Hormone Changes Trigger Migraines in Girls

By Pat Anson, Editor

Changes in female hormones may trigger migraines in adolescent girls, but the frequency and severity of headaches depends on a girl's age and stage of puberty, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center evaluated 34 girls between the ages of 8 and 17 who suffered from migraine.

They found that higher levels of the hormone progesterone were associated with fewer headaches in older teenagers, while lower levels of the hormone resulted in more headaches. In younger girls, the opposite appears to be true.

The findings are published online in Cephalalgia, the journal of the International Headache Society.

"Ours is the first study to show that migraine headaches might also be influenced by female hormones in girls with migraine," says Vincent Martin, MD, a professor and co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at the University of Cincinnati’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

"While low and declining estrogen levels are thought to precipitate migraine in adult women, we found that progesterone (appeared) to be the most important trigger factor in these young girls. However, this effect seemed to differ depending on the age of the girls and their pubertal development."

Migraine affects about three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.  

About 10 percent of school age children in the U.S. suffer from migraine, according to the Migraine Research Foundation (MRF). As adolescence approaches, the incidence of migraine increases rapidly in girls and by age 17 about 23 percent of girls have experienced migraine.

About two thirds of adult women will develop "menstrual migraine" -- migraine attacks that occur shortly before or during menstrual bleeding. Low and declining levels of estrogen are thought to trigger menstrual migraines. Prior to this new study the contribution of female hormones to migraine was unknown in girls and at what age they begin.

"There is a dramatic change in the way that female hormones affect migraine that occurs during puberty," said Martin. "Prior to puberty, progesterone has little effect on migraine, but after puberty high progesterone levels are associated with fewer headaches and low progesterone levels have more headache."

Girls aged 16 to 17 in the study had a 42 percent chance of having a headache when their progesterone levels were low, but when levels of the hormone were high the chance of headache dropped to 24 percent.

In the 8 to 11 age group, there was 15 percent chance of suffering from migraine or headache when levels of progesterone were low, but a 20 percent chance when high levels of progesterone

"Our study suggests that female hormones play an important role in triggering headaches in young girls and that their response to hormones seems to change at the time of puberty," says Martin. "Since migraine commonly begins during puberty in girls one might ask whether a change in response to hormones might represent the initiating factor for migraine in some girls -- kind of like the ‘big bang’ theory of migraine."

Common Medical Conditions Linked to Fibromyalgia

By Lana Barhum, Columnist

People with fibromyalgia are more likely than others in the general population to have other chronic conditions. But doctors have yet to figure out why fibromyalgia often coexists with other diseases – what’s known as “comorbidity.”

Fibromyalgia sufferers often have migraines, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Having multiple overlapping conditions isn’t easy, and increases physical pain and suffering. 

It is important for all of us with fibromyalgia to learn about these conditions and their symptoms.  Being knowledgeable about them will help us and our medical providers better control our symptoms, pain and overall health. 

Here are several common medical conditions faced by people who also have fibromyalgia:

Migraines:  Research indicates migraine sufferers are more likely to have fibromyalgia. One study from 2011, published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, suggests migraine headaches may even trigger fibromyalgia. Researchers believe preventing migraine headaches could potentially stop or slow down the development of fibromyalgia in some people, or minimize symptoms in fibromyalgia sufferers.

"These results suggest different levels of central sensitization in patients with migraine, fibromyalgia or both conditions and a role for migraine as a triggering factor for FMS. Prevention of headache chronification in migraine patients would thus appear crucial also for preventing the development of fibromyalgia in predisposed individuals or its worsening in co-morbid patients,” Italian researchers reported.

Autoimmune Diseases:  In about 25% of cases, fibromyalgia co-exists with an autoimmune condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Two serious autoimmune diseases that may accompany fibromyalgia are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus. 

Other studies show at least 20% of RA patients also have fibromyalgia, but researchers have yet to understand the connection. The pain of RA can trigger fibromyalgia flares, worsen pain and symptoms, and vice versa. 

In 2016, researchers in the UK tried to determine whether RA patients who also had fibromyalgia had lower levels of joint inflammation.  The results of their study, published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, determined RA patients with fibromyalgia had "widespread soft tissue tenderness but fewer clinically inflamed joints, have higher disease activity scores but may have lower levels of synovial [joint] inflammation."

The researchers suggested that different approaches to treatment may benefit these patients.

"These patients are less likely to respond to escalation of inflammation-suppressing therapy and may be more suitable for other forms of treatment including alternative means of pain control and psychological support,” they wrote.

It is also not uncommon for lupus and fibromyalgia to co-occur.  However, fibromyalgia is no more common in lupus than other autoimmune diseases, according to researchers out of the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases

Depression and Anxiety: People with fibromyalgia frequently experience depression and anxiety.

According to a 2011 report published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment, 90% of fibromyalgia patients have depressive symptoms at least once, and 86% of those people may suffer from a major depressive disorder. Depression and fibromyalgia occur at the same time in at least 40% cases -- a connection that researchers are still trying to understand.

The prevalence of anxiety symptoms in fibromyalgia patients ranges from 13% to about 71%,  according to Portuguese researchers. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A majority of fibromyalgia patients – up to 70% - also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive disorder characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Sleep Disturbances:  Most people with fibromyalgia report problems sleeping.  No matter how long they sleep, theyrarely feel rested. Restless leg syndrome, non-restorative sleep, and sleep apnea are all sleep issues associated with fibromyalgia.

People with fibromyalgia are more likely to have restless leg syndrome (RLS) than others in the general population, according to a study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). RLS is a disorder that causes uncomfortable feelings in the legs and/or the urge to keep moving the legs. The AASM study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, finds 33% of people with fibromyalgia also have RLS.  

Up to 90% of fibromyalgia patients experience non-restorative sleep, a feeling of not getting refreshing sleep, despite appearing to have slept.

A 2013 study published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology reports that 61% of men with fibromyalgia suffer from sleep apnea, as well as 32% of women. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep.  

Living with Fibromyalgia and Co-Existing Conditions                 

In addition to suffering from fibromyalgia, I also suffer from three co-existing conditions -- rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and anxiety.  Having both RA and fibromyalgia, I have struggled with more severe symptoms, including muscle and joint pain and cognitive issues.  I know dealing with this debilitating pain results in both depression and anxiety, and both have been frequent visitors to my life.   

I am aware of the effect multiple conditions have on my well-being, and work hard at improving my overall health. I know I can still have a good quality of life, despite the many obstacles that fibromyalgia and its multiple co-occurring conditions present. 

There are other conditions linked to fibromyalgia that I have not mentioned, but they are still significant. Understanding how fibromyalgia and these conditions coexist may someday help researchers develop better treatments for fibromyalgia. 

Lana Barhum is a freelance medical writer, patient advocate, legal assistant and mother. Having lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since 2008, Lana uses her experiences to share expert advice on living successfully with chronic illness. She has written for several online health communities, including Alliance Health, Upwell, Mango Health, and The Mighty.

To learn more about Lana, visit her website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Would This Meal Give You a Migraine?

By Pat Anson, Editor

The dinner on the right looks inviting – but to some people prone to migraines it could leave them with a bad headache.

