For people who suffer from migraines, finding an effective treatment is integral to improving your quality of life. Migraine symptoms can frequently be severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities, including both your personal and professional life.
At The University of Kansas Health System, we offer several different options for migraine treatments. Because we’re an academic health system, we’re connected to ongoing research and learn of new treatment advances as they develop. Often, our patients are among the first to benefit from new migraine treatments through access to clinical trials.
What are migraine treatments?
Migraines are intense headaches that can cause severe pain, sensitivity to light or sound, nausea and/or vomiting. The pain from a migraine headache can be debilitating, and often worsens without prompt intervention. Migraine treatments are aimed at minimizing or eliminating migraine symptoms, allowing you to return to your regular routine.
Some types of migraine treatments are designed to prevent a migraine completely, while others are intended to prevent symptoms from becoming severe. The first step in preventing a migraine is to recognize specific triggers you may have that could contribute to your migraines. Some examples of trigger avoidance include:
- Avoid processed foods
- Get 6-8 hours of sleep each night
- Get regular, moderate exercise
- Limit daily caffeine to 1-2 drinks per day
- Sleep at consistent times every day
- Stay hydrated by drinking at least 6 glasses of noncaffeinated liquid per day
To determine your personal triggers, your doctor may recommend keeping a headache diary. This journal notes the length of the attack, headache days per month, associated symptoms and dietary or environmental triggers.
Effective migraine treatment options can include a variety of medications, including over-the-counter drugs containing aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine. In some cases, steroids may be helpful. In others, BOTOX® injections may be effective.
Our team will likely recommend preventive therapy, such as antihypertensives, antidepressants or antiepileptic treatments. Additionally, you may find relief with physical therapy or biofeedback conducted by a pain psychologist.
Who can have migraine treatments?
Besides trigger management and over-the-counter remedies, your doctor may recommend additional options for migraine treatments if you experience:
- Attacks more than 4 times per month
- More than 2 attacks per month that significantly affect daily activities
- Needing to use acute therapy more than 2 times per week
- Poor response to acute therapy
- Sensitivities or allergies to acute therapy
How do migraine treatments work?
Different types of migraine treatments work differently to help limit or prevent migraine symptoms:
Aimovig™ is an advanced, preventive treatment of migraine in adults that’s given as an injection once a month. It can be used for both episodic (4-14 migraine days per month) and chronic (15 or more headache days per month with at least 8 migraine days) migraines. Aimovig™ injections can be an excellent option for those people who may not have found BOTOX® effective, who prefer not to receive BOTOX® or who do not experience enough migraines to qualify for BOTOX® migraine injections. Compared to daily oral medication, Aimovig™ injections provide more treatment flexibility with fewer side effects.
BOTOX has been approved by the FDA for preventive treatment of migraines. It is generally used for those people with chronic migraines, defined as headaches of more than 4 hours each occurring more than 15 days per month for greater than 6 months. BOTOX therapy for migraines involves getting multiple injections every 12 weeks and has been shown to reduce migraine frequency by an average of 8 days per month.
gammaCore™ is a portable, handheld vagal nerve stimulator device. This innovative migraine treatment allows you to self-apply treatment at the first sign of impending migraine symptoms.
The Tx360® Nasal Applicator is a medical device that is somewhat similar to a basic syringe. The Tx360® is specially designed to administer small amounts of fluids to various areas of the nasal pathway. The fluid blocks the Sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), which is linked to the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is the primary nerve involved in chronic headache disorders. Irrigating different sections of the nasal pathway will also help break up intact nasal mucosa, which can often be a significant contributor to chronic migraines.
If other forms of therapy do not provide relief, minimally invasive surgery is an option for some types of migraines. Migraine surgery can significantly reduce migraine symptoms and offer long-term relief for many people with painful, recurrent migraines.
Benefits and risks of migraine treatments
Without any treatment, frequent migraine headaches can prevent you from living a normal life. Although every type of migraine treatment carries some degree of risk, your doctor will help you weigh those risks against your current quality of life.
What happens during migraine treatments?
The specifics of your migraine treatment will vary, depending on your doctor’s treatment recommendations. There are many different ways to deliver migraine treatments:
- Injectable medication
- Migraine surgery
- Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation
- Oral medication, taken as needed
- Oral medication, taken daily
For some people, effective migraine treatment may be as simple as making lifestyle changes, such as cutting down on caffeine and maintaining a regular sleeping schedule. Others, however, will need more advanced therapies or a combination of treatments.