation,” says Dr. Silberstein. “We shoot an electro-magnetic wave at your head that goes through the brain and basically turns off the headache.” Sounds far out? “We’re doing clinical trials now that proves that it works,” says Dr. Silberstein. “No drugs, no nothing. We give you a ‘zapper’ that you can carry with you.”
To sign up, contact Jefferson Headache Center, 111 South 11th St., Suite 8130 Gibbon, 215-955-2243, jefferson.edu/headache