Many migraine sufferers have learned to avoid or limit their consumption of foods and beverages that can cause a migraine attack. Wine, chocolate, coffee, nuts, and milk are often named as likely triggers, but did you know that some diets can actually help prevent migraines?

The role of diet in the treatment and prevention of migraine is poorly understood and somewhat controversial in the field of headache medicine because few rigorous studies have been performed.

In an effort to bring some clarity to the issue, two professors at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine performed a comprehensive review of over 180 research studies on the subject of migraine and diet. Their two-part review, "Diet and Headache" is being published online in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. You can also see it by clicking here and here.

"One of the most important triggers for headache is the withdrawal of caffeine," says Vincent Martin, MD, a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. “Let's say you regularly pound down three or four cups of coffee every morning and you decide to skip your morning routine one day, you will likely have full-fledged caffeine withdrawal headache that day."

Martin and co-author Brinder Vij, MD, an associate professor in the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, say there are two different approaches to preventing headaches with diet. The first is an elimination diet that avoids foods and beverages known to trigger headaches. The second approach is to adopt low fat and low carbohydrate diets that may actually help prevent headaches.

"The beauty of these diets is that they not only reduce headaches, but may produce weight loss and prevent heart disease," says Vij.

One of the most promising diets for those with frequent migraine attacks is one that boosts omega-3 fats while reducing omega-6 fatty acids. That means avoiding polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, canola and soy) in favor of flaxseed oil. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fats include flaxseed, salmon, halibut, cod and scallops, while foods to avoid would be peanuts and cashews.

Martin and Vij say gluten-free diets are only helpful in lessening headaches if someone suffers from celiac disease, which can be established through a blood test or intestinal biopsy.

Other foods to avoid include anything with monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer used in many processed foods, including frozen or canned foods, soups, snack foods, salad dressing, seasoning salt, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and in some Chinese cooking.

"You eliminate it by eating fewer processed foods," explains Martin. "You eat more natural things such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and fresh meats. MSG is most provocative when consumed in liquids such as soups."

About 5 percent migraine suffers are likely to have an attack on days they consume nitrites, a preservative often used in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meat. The use of both nitrites and MSG has declined, but Martin says checking food labels is a good idea.

Alcohol is another headache trigger for about a third of migraine sufferers, and studies suggest that red wines, especially those with high histamine content, are the worst. Interestingly, one study found that beer was associated with fewer headaches and migraines.

"Persons with headache and migraine have more dietary options than ever. Ultimately a healthy headache diet excludes processed foods, minimizes caffeine and includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats,” Martin says.

Martin and Vij say identifying dietary triggers is challenging because there are so many different foods and ingredients that migraine sufferers are exposed to. They recommend keeping a food diary to help determine which foods to eliminate.

“It is not reasonable for persons with headache to avoid all know dietary triggers, as individuals may only be susceptible to a small number of foods or beverages,” they wrote. “The triggers could be identified by simple observation if the association is strong or through the use of a food diary if it is less obvious. The ideal would be to use a food diary as part of an app that would then determine statistically if a given food or beverage was associated with headache.”

Migraine affects about three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

Migraine Drugs No More Effective Than Placebo for Kids

By Pat Anson, Editor

Two medications commonly prescribed to prevent migraines in adults are no more effective than a placebo when given to children and teenagers, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers affiliated with the Childhood and Adolescent Migraine Prevention (CHAMP) study randomly assigned 328 children and adolescents into three groups. One group received a daily dose of amitriptyline (Elavil), the second group received topiramate (Topamax), and the third group was given an ordinary sugar pill.

After 24 weeks, 52 percent of those taking amitriptyline and 55 percent of those taking topiramate had a 50 percent or more reduction in the number of headache days.

But the sugar pill was more effective, with 61% of the placebo group reporting their number of headache days reduced by 50 percent or more.

Researchers say the expectation of responding to a medication may have surpassed the pharmacological effects of taking a drug.

"The study was intended to demonstrate which of the commonly used preventive medications in migraine was the most effective. What we found is that we could prevent these headaches with either a medication or a placebo," says Andrew Hershey, MD, co-director of the Cincinnati Children's Headache Center and senior author of the study. "This study suggests that a multi-disciplinary approach and the expectation of response is the most important, not necessarily the prescription provided."

The children taking amitriptyline or topiramate had a significantly higher rate of side effects, including fatigue, dry mouth and, in three cases, mood alteration. About a third of those taking topiramate had paresthesia, a "pins and needles" tingling sensation in their hands, arms, legs or feet.

"The interpretation of these results is very challenging. In most situations, trials that fail to show benefit of an intervention do so because study participants do not improve. That was not the situation here. A majority of all study participants improved, regardless of their assigned treatment group," says Chris Coffey, PhD, a professor of biostatistics in the University of Iowa's College of Public Health, who was lead statistician for the study.

Researchers say further studies are needed identify the best ways to treat pediatric migraines. Simply prescribing sugar pill would be unethical without the patient’s knowledge.

"Our national team was hoping to develop evidence to drive the choice by medical providers of the first line prevention medication for helping youth with migraine, but the data showed otherwise, says Scott Powers, PhD, a pediatric psychologist and co-director of the headache center at Cincinnati Children's.

"We see this as an important opportunity for health care providers, scientists, children, and families because our findings suggest a paradigm shift. First line prevention treatment will involve a multidisciplinary team approach and focus on non-pharmacological aspects of care."

One of the non-pharmacological therapies being used is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). While CBT has not been directly compared to a placebo for pediatric migraines, neurologists and psychologists say it can be a helpful component in pain care.

As many as one out of five teens suffers from migraines, but treatment options are limited compared to adults.  Last year the Food and Drug Administration approved two new treatments for pediatric migraine. Zonig is a nasal spray that provides pain relief in as little as 15 minutes, while Treximet is a medication that contains sumatriptan and naproxen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Both Zonig and Treximet have been available for years to treat adult migraine.

Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and about 31 million Americans adults. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

Do Scents Make You Sick?

By Pat Anson, Editor

One in three Americans suffers adverse health effects – such as migraines and asthma attacks – when exposed to air fresheners, cleaning supplies, perfume and other scented consumer products, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne polled over 1,100 Americans in an online survey and found that nearly all were exposed to fragranced products at least once a week at home, work, or in public places such as stores or hospitals.

Almost 35% reported adverse health effects such as breathing difficulties, migraine headaches, asthma attacks, skin rashes, dizziness, nausea, and other medical problems. For half of these individuals, the problems are so severe they are potentially disabling, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"This is a huge problem; it's an epidemic," said Professor Anne Steinemann of the University of Melbourne School of Engineering, who is an expert on the health effects of environmental pollutants.

"Basically, if it contained a fragrance, it posed problems for people."

The study found that fragranced products may affect the bottom lines of many businesses. Over 20 percent of respondents said if they entered a store or business and smelled an air freshener or some fragranced product, they would leave as quickly as possible. And more than twice as many customers would choose hotels and airplanes without fragranced air than with fragranced air.

In the workplace, over 15% of respondents said they became sick, lost workdays or even lost a job due to exposure to fragranced products. Over half said they would prefer fragrance-free workplaces and health care facilities.

Even hygiene is impacted by fragrances. Nearly one in five said they are unable or reluctant to use toilets in public places because of the presence of an air freshener, deodorizer or scented product. And 14 percent said they would be reluctant to wash their hands in a public restroom because the soap might be scented.

