Yes, pain management can help with headaches and migraines. Whether you have acute headaches from a recent injury or chronic headaches like migraines, there is likely a pain management therapy that can improve your quality of life by reducing your pain.
The Benefits of Pain
Pain alerts your body to a problem that needs to be addressed. For example, if we did not feel physical pain, we would not know when a hand is on a hot burner and that tissue damage is occurring with every passing second.
When a person has a headache, there is a reason. Headaches can be symptoms of many different medical conditions, like dehydration, viral infections, diabetes, and low blood sugar.
An occasional, mild headache likely needs nothing more than rest and a couple of over-the-counter pills. You do not, however, want to ignore sudden, severe, or ongoing headaches. An excruciating headache could be an indication of a medical emergency like a stroke, cerebral aneurysm, or brain bleed, or a significant issue such as a tumor or cancer.
A doctor can evaluate you to look for the root cause of your headaches. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop triggering chronic headaches. By way of example, people who get regular headaches because of head injuries in the past cannot go back and undo the head injuries. That does not mean that they have to live in pain.
At WestCare Clinic, we have several different medical treatments that can reduce the pain of migraines and other headaches. The type of pain management treatment that is best for you will depend on many factors, such as the type of headache you have and the cause of the headache.
We tailor your pain management treatment plan to your individual situation. For example, migraines need a different treatment than cluster headaches. Some patients come to us after suffering for years because of unsuccessful treatments elsewhere. Because we specialize in the treatment of pain, we can offer treatments that doctors in other fields do not have. Our mission is to make your life better by taking away your pain. Call Westcare Clinic at (360) 357-9392 so that we can evaluate your symptoms and causes to see if we can develop a plan to treat your headaches and migraines.
The Effectiveness of Pain Management for Migraines and Headaches
The Mayo Clinic suggests that people consider multiple options for managing the pain of migraines. When treating migraines, the goal is to stop the symptoms during a migraine attack and prevent future attacks. Medications are one treatment option. Within prescription drugs, there are two types:
Drugs to Relieve the Pain of Migraines and Stop the Symptoms
For mild migraine pain, over-the-counter medications might provide some relief. Non-prescription options include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin and other brand names), and migraine compounds that combine acetaminophen, caffeine, and aspirin. When used for too long, the patient can experience side effects like ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and “rebound” headaches.
Prescription drugs for migraine attacks vary, depending on the symptoms the individual patient tends to have. There are anti-nausea drugs for people who get nausea and vomiting with migraines. Prescription triptans can block pain pathways in the brain, but people with a risk of heart attack or stroke might not be able to take triptans safely.
Dihydroergotamines are used to treat people with migraine attacks that tend to last for more than 24 hours, but they need to be taken at the onset of the symptoms to be effective. Unfortunately, some people experience increased nausea and vomiting with these drugs, and people with kidney or liver disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), or coronary artery disease should not take this type of drug.
Lasmiditan is a newer drug that can decrease multiple symptoms of migraines, including nausea, pain, and sensitivity to sound and light. The drug can make a person dizzy and drowsy, so it should only be taken when a person does not have to drive or engage in other potentially dangerous activities for at least eight hours.
Ubrogepant can relieve migraine pain, light and sound sensitivity, and nausea. The drug takes a couple of hours to work effectively. People who take certain other prescription drugs, like CYP3A4 inhibitor drugs, should not take Ubrogepant. Some people get nauseated, have a dry mouth, and become extremely sleepy on this drug.
Some people take two types of medications together – usually pain medications and anti-nausea drugs. When a person has migraine headaches with aura, using two separate drugs can help to control the nausea and vomiting.
If a person cannot take other pain medications for migraines, opioid narcotic drugs might help. Drugs in which codeine is an ingredient tend to be particularly effective. Opioid drugs should be a last resort prescription drug because of the high risk of addiction.
Call Westcare Clinic at (360) 357-9392 to see if we can help alleviate your headaches and migraines.
