Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dealing with and Treating Migraine Headaches

by Ronnie Spangler

Sometimes dealing with migraines is as simple as keeping a diary.

This may not be the answer for every situation but it may help some people that are suffering from repeated migraine headaches. I am not a doctor so I would advise everyone suffering from chronic migraines to seek advice from your doctor and ask if this might be an alternative to some expensive testing and treatment like prescription drugs.

For ten years my wife suffered from extensive pain caused by migraine headaches. She went from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital. We could never find the answer. At one hospital she spent a week undergoing tests for nerve damage, high blood pressure, cat scans, sleep deprivation disorder, if you can think of it it was tried. Luckily it was a time when my insurance paid without question, a long time ago.

Like I said nothing was ever found that could be related to the cause of the headaches. This all took place in the 80s and 90s. After I retired we sold our home and moved to a small southern community a good distance from any large cities. The hospital and most medical facilities were small thereby requiring a fair amount of traveling for most major illnesses or treatment. All life threatening situations required airlifts with Medcare to larger hospitals. The headaches continued and my wife continued to endure them with over the counter medication and prescriptions from our family doctor in our old town.

It wasn’t until we found a doctor in our community that we found some hope in relieving her of some of the pain. The doctor was a older gentleman that was only taking on new patients with kids that were participating in some school sponsored sport, i.e. football,basketball,wrestling,etc. Since my son was in high school wrestling, we needed a doctor for his physical. While we were talking to the doctor the subject came up about my wife’s problems with her headaches. The doctor was sympathetic and concerned. Although he was close to retiring and wasn’t taking on new patients as a rule, he agreed to become our family physician.

Our new doctor got in touch with our old family physician and after receiving all of my wife’s records including the past test results and treatments, he told us he had an idea. He told my wife he wanted her to start keeping a diary. I thought to myself maybe we needed another doctor, maybe a little younger. He told her it wasn’t going to be a daily dairy but one that related directly to the time she experienced the migraines. He explained whenever she felt a migraine starting, she should think back to the week before and write down everything she did and most important everything she ate and drank. He wanted her to go into details about the type of food she ate and the drinks she drank. He told her to continue the diary from the week before to the week after she experienced the headaches.

Finally we had some good news. It was only about a month after she started keeping the dairy that we had a breakthrough. The doctor read over the dairy and after he explained the connection it made sense. He said he thought her problem was the combination of chocolate candy and caffeine. He explained there is a natural ingredient in chocolate that if combined with too much caffeine could be an overload to her system and set off the headaches. He considered pain to be nothing more than a warning that something was wrong and maybe we should do something about it. He wanted my wife to first cut out the chocolate altogether but continue with the caffeine and keep the diary. After three weeks my wife called him and told him she had only had one headache since her last visit and it was minor compared to what she was used to. The doctor told her to stop the caffeine and she could have an occasional piece of chocolate or chocolate candy bar.

After another three weeks the doctor called and asked my wife how she was doing. She told him again she had only one minor headache and a couple of aspirins took care of it. He set up an appointment and we discussed his findings. He believed the problem had always been the combination of too much chocolate and caffeine. He informed us it wasn’t necessary to stop either one altogether. He believed the natural ingredient phenylethylamine combined with large amounts of caffeine were the culprits causing the migraines. He suggested she try going a month without any caffeine or chocolate and then start back with limited amounts but never mixing the two.

It has been about 9 years since the good doctor has passed away and my wife has for the most part been migraine free. She continues to have the occasional headache, but now attributes those to me. To this day she drinks caffeine free drinks and only eats chocolate occasionally. Whether this will work for anyone else is not for me to say but we are grateful for the help we got from that small country doctor that was ready to retire.

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