“Adverse effects resulting from exposure to fragranced products, such as in workplaces and public places, raise concerns about liability,” said Steinemann. “For instance, individuals can suffer acute health effects, such as an asthma attack, if they enter a restroom that uses air fresheners. If they are unable to access a restroom due to the presence of an air freshener, then that poses a potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Two out of three survey respondents were not aware that fragranced products often emit hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, and 72% were not aware that even so-called natural, green, and organic fragranced products emit hazardous air pollutants.

“Fragranced product manufacturers are not required to disclose all ingredients in their formulations. This lack of disclosure can impede efforts to understand and reduce adverse effects associated with potentially harmful compounds,” Steinemann wrote. “Further, we lack knowledge on which specific chemicals or mixtures of chemicals are associated with the adverse effects, and this is an important area for research.”

The study findings are published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health.

Experimental Drug Reduces Migraine Days by Half

Pat Anson, Editor

An experimental injectable drug reduces the number of migraine days by 50 percent or more in patients who suffer from chronic migraine, according to the results of a new study released by drug makers Amgen and Novartis.

The Phase II study of AMG 334 -- also known as erenumab – involved 667 patients who suffered an average of about 18 migraine days per month.  A reduction of 50% or more in monthly migraine days was observed in four out of ten patients taking a 140 mg dose of erenumab. Patients taking a 70 mg dose had a 40% reduction in migraine days compared to a placebo drug. 

Significant improvements were also noted in quality of life, headache impact, disability, and pain interference compared to the placebo.

“Chronic migraine patients lose more than half of their life to migraines with 15 or more headache days a month, facing intolerable pain and physical impairment,” said Stewart Tepper, MD, a professor of neurology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “As a neurologist, these findings are exciting because they demonstrate that erenumab could serve as an important new therapy option for reducing the burden of this often-disabling disease.”

Erenumab is not an opiate and falls under a newer class of medications – known as fully human monoclonal antibodies -- that target receptors in the brain where migraines are thought to originate.

“Erenumab is specifically designed to prevent migraine by blocking a receptor that is believed to have a critical role in mediating the incapacitating pain of migraine,” said Sean Harper, MD, executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen, which is co-developing the drug with Novartis.

“The results from this global chronic migraine study are exciting because they support the efficacy of erenumab for a patient population that has had few therapeutic options.”

Results from two Phase III studies of erenumab for episodic migraine are expected later this year. If positive results are achieved, that could lead to a new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration.

"This is an exciting time in the treatment of chronic migraine, which has a profound impact on the lives of those who suffer from the disease," said Vasant Narasimhan, Global Head of Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer for Novartis. "These important data further support the efficacy of AMG 334 in patients who currently have limited therapeutic options."

Under its agreement with Novartis, Amgen holds sales rights for erenumab in the United States, Canada and Japan, while Novartis would sell the drug in Europe and the rest of the world.

Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. It affects three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

Many Multiple Sclerosis Patients Misdiagnosed

By Pat Anson, Editor

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that attacks the body’s central nervous system, causing pain, numbness, difficulty walking, paralysis, loss of vision, and fatigue. Patients diagnosed with MS face enormous physical, emotional and financial challenges coping with a disease that cannot be cured.

Many also discover that they don’t actually have MS.

A new study published in the journal Neurology looks at 110 patients who were incorrectly diagnosed with MS when they actually suffered from more common and treatable conditions such as migraine and fibromyalgia.   

One third of the patients were misdiagnosed for a decade or longer, most took unnecessary and potentially harmful medication to treat a disease they didn't have, and some even participated in clinical trials for experimental MS therapies.

About a third suffered from “unnecessary morbidity” – morbid thoughts of death.

"Misdiagnosis of MS is common; patients may experience common MS symptoms, such as numbness and weakness with a variety of different conditions, many that are more common and less serious than multiple sclerosis," says the study's senior author Brian Weinshenker, MD, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic.

"With the advent of treatments for MS, many physicians feel pushed to reach an early diagnosis, and may be less strict than they should in requiring more specific symptoms or objective neurological findings before making a diagnosis of MS.”

Unlike other chronic illnesses, there is no specific biomarker or blood test for MS. The nerve damage caused by MS is also associated with a wide range of symptoms, many of which are also caused by other conditions such as Lyme disease, lupus, fibromyalgia, and Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Some diagnostic tests for MS, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can also be misinterpreted.

“Nonspecific MRI abnormalities that can mimic those of MS are very common in healthy individuals, and widespread use of MRI as a diagnostic tool increases the rate of misdiagnosis," said Weinshenker.

The 110 patients included in the study were identified by MS subspecialist neurologists at Mayo Clinic, University of Vermont, Washington University and Oregon Health & Science University.

Twenty two percent of the misdiagnosed patients actually had migraine; 15% had fibromyalgia; 12% had a nonspecific condition flagged by an abnormal MRI; 11% had a conversion or psychogenic disorder; and 6% had neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.

"This study suggests significant and long-term unnecessary risks for these patients," said lead author Andrew Solomon, MD, a neurologist at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. "While there may be different reasons for misdiagnoses by subspecialists and nonspecialists, this study suggests that we all make mistakes, and I think we can all do better.”

A previous survey of MS specialists found that more than 95% had seen at least one patient in the past year that was misdiagnosed with MS by another provider.

Some treatments for MS carry serious side effects. One drug, taken by 13 percent of the misdiagnosed patients in the current study, can cause a potentially fatal brain infection. Other patients suffered from the discomfort and inconvenience of daily injections; others experienced side effects from medications or lacked treatment for the conditions they actually had.

There are also enormous financial costs involved. The cost of medications to treat MS in the United States now exceeds $50,000 a year.

"Premature diagnosis of MS should be avoided," says Weinshenker. "When in doubt, physicians often can defer a diagnosis if it is not clear that there is a serious neurological problem or if a patient is stable. Physicians should request a second opinion when they are unsure but concerned that it might be harmful to delay a definitive diagnosis of MS."

Weinshenker and Solomon hope their study will encourage better education of clinicians on the proper use of MS diagnostic criteria and to further studies on how to recognize patients incorrectly diagnosed with MS.

Updated Device Helps Prevent Migraines

By Pat Anson, Editor

A new pocket-sized wearable device is available to help treat and prevent migraine headaches.

Cefaly Technology has released the Cefaly II, an updated version of the Cefaly I, which is worn over the forehead like a headband and uses small electrical impulses to stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which has been associated with migraine headaches.

The Cefaly II is much smaller and fits in the palm of a hand. Like its predecessor, the device is worn on the forehead, but is held more securely in place by a magnet. Because of its smaller size, the manufacturer believes the Cefaly II will be more accessible and easier to use.

“This compact device is so easy to tuck in a pocket or purse and I am hopeful it will further increase compliance and bring an even larger reduction in migraine attacks to patients,” said Dr. Pierre Rigaux, Chief Executive Officer of Belgium-based Cefaly Technology.