Drugs to Prevent Future Migraines
People who suffer frequent migraine attacks might want to consider taking medications designed to prevent or reduce the number of migraine attacks. Preventative drugs can also be an option for people whose migraines are severe or last more than 24 hours. Some of the drugs can not only help the patient have fewer migraines, but they can also make the attacks less severe and shorter in duration.
Here are some of the prescription drugs used to prevent migraine attacks:
- Botox injections. Some people get relief from Botox injections that they receive at intervals of about 12 weeks.
- Antidepressants can reduce the number of migraines that some people get, but doctors usually avoid certain types of antidepressants because they can cause a person to gain weight and feel excessively sleepy.
- High blood pressure medication can be effective in preventing some types of migraines. A person who gets migraines with aura might find good results from calcium channel blockers, while people with other kinds of migraines can do well with beta blockers.
- Some anti-seizure drugs might reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, but they can have multiple side effects.
- Monthly injections of some peptide monoclonal antibodies can reduce the number of migraines a person experiences. If a person has an adverse reaction, it is usually at the injection site.
These are but a few examples of the many prescription migraine treatments available, and scientists continue to discover new migraine drugs. At WestCare Clinic, we stay on the cutting edge of migraine therapies so that we can help our patients get rid of pain. Contact Westcare Clinic at (360) 357-9392 today.
Pain Management for Other Types of Headaches
A primary headache is a condition in which the headache is not from an underlying medical disease or condition. According to Stanford, the four most common types of primary headaches are:
- Tension headaches. Migraines happen more frequently than tension headaches, but tension headaches are second in occurrence in the primary headache category. Tension headaches can be just as painful and debilitating as migraines. Tension and migraine headaches can happen together, or one can trigger the other. Tension headaches can respond well to pain management techniques of relaxation therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy.
- Cluster headaches. Cluster headaches involve much more than multiple headaches within a relatively short space of time. Cluster headaches tend to last between 20 minutes and two hours. They are only on one side of the face. The patient can have a droopy eyelid, stuffy nose, enlarged pupil, and watery eye all on the same side. The clusters of the extremely painful headaches can continue multiple times a day for several days or weeks, only to return eventually. Because cluster headaches are short in comparison to migraines, doctors use faster-acting drugs and other therapies for these headaches.
- Migraine headaches. These are the most common severe primary headaches. We have already discussed treatment techniques for migraines. Some people mistakenly think that migraines are psychological, but in reality, migraine headaches are a chronic disease with a genetic origin. If other people in your family have migraines, you have a heightened risk of developing migraines as well. Some migraines have an aura, which are warning signs like visual disturbances. For other people, the migraine starts abruptly with intense pain on one side of the head. Many people get nausea and vomiting with migraines and have sensitivity to light and sound.
- Hypnic headaches. This type of headache is the least common of the top four primary headaches. Hypnic headaches only happen at night, and usually at the same time. These headaches tend to happen on both sides of the head and last for 15 minutes to an hour. People younger than 40 and older than 80 usually do not experience hypnic headaches. Because of their unusual nature, hypnic headaches usually do not respond well to headache medicines for migraine, cluster, or tension headaches.
Secondary headaches are situations in which the headache is the result of a separate medical condition. Typically, secondary headaches come on suddenly, without warning, and without a history of severe headaches. The pain can be excruciating. Because secondary headaches can be an indication of a life-threatening condition, one should consider them a medical emergency. These conditions can trigger secondary headaches:
- An injury to the neck or brain
- Brain tumors
- Meningitis, which is an inflammation of the brain from a viral or bacterial infection
- Aneurysm, which is a defect in a blood vessel in the brain. If a brain aneurysm ruptures, it can be fatal or cause significant damage to brain tissue.
For a sudden severe headache “out of the blue,” a person should get immediate medical attention.
Pain Management Treatments for Treatment-Resistant Headaches
With primary and secondary headaches, it can feel as if the brain hurts. Many people are surprised when they learn that the brain cannot feel pain. The pain of a headache is actually from inflammation of the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels in the head and neck.
Not everyone responds well to the types of treatments we have discussed above. For some people with headaches that do not get adequate relief from these standard headache treatments, there are some additional options to try after exploring less invasive therapies. A doctor can discuss your treatment possibilities and evaluate many different factors to determine the best therapy for you.