“Now that the device is so small, it’s a big deal because patients can have their Cefaly II with them wherever they go, which means they’ll be able to use it more readily, at their most convenient time.”

cefaly technology image

cefaly technology image

The Cefaly II uses a magnet to attach itself to a self-adhesive electrode worn directly on the forehead. The rechargeable, battery powered device sends tiny electrical impulses through the skin to desensitize the upper branches of the trigeminal nerve and reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Patients have full control of their daily 20-minute session and can ramp up the intensity to their own comfort level.

In a small study of 20 migraine sufferers, published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, the Cefaly I provided "statistically significant" pain relief and an 81 percent reduction in the number of migraine attacks. Patients in the study also said they used significantly less migraine medication.

The electrode and output of the Cefaly II is identical to the Cefaly I, according to the company.

Here’s a company produced video of how the Cefaly II works:

The Cefaly II is only available by prescription and costs $349, with a 60-day money back guarantee. The device can be ordered online by clicking here. The Cefaly I will no longer be offered, but the electrodes for it will be available for another 5 years. Cefaly Technology has sold about 20,000 of the devices in United States and 80,000 outside the U.S.

Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. It affects three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.

My 50 Years with Chronic Pain

By Carol Hansen, Guest Columnist

I am a 71 year old woman living with chronic pain.  When I was in my 20’s I started having severe migraine headaches, at least two per month.  It was hard to do anything. They lasted at least 3 days, leaving me wiped out!

I also cared for my grandparents in my home until they died. My grandmother also had migraines when she was younger.  She shared with me that when I got older my headaches would go away and she was correct.

I had some aunts that had fibromyalgia, which at that time no one knew what it was.  I knew my grandmother’s pain level was high, because she was on opiates.  Her doctor gave her a high dose so she was hooked on these medications. 

Doctors used to prescribe a lot of pain medication, thinking that was all they could do for pain patients. Even then they did not want to deal with us. I was always afraid of pain medication because I observed my grandmother’s life.  After my grandparents passed away our lives naturally changed.

We enjoyed time with our young family.  Still my migraines were very hard on me and fibromyalgia slowed me down.  Yet I still had bluebirds and was a Sunday school teacher, along with a full schedule helping teachers and caring for my children.

In 1981, I was trying to start the heater in our camper when the camper blew up, leaving me with third degree burns. The company that repaired our camper had left all the gas lines disconnected.  More stress, and we filed a lawsuit.  This added to my migraines and my fibromyalgia was very painful.

In 1983, my wonderful husband died leaving me with teenagers.  My body reacted in what I thought was an unusual way.  I felt as if I couldn’t stay still. I had to be moving all the time and at night sleep didn’t come.  This went on for at least two years, while increasing fibromyalgia pain. 

After my husband died I felt that if I had a business it might help me through the grief.   After much thought I started a small business, it is now 30 years old with multi-layered experiences.  Because of my unique business I was asked by two magazines to write a monthly article which I did. 

My church asked me to lead a group and host a family of 7 immigrants (boat people from Vietnam). I was in charge of them for several years.  As much as I loved the family, I had to use tough love and slowly stopped helping them to let me go and begin their own lives, as families should.  Knowing this family is a wonderful story that added happiness to our lives. I did all this through my pain.

My neck was so bad I was losing the use of my left arm. There was more pain and it was getting harder to deal with my business.  During this time I met a second wonderful man.  We saw each other for 6 years before we married. 

I saw a doctor about my neck pain.  When the camper exploded, I hit the back of my neck on the counter edge.  I didn’t know at first that I had hurt my neck because the burns were so bad.  My neck had a dent in the vertebrae’s and was collecting calcium deposits. Over time I ended up having three surgeries on my neck.  They couldn’t get all the calcium out because it was too close to the spinal cord and I could have been paralyzed.

Right after one of the surgeries I ended up back in the hospital with mononucleosis and hepatitis.  It made healing much harder and the pain became chronic along with fibromyalgia.  I saw a rheumatologist in Seattle.  We tried Lyrica and Cymbalta, but I had terrible side effects. 

I was asked to take part in a University of Washington fibromyalgia study that lasted several months.  I roller skated 4 miles around Green Lake every day. I was in great shape and was doing this through all the pain. I tried biofeedback and swimming twice a week.  I also have a TENS machine, but that only helps while you’re on it. 

I tried everything to help the pain.  My rheumatologist recommended I take oxycodone three times a day.  They helped me but it was not a time release so it would not decrease pain evenly.  When OxyContin became available, my doctor suggested I try it. I now take OxyContin three times a day.  He also gave me the oxycodone for breakthrough pain.  I started this program in the early 1990’s and have been on the same dose ever since, never asking for more or stronger medication.  It helps control about 75% of my pain.  Sometimes I forget to take the medication and I hurt a lot.  This medication is not addicting like the pills my grandmother took.  I am not addicted, I am dependent!

I have had several other surgeries, including two that failed.  One surgery was on my left foot and the doctor left my foot deformed; he is no longer practicing.  In 2013 I had a total knee replacement and it was a complete failure. I have problems going up and down stairs, and it is now my biggest pain area.  I am also diabetic and have osteoarthritis in my hands and hips. 

My pain is very chronic, there is no way to exercise or do other things recommended by the CDC. I’ve already tried them. The pain medication is the only relief I will ever have.

In 2001, we moved from Seattle to northern Idaho.  No doctor there wanted to deal with a new pain patient, so we were traveling 800 miles round trip back to Seattle every 3 months. Then my doctor retired. The doctor that replaced him left for another clinic because he didn’t want to deal with my doctor’s patients.  The doctor that took his place said she would not prescribe pain medication.  I got a letter saying they did not want me as a patient – even though I was a great patient staying with the same doctor for many years. In fact, they kicked out ALL pain patients from that clinic!

I did eventually find a pain clinic near us. So far they are keeping me on the same program as my retired doctor had me on.

The CDC, FDA and the Obama administration are telling doctors to take pain medication away from us. They are lumping pain patients in with addicts and causing horrible problems.  Doctors don't want to deal with us. Whatever happened to "Do No Harm"? 

Carol Hansen lived in Idaho. She invites people to learn more about chronic pain by reading "Opioid Epidemic Myths" and this Petition2Congress.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us.  Send them to:  editor@PainNewsNetwork.org

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Migraines Linked to Low Levels of Vitamin D

By Pat Anson, Editor

Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other chronic pain conditions. And new research suggests the “sunshine vitamin” may play a role in preventing migraines.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that a high percentage of children, teens and young adults with migraines appear to have mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10. The latter is a vitamin-like substance found in cells that is used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance.

"Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation," says Suzanne Hagler, MD, a Headache Medicine fellow in the division of Neurology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. She presented her findings at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego.

Hagler studied a database of patients with migraines who had their blood levels checked for vitamin D, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10 and folate, all of which have been linked to migraines in previous and sometimes conflicting studies.

Many of the patients were put on migraine medications and received vitamin supplementation, if their blood levels were low. Because few received vitamins alone, the researchers were unable to determine if vitamin supplements by themselves were effective in preventing migraines.

Hagler found that girls and young woman were more likely than boys and young men to have coenzyme Q10 deficiencies. Boys and young men were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. Patients with chronic migraines were more likely to have coenzyme Q10 and riboflavin deficiencies than those with episodic migraines.

Vitamin D helps control levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood and is essential for the formation of strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also modulates cell growth, improves neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation

Sources of Vitamin D include oily fish and eggs, but it can be difficult to get enough through diet alone. Ultraviolet rays in sunlight are a principal source of Vitamin D for most people.

Danish researchers found that exposure to sunlight may delay the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS). Patients who spent time in the sun every day during the summer as teenagers developed the disease later in life than those who spent their summers indoors.

Low levels of serum vitamin D were found in over 1,800 fibromyalgia patients in a recent meta-analysis (a study of studies) published in the journal Pain Physician. Researchers at National Taiwan University Hospital found a “positive crude association” between chronic widespread pain and hypovitaminosis D.

Pain News Network columnist Crystal Lindell began taking Vitamin D supplements when her blood levels were found to be very low. Within a few months she was feeling better, exercising more, and losing weight. You can read Crystal’s story by clicking here.

New Treatments Offer Hope to Migraine Sufferers

By Pat Anson, Editor

Findings from several new clinical studies could pave the way for new treatments that could someday prevent and lessen the severity of migraines.

Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Although there are many treatment options available, most migraine sufferers are not fully satisfied with their effectiveness.

Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: TEVA) is developing a new injectable drug – called TEV-48125 – that is designed to be injected monthly in chronic migraine sufferers who have headaches at least 15 days per month.

"Chronic migraine affects about 1 percent of all adults, yet less than 5 percent of those people receive a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment," said study author Marcelo Bigal, MD, of Teva Pharmaceuticals. "Most people who receive preventive medication for chronic migraine stop using them, and one reason for that is the drugs can take a long time to become effective.”

In findings published online in the journal Neurology, Bigal reported that TEV-48125 was effective in reducing the length of headaches three to seven days after the first injection. The drug contains an antibody that blocks the calcitonin gene-related peptide that plays a role in migraine pain.

Teva’s Phase II study involved 261 people with chronic migraine who were divided into three groups; one group received a monthly shot for three months with a low dose of TEV-48125, the second group received a high dose and the third group received a placebo shot. Participants then used an electronic diary to record the number and length of their headaches.

After one week, the average number of headache hours went down by 2.9 hours for people taking the placebo, 9.1 hours for people taking the low dose of TEV-48125 and 11.4 hours for those taking the high dose.

After two weeks, the number of days with moderate or severe headaches, fell by 0.8 days for patients getting the placebo, 1.3 days for the low dose and 1.5 days for the high dose of TEV-48125.

“If these results can be confirmed with larger studies, this could be exciting for people with migraine," said Bigal.

Amgen Injectable Migraine Drug

Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) and Novaratis (NYSE: NVS) are also developing a monthly injectable drug --- called erenumab – which contains an antibody that blocks a peptide receptor that is believed to transmit migraine pain signals.

In a Phase II study, 667 chronic migraine patients were injected with a placebo or two different doses (70 mg or 140 mg) of erenumab. At the start of the study, patients were experiencing about 18 migraine days per month.

Patients who received erenumab at either dose experienced an average 6.6-day reduction in migraine days, compared to a 4.2-day reduction in those who receive a placebo. Less than five percent of the  patients treated with erenumab had a side effect, such as injection site pain, upper respiratory tract infection and nausea.

Erenumab is currently under evaluation in several large global, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials to assess its safety and efficacy in migraine prevention. Amgen expects results from a Phase III study of erenumab in the second half of 2016. Depending on the findings, that could result in an early new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration.  

Clinical studies presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society also highlighted some promising new migraine treatments.

Alder BioPharmaceuticals presented data showing that a single injection of a drug called ALD403 reduces migraine for up to six months. In a recent Phase II study of patients with chronic migraine, ALD403 significantly reduced migraines by 75 percent in up to a third of patients. 

“A 75 percent reduction in migraine days for these patients means a reduction of 12 or more migraine days each month,” said Jeffrey T.L. Smith, MD, Senior Vice President at Alder. “This equates to giving patients back roughly two weeks of their lives after a single administration.”

Researchers at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine reported results from a placebo controlled study on the efficacy of ubrogepant in treating a single migraine attack. Patients who received ubrogepant reported a reduction in headache severity from severe or moderate to mild or none within two hours.

Ubrogepant is free of known cardiovascular risk and may provide an important treatment option for patients who suffer from cardiovascular disease. 

Migraine affect three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

A Pained Life: Teaching the Reality of Pain

By Carol Levy, Columnist

Excedrin, which makes an over-the-counter pill for migraine sufferers, has a wonderful TV ad.

A sufferer wanted to show her mother what she sees and experiences when she has a migraine. Excedrin developed a simulator that does exactly that (click here to see it).

The mother puts on the device and sees the visual disturbances her daughter sees when she has a migraine attack. As she removes the device the mother turns to her daughter, hugs her and says, “I'm so sorry. I didn’t know.”

How wonderful, I thought. If only...

If only there was a way to simulate the pain of constant, intractable chronic pain.

If only there was a way to get our message across, and in a visceral way.

Too often we are told, even by medical professionals:

“It can't be that bad.”

"I had a sprained ankle so I get your pain.”

“It's all in your head. You just don't want to (go out, work, be a part of the family, the community, the world, etc.)”

It is common for a pain sufferer to write in the comment section of articles on chronic pain the following:  

“I wish doctors would have chronic pain, even if only for a day or two so they would get it.”

When I had the worst of my trigeminal neuralgia, I could not tolerate any touch to my forehead on the affected side. This meant I could not wash that part of my face or my hair. As a result I would get a big buildup of soap and dirt in the area which, because of a facial paralysis and my eye not being able to close well, caused eye infections.

The only way to clean the area was to put me under general anesthesia. The nurses and doctors were wonderful about it, the doctor having shampoo in his locker in case I forgot mine.

When someone asks me about the pain and they say outright or make expressions indicating they don't believe me, I trot out my general anesthesia anecdote. Then they get it. After all, why would a doctor or a patient take the risk of anesthesia without a real need to do it?

I recall a TV show, maybe it was Doogie Howser, MD, where medical students went through a simulation of what it is like to be a patient. They were given cloudy glasses to feel the disorientation of being unable to see clearly. They also put pebbles in their shoes to feel the discomfort of severe pain when you are trying to get around.

I had hoped maybe they did actually do this at a medical school somewhere, but no matter what words I put into Google Search, I could not find anything. The closest are programs where actors are hired to portray various illnesses to help teach students better diagnostic skills, insight and empathy.  But no actors had the role of being in chronic pain.

How can we teach the students?

I didn’t realize when I started writing this I would feel so frustrated by the question.  I guess I expected I would find a pithy answer.

Unfortunately, part of the answer is that students come from the general population, which often cannot accept the level of pain we feel. So they bring that skepticism and disbelief with them.

It would be unethical to put them in actual pain.

But maybe if we could show them the impairment, if we could find a simulator to allow them to feel the frustration of being unable to tie a shoe, go out in the slight breeze without the triggering of exquisite pain, or even walk, we too might too hear a “I'm so sorry. I didn’t know.”

And wouldn’t that be wonderful.

Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” 

Carol is the moderator of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness.” Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Green Light Reduces Migraine Headache

By Pat Anson, Editor

Many people who suffer from migraines will tell you that bright light can trigger a horrible headache.

But researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have found that a narrow band of green light can significantly reduce light sensitivity – known as photophobia – and reduce headache severity in migraine sufferers.