Here are some pain management treatments for headaches that do not respond well to other therapies:
Sympathetic Nerve Block
The sympathetic nervous system controls involuntary body functions. These nerves run from the spine to various areas throughout the body. Johns Hopkins University explains that involuntary body functions are things that you cannot control even if you tried, like digestion, perspiration, and the flow of your blood. There is some evidence that blocking specific sympathetic nerves can effectively control chronic pain.
Sphenopalatine Nerve Block
The American Migraine Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on migraine research and awareness, reports that sphenopalatine nerve blocks can treat migraines and cluster headaches. The trigeminal nerve is the main nerve instrumental in headache disorders. The sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is a group of nerve cells behind the bony aspects of the nose. The SPG is closely involved with the trigeminal nerve. The signal of headache pain travels along nerves that pass through the SPG. After having an SPG nerve block, the pain signal gets disrupted or blocked before it can cause the person to feel pain.
Occipital Nerve Block
The American Migraine Foundation says that occipital nerve blocks (ONBs) can suppress certain types of chronic headaches. Migraines and some other headaches can start with inflammation of the occipital nerve at the base of the skull. The pain then moves forward on one or both sides of the head. ONBs seek to interrupt the pain messages that travel along the occipital nerve. Some patients find ONBs far more effective than any kind of pills for preventing chronic headaches.
Complementary Medical Treatments for Headache Pain
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that some complementary approaches can help relieve or prevent headaches. The NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) evaluated the usefulness of these treatments and offered this guidance:
- Acupuncture can be effective for treating headache pain.
- Some studies suggest that biofeedback can help treat migraines and tension headaches.
- Massage and relaxation techniques might be effective, but the NIH wants more research on these therapies for treating headaches.
- These complementary methods of treating headaches are generally safe.
- Some dietary supplements range from effective to possibly effective for treating or preventing migraines and tension headaches. Supplements the NIH evaluated include butterbur (effective for reducing the severity and frequency of migraines), Coenzyme Q10 (possibly effective for preventing migraines), feverfew (probably effective for preventing migraines), magnesium (probably effective for migraine prevention), and riboflavin (probably effective at preventing migraines).
The NCCIH is currently running research studies on whether acupuncture or meditation can be effective treatments for migraine and other forms of headaches.
How to Avoid Headache Triggers
Different stimuli can trigger headaches in different people. Here are some common headache triggers:
- Eye strain from using computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices for many hours a day.
- Postural causes, like sitting at a desk or computer without high-quality ergonomic design or holding the head or neck at an awkward or uncomfortable angle.
- A noisy environment, like working in a factory, daycare center, or construction site.
- The stress of daily life can lead to chronic headaches.
- A person who usually does not get headaches can suffer acute headaches from relatively short-term stress like job loss, divorce, or serving as a caregiver.
Whatever causes your headaches, you do not have to resign yourself to a life of throbbing pain. You deserve a better life than that. Pain management can be the answer for many different types of headaches. Call Westcare Clinic at (360) 357-9392 to see if we can help your headaches and migraines.
Who Might Be a Good Candidate for Pain Management for Headaches and Migraines?
A person who struggles with ongoing headaches and wants to prevent them or reduce their frequency and intensity could be a good candidate for pain management. Some people mistakenly think that pain management only means taking pain pills, but nothing could be further from the truth.
When there is a treatable cause of headache pain, we try to find it and fix it. When the cause is unknown, or the condition does not have a cure, we can work with you to design a treatment plan that will improve your quality of life. You do not have to go through the rest of your life having to choose between being groggy from sedatives or in excruciating pain. You have many options besides heavy-duty tranquilizers.
Our mission at WestCare Clinic is to help our patients get their lives back and be able to enjoy life again. Pain can get in the way of a person’s physical and social activities, relationships, accomplishments, career success, and many other things that make life worth living. Modern medicine provides more treatment possibilities than ever before. We can craft the treatment plan that works best for you. Call us today at (360) 357-9392 to see if we can help