"Although photophobia is not usually as incapacitating as headache pain itself, the inability to endure light can be disabling," said Rami Burstein, PhD, Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine and Academic Director of the Comprehensive Headache Center at Beth Israel Deaconess, as well as the John Hedley-Whyte Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School.

"More than 80 percent of migraine attacks are associated with and exacerbated by light sensitivity, leading many migraine sufferers to seek the comfort of darkness and isolate themselves from work, family and everyday activities."

Five years ago, Burstein and his colleagues made the surprising discovery that blue light hurts migraine patients who are blind. The finding prompted research that found photophobia could be alleviated by blocking blue light. However, because that study involved only blind patients, who cannot detect all colors of light, researchers devised a way to study the effects of different colors of light on headache in patients who are not visually impaired.

In the first study of its kind, published in the journal Brain, Burstein and colleagues found that a narrow band of green light worsens migraine significantly less than other colors of light, and that low intensities of green light can even reduce headache pain.

The researchers asked 43 patients experiencing acute migraine attacks to report any change in headache when exposed to different intensities of blue, green, amber and red light.

As the intensity of the light increased every 30 seconds, patients were asked if their headache intensified. Nearly 80 percent of patients said their migraines got worse when exposed to white, blue or amber light, while green light was found to reduce pain in 20 percent of patients.

Researchers then measured the magnitude of the electrical signals generated by the retina (in the eye) and the cortex (in the brain) of patients in response to each color of light. They found that blue and red lights generated the largest signals in both the retina and the cortex, and that green light generated the smallest signals.

Researchers also used laboratory rats to study neurons in the thalamus, an area of the brain that transmits information about light from the eye to the cortex. These neurons were found to be most responsive to blue light and least responsive to green light, explaining why the migraine brain responds favorably to green light.

"These findings offer real hope to patients with migraines and a promising path forward for researchers and clinicians," said Burstein.

Burstein is now working to develop a more affordable light bulb that emits "pure" (narrow band wavelength) green light at low intensity, as well as affordable sunglasses that block all but this narrow band of pure green light. Currently, the cost of one such light bulb is prohibitively high ($360 to $500, according to this research) and the technology to block all but pure green light in sunglasses is also very costly.

Light therapy – also known as infrared or laser therapy – is also being used to treat pain from aching joints, muscles and low back pain. Red and green light are also used as a treatment for skin disorders such as acne, aging spots and wrinkles. The theory is that light therapy increases circulation and stimulates the growth of collagen in skin.

About a billion people worldwide suffer from headaches caused by migraines, which affect three times as many women as men.

Migraine affects about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

What Does a Migraine Look Like?

By Pat Anson, Editor

Sometimes there’s an aura. Or bright lights. Or blurred vision.

About a billion people worldwide suffer from headaches caused by migraines, which affect three times as many women as men. Most non-sufferers understand the headache part, but explaining what a migraine looks like isn’t easy – which is why the makers of Excedrin invented a simulator to help people better understand  migraines and the impact they can have.

"Migraines are more than bad headaches – the pulsing pain can be debilitating, and the associated symptoms like nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound, really impact people's lives," said Dr. Elizabeth Seng, a New York based psychologist.

GSK Consumer Healthcare brought together several migraine sufferers and had them explain the symptoms they most often experience during a migraine episode, including aura, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. The symptoms were then replicated with the simulator and conducted in a controlled environment from everyday life – like riding the subway or going to a restaurant -- to give non-sufferers the chance to safely experience the full range of migraine symptoms

Many found the experience unsettling and nauseating, as you’ll see in this short video that Excedrin recently began airing on TV and over the Internet:

Excedrin partnered with Andy Cohen, a best-selling author, TV personality, producer and migraine sufferer, to help spread awareness about the impact migraines can have on relationships with friends, spouses and co-workers. He hopes the simulator will help non-sufferers better understand the migraine experience.

"Growing up with migraines, I experienced firsthand how debilitating an episode can be and how much it can affect relationships with loved ones," said Cohen. "In my experience, both personal and professional, I've seen how migraines can become a third party in relationships – creating tension in, sometimes, already murky waters."

Migraine affects about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

A Migraine Sufferer Finds Hope Again

By Paul Hannah, Guest Columnist

On a Sunday morning 33 years ago, I was reading a newspaper in bed and was suddenly struck with a headache. I hadn't really had many headaches before, so I expected that this would pass with some non-prescription medication and an hour or so in bed.

I was very wrong.

I still have that headache today. If it would have stayed at a 1/10 pain level, I probably would not have done much about it. However, it didn't stay that low and that was where the problem lies.

When the headache moves to 4/10 or 5/10 I get concerned, because if I don't stop it at that point, it will rapidly scale up to a full migraine.

I have read other accounts of migraines, but very few accord with mine. My neck gets stiff, the trapezius muscles lock up, and my eyes start to hurt. I become rapidly photophobic and the pain gathers and localizes in the frontal lobe of my brain.

Once it reaches 6/10, I get a syringe from my migraine drawer and inject Maxolon into my arm muscle and immediately lie down. As a result of the photophobia, I have built myself a four poster bed so that I can draw the curtains and be in total darkness. After the Maxolon kicks in, I drink some liquids, often very strong coffee, and take as many of the various painkillers as I dare.



About fifty percent of the time, that is enough and spending the next five or ten hours in bed gets me well enough to function again. The other fifty percent of the time, it gets worse. Much worse.

It feels like someone is reaching into my skull and squeezing the frontal lobe of my brain with each beat of my heart. At this point, it becomes imperative, as bizarre as it seems, for me to concentrate. This is because the pain momentarily stops when I sub-consciously hold my breath, and then when I do finally breathe, it gets worse.

These migraines happen so frequently and unpredictably that I have given up traveling. I joke and say that I have seen the inside of too many foreign hospitals - but it is no joke, I love traveling. I miss it terribly.

I have a sympathetic doctor who will write scripts for pethidine (Demerol) every six weeks. It took literally years of doctor shopping to find him. If I have any pethidine left, I give myself an injection. The wave of relief that passes through me with that drug is hard to describe. I heard an opium addict describe her relief like this: "The pain is still there, you can still feel its presence, but it doesn't hurt anymore." It is like that for me.

Every migraine sufferer I have discussed this with has resonated with three annoying things that people come up with. Some women (and it always has been women in my experience) place two fingers to their temples and say, "I have a migraine". Anyone that has ever experienced a 10/10 could no more speak and function as 'normally' as that, than fly. They simply have no idea how bad it is. Fingers are regarded as among the most sensitive to pain areas of the body and anyone hitting a thumb with a hammer can attest.

Eighteen months ago I had an accident in my workshop and cut off my left index finger, half of my thumb and mashed up the other fingers in that hand. The pain level was 5/10. I took the painkillers the paramedics offered, but I didn't need them. The painkillers I took in hospital were for my head, not my hand.

The second annoying thing is when we are asked, "Have you looked into the cause?" I am barely able to contain my sarcasm when confronted with this. I desperately want to say something like "Well goodness me! That IS a good idea, why didn't I think of this thirty years ago?" But I don't, I just look away and say something equally inane.

Just as annoying are those that have an aunt who was cured by giving up coffee (tried it for 9 months, no change), going through menopause (strangely enough, not all that helpful to me) or taken some homeopathic/natural or equally nonsense cure (One said a foot massage was sure to fix it).

I am fortunate in that I live in Australia, a place where universal free healthcare is considered a citizen's right and a government's responsibility. So I have had several MRIs, X-rays and even an EEG, nothing has ever shown up as anything but normal.

When Francis Collins finished the Human Genome Project I thought it was marvelous from a human achievement point of view, but nothing more. I had no idea that it was going to change my life. But change it, it did and in all the right ways.

When I heard about this from another genuine migraine sufferer I took a blood test and for the first time in 33 years I had a non-normal result. It seems there is a genetic mutation called MTHFR, and if a person has one of them, it makes it difficult to process vitamin B. I have two of the sods.

I have spent my life being deficient in Vitamin B2, all the while my blood was full of the stuff. Both of those conditions can cause migraines. For the last eight weeks I have been taking a number of supplments and a cream - DHEA/CHYSIN, zinc, B-2, 5-MTHF and D-3. So far, I have had nothing worse than a 4/10 headache and I have every reason to suspect that this improvement will continue.

The Human Genome Project has given me something I thought I would never have again: hope. And hope to the hopeless is a marvelous thing. Truly marvelous.

I urge every migraine sufferer who can afford it to take the test. This isn't foot massage or acupuncture nonsense, it might actually work.

Paul Hannah lives in a small town just north of Brisbane, Australia on a few acres of bush populated with wallabies, koalas and a wide variety of native birds. He is retired and enjoys writing, history, astronomy and woodwork. 

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us.  Send them to:  editor@PainNewsNetwork.org

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Childhood Emotional Abuse Raises Risk of Migraine

By Pat Anson, Editor

New research is adding to the growing body of evidence linking child abuse with migraines. In a large survey of young adults, nearly two-thirds who suffer from migraines said they experienced emotional abuse as children.

"Emotional abuse showed the strongest link to increased risk of migraine," said Gretchen Tietjen, MD, University of Toledo. “Childhood abuse can have long-lasting effects on health and well-being."

In the study, nearly 14,500 people aged 24 to 32 were asked the question: "How often did a parent or other adult caregiver say things that really hurt your feelings or made you feel like you were not wanted or loved?"

Of those diagnosed with migraines, 61% said they had been abused as a child. Of those who never had a migraine, 49% said they were abused.

The participants were then asked whether they had experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as children. Physical abuse was defined as being hit with a fist, kicked, or thrown down on the floor, into a wall, or down stairs. Sexual abuse included forced sexual touching or sexual relations.

Nearly half of the participants answered yes to emotional abuse, 18% said they were physically abused, and 5% sexually abused.

Those who were emotionally abused were 52% more likely to have migraine than those who were not abused. But those who were sexually or physically abused were not significantly more likely to have migraine.

“Multiple studies have shown a strong link between childhood trauma and subsequent risk for developing chronic pain in adulthood, for instance, fibromyalgia. This study appears to be showing a similar association in migraine,” said Beth Darnall, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford University and co-chair of the Pain Psychology Task Force at the American Academy of Pain Medicine. 

“The collective findings suggest that childhood emotional trauma has a lasting impact on emotional and sensory experience throughout life, and underscore trauma as an important therapeutic target to reduce chronic pain and its impact, and to possibly prevent chronic pain.”

A similar study published last year found that children who witnessed domestic violence between their parents were significantly more likely to experience migraine headaches as adults.

Researchers at the University of Toronto surveyed over 12,000 women and 10,000 men who participated in the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health. Participants were asked if they experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse or if they witnessed parental domestic violence as children.

"We found the more types of violence the individual had been exposed to during their childhood, the greater the odds of migraine. For those who reported all three types of adversities -- parental domestic violence, childhood physical and sexual abuse -- the odds of migraine were a little over three times higher for men and just under three times higher for women" said Sarah Brennenstuhl, PhD, first author of the study.

Previous research has also shown the risk of depression and suicide ideation is about twice as high for migraine sufferers. People with migraine under the age of 30 have six times the odds of depression compared to migraineurs aged 65 and over.

Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. It affects three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.

FDA Approves New Inhaler for Migraine

By Pat Anson, Editor

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new type of inhaler for the treatment of acute migraine in adult patients with or without aura.

Onzetra Xsail delivers a low dose of a dry powder formulation of sumatriptan, the most commonly prescribed medication for migraine.

"Onzetra Xsail provides a new and much needed treatment option for what can be a debilitating condition for millions of people," said Roger Cady, MD, director of the Headache Care Center and associate executive chairman of the National Headache Foundation.

"The Xsail Breath Powered Delivery Device allows the medication to be deposited deep into the nose, an area that is rich with blood vessels. By delivering the medication here, Onzetra Xsail provides targeted and efficient delivery with the potential for fast, consistent relief, while also limiting the amount of medicine that goes down the back of the throat."

The inhaler is activated when a user exhales into the device, automatically closing the soft palate and sealing off the nasal cavity. Through a sealing nosepiece placed into the nostril, the exhaled breath carries medication from the device directly into one side of the nose. The medication is dispersed deep into the nasal cavity, reaching areas where it can be rapidly absorbed.

As the medication is delivered, the air flows around to the opposite side of the nasal cavity and exits through the other nostril. Closure of the soft palate helps prevent swallowing and reduces gastrointestinal absorption.

Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. It affects three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. About half of people living with migraine are undiagnosed.

“While there are many acute migraine treatment options available, more than 70% of patients are not fully satisfied with their current migraine treatment. Given this high dissatisfaction, there remains an unmet need to provide patients with fast-acting, well tolerated therapies that deliver consistent relief,” said Stewart Tepper, MD, professor of neurology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

The FDA approved Onzetra after clinical trials showed the inhaler provided headache relief to about 40% of users within 30 minutes. About two-thirds of users reported pain relief after two hours. Side effects include abnormal product taste, nasal discomfort, rhinorrhea and rhinitis.

Medical Marijuana May Reduce Migraine Headaches

By Pat Anson, Editor

New research is adding to the growing body of evidence that medical marijuana can be used to treat migraine headaches.

In a small study of 121 migraine patients by researchers at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado, 103 patients reported a significant decrease in the number of migraine headaches they had every month. The frequency of headaches dropped from an average of 10.4 to 4.6 per month. Most patients used more than one form of marijuana and used it daily. The study was published in the journal Pharmacotherapy.

"There was a substantial improvement for patients in their ability to function and feel better," said senior author Professor Laura Borgelt, PharmD. "Like any drug, marijuana has potential benefits and potential risks. It's important for people to be aware that using medical marijuana can also have adverse effects."

Fifteen of the patients reported marijuana use had no impact on their headaches, while three said they had more headaches.

The study looked at patients treated at Gedde Whole Health, a private medical practice in Colorado that utilizes medical marijuana for a variety of conditions. Inhaled marijuana appeared to be the favorite method for treating acute migraines, while edible cannabis, which takes longer to be absorbed into the body, helped prevent headaches.


Exactly how cannabis relieves migraines is not fully understood. Natural cannabinoid receptors in the brain, connective tissues, and the immune system appear to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. These cannabinoids also seem to affect neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

"We believe serotonin plays a role in migraine headaches, but we are still working to discover the exact role of cannabinoids in this condition," Borgelt said.

“We have had numerous patients finding results with migraines and the use of cannabis,” said Ellen Lenox Smith, a Pain News Network columnist who is a caregiver to medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island.

“We just had a woman out at the house a few days ago that was suffering will full body Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and when she took one hit on a vaporizer of day meds, you could actually see the forehead relax and had headache relief immediately. When it is right for you, the results are amazing.” 

A 2013 study on rodents published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that triptans – a drug widely prescribed to treat migraine – appear to activate cannabinoid receptors just as marijuana does.

A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Critical Pharmacology found that migraine patients possessed significantly lower levels of endogenous cannabinoids than healthy control subjects.

Imaging Identified as Most Wasteful Medical Test

By Pat Anson, Editor

Should you get an MRI for your headache?

What about a CT scan for low back pain?

Or a bone-density scan for someone under the age of 65?

In most cases, the answer to all of those questions is no, according to the Choosing Wisely campaign of the ABIM Foundation, which seeks to reduce the use of hundreds of unnecessary and costly medical tests. Experts say an MRI or CT scan of the lower back can cost over $1,200 and does nothing to relieve your back pain.

Since Choosing Wisely was launched in 2012, over 370 wasteful procedures have been identified by over 70 medical societies, such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons. Each organization was asked to identify an initial list of five medical services that may be unnecessary. Many societies went far beyond that, returning with two or even three lists.

A neurologist at the University of Michigan says the list of recommendations from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) only scratches the surface. Brian Callaghan, MD, has identified 74 tests and procedures related to neurology that are often unnecessary. Many involve the use of imaging.

“The two biggest areas that might be done more than they should are imaging for low back pain and imaging for headaches,” Callaghan said. “It’s a big problem and it costs a lot of money – we’re talking a billion dollars a year on just headache imaging.”

According to a recent study at the University of Michigan, one in eight visits to a doctor for a headache or migraine end up with the patient going for a brain scan. Often a doctor will order a CT or MRI scan to ease a patient’s fear that they may have a brain tumor or some other serious issue causing their pain. Physicians could also order a scan to protect themselves legally in case of a future lawsuit.

In most cases, however, the brain scan will be useless. Previous research found that only 1 to 3 percent of brain scans of patients with repeated headaches identify a cancerous growth or aneurysm that's causing the problem. Many of the issues that a scan might identify don’t pose a serious threat or may not require treatment right away. There is also the risk of a false positive that could generate unnecessary fear and alarm.

“These are all areas where lots of physicians agree that you’re more likely to get harmed by doing the procedures,” said Callaghan, whose study was recently published in the journal Neurology.

Callaghan isn’t encouraging you to say no if your doctor wants to image your brain or lower back, but he hopes his research will inspire a thoughtful discussion between doctors and patients about the purpose of the test and its value

“Ordering an MRI for a headache is very quick, and it actually takes longer to describe to the patient why that’s not the best route,” Callaghan said. “These guidelines are meant for physicians and patients both, to trigger a conversation.”

Besides imaging, another treatment that is widely questioned is the use of opioid pain medication to treat headaches and migraine. The Choosing Wisely campaign recommends that opioids only be used as a last resort for severe headaches, including migraine. Overuse of any pain reliever – even over-the-counter medications -- are known to make headaches worse.

My Life with Migraines

By Sara Batchelder, Guest Columnist

I have had migraine disease since I was 22. My first migraine was in 1992, the year I graduated from college. 

I am now 45, and my migraines have become chronic and daily.  I have lost two jobs, many friendships, my social life, and my relationship of eleven years.  This year, I also lost my ability to work full-time at a regular job.  The only reason I can still work part-time is that my ex employs me and allows me to work whenever I am able.  Thank goodness for that. Working gives me a purpose and makes me feel like a productive member of society.  It is an extreme struggle to work twenty hours a week though. 

I also have thyroid disease (my thyroid gland was removed when I was 29), celiac disease (I have been 100% gluten free for a year), depression, anxiety, infertility, and extreme allergies to many things, such as food, pollen, dust, cats, you name it. 

I now have a multi-pronged approach to my treatment.  For migraine, I have botox injections every three months, I see a “natural MD” for various treatments, and I take Relpax (a triptan) and opioids (Norco and morphine). 

I am still learning a lot about celiac disease, but I stay ever vigilant that I do not ingest any gluten whatsoever, even one molecule.  It’s a learning experience and constantly challenging.  For instance, I will visit a restaurant that I consider safe, get “glutened” and cross that restaurant off the list.  I am down to four restaurants that I can eat at. 

Since I am too sick to cook for myself most of the time, I graze on various packaged food - some good, some not so good.  I eat protein bars when traveling, although I do not travel often anymore.  It’s a lot of work to make sure all the food I eat is gluten-free and free of all of my other food allergies. 

sara met with sen. barbara boxer while advocating for migraine research

sara met with sen. barbara boxer while advocating for migraine research

I’ve been dealing with allergies for all of my 45 years.  My “natural MD” (my voodoo doctor, as I jokingly call him) gives me small doses of LDA shots, which are helping a bit.  He also believes that I have a lyme-like disease called Bartonella, which he is treating me for.  I am on so many vitamins that I won’t even go there. I take Wellbutrin for depression, nothing for anxiety, and since I am now 45, the infertility has played itself out. 

Deep breath. That’s a lot of illness and treatment.

Even with all of this, my scariest problem today is the government’s war on pain patients who take opioids.  After the DEA stormed one of my doctors’ offices in bulletproof vests with guns drawn (to request appointments with two doctors -- couldn't that have been done by phone?), all of my doctors, but one, have withdrawn ALL narcotic treatments for ALL migraineurs. 

It baffles me why this policy exists.  This is discrimination plain and simple.  I want to sue, but no lawyer will take the case.  I know that many addicts lie and tell doctors that they are migraine patients, since migraine is an invisible disease that cannot be diagnosed with blood tests, MRI’s, or anything else, but these are doctors whom I have a 10 year relationship with! 

They are either petrified of the DEA or always thought that I was an addict, and didn’t care enough to deal with that.  Either way, what the heck I am supposed to do?  Without my weekly pain shots, I can no longer work full-time.  If I still didn’t have one doctor on my side, I’m pretty sure I would have committed suicide. 

My private disability was denied due to some technicality.  SSI pays less than I can make part-time and SSI doesn’t allow the disabled to work part-time anyway (don’t get me started on that). 

I am very, very fortunate to work in California, where I have been on part-time disability.  But it will only last for one year, so I will be on my own again soon anyway.  I don’t know about other people, but there is no way I can survive in California on half-pay.  I was barely making ends meet while working full-time.  Now that I am single again, I cannot rely on someone else to support me. It is terrifying!!!

I have met and will soon meet again with members of Congress to discuss more funding for migraine and headache research through an organization called Headache on the Hill. That organization does not support opioid treatment for migraine at this time, but I still want to address the opioid issue with other pain patients.  Who will join me?


Sara Batchelder lives in California, where she received an MBA with honors from the University of San Francisco and works as a controller for small architecture firm. Sara volunteers at her local credit union and tries to advocate for migraineurs as much as she can.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us. 

Send them to:  editor@PainNewsNetwork.org.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.