Live in the UK? Help Discover the Links between Weather and Pain

Say whatever you want about the UK, the one thing there is lots of is – weather. What better place to research the link between chronic pain and weather changes?

Cloudy with a Chance of PainThe research project is called Cloudy with a Chance of Rain. If you live in the UK, you could have the chance to participate, and get cutting-edge information about the research. But you do need to sign up this week.

We have long known that there is a link between weather and pain symptoms. But Cloudy with a Chance of Rain will allow us to see precise, information in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Being a part of this project, you’ll be able to participate in a personal way. Are you noticing a pattern in the data? You can contact the researchers and share your insights. And by identifying patterns, we may be able to better manage and treat chronic pain.

If you would like to participate, here are the requirements:

  • You must live in the UK
  • You must be over 17
  • You must have an Android or iOS smart phone
  • You must have chronic pain
  • You must sign up this week (Friday is the deadline)

The study is being done headed up at the University of Manchester, and is sponsored by Arthritis Research UK, so obviously you’re welcome if you have arthritis. But any kind of chronic pain qualifies, including chronic migraine or chronic daily headache.

This study is about a lot more than just “forecasting pain”. These types of links can help us to better understand pain, to better treat pain, and to help us to make choices that will improve our quality of life.

To sign up, follow this link. Remember, the deadline to sign up is January 20th.

Via The Migraine Trust


Unused Paid Time Off? Use it to Fight Migraine…

Because of the drastic under-funding of research for migraine, I’m always interested in new ways to get that research going. Thanks to a start up, those in the United States now have a unique way to donate.

It may seem odd to those in other developed countries, but in the United States there is no national law making paid leave a requirement. But many of those who get the privilege, for whatever reason don’t use it.
Paid Time Off ExchangeNow I certainly recommend you do use it – it’s important for your health, productivity, and creativity. But the fact of the matter is, at certain times you may not be able to use it, or you may have friends and family who have unused paid time off that they haven’t used.

Depending on a company’s policy, this can lead to a lot of confusion in the books over the years. But some companies have used this new start up to organize this paid time off (PTO) and use it to help other employees, the employees who weren’t using it, and even charities – ah hah!

There may be people you know who qualify – and who can give some of their PTO to the Migraine Research Foundation. The startup is called PTO Exchange, and the Migraine Research Foundation is one of the registered charities.

If you’re in the USA, please tell your family and friends about this opportunity to give to migraine research. 100% of their donation will go directly to cutting edge research. Some companies may want to consider using PTO Exchange for the first time. Share on Facebook, Twitter, and at your next dinner party – let’s see if we can find some funding to fight migraine!


Cluster Headaches Causes

As with any type of pain, the agony of this super-intense headache raises the question – what exactly are cluster headaches causes? In other words, why am I in such incredible pain?

There are actually two questions to ask. First, what may actually trigger a cluster headache attack at a certain time? But the other question is – why is it that a certain trigger results in a headache for one person, but not another? In other words, what is the cause of the disease in the first place?

But before we get into cluster headaches causes, make sure you understand what cluster is. Here is a handy infographic contrasting migraine with cluster: cluster headache vs migraine

So why does one person get cluster headache attacks, while another person doesn’t?

There has been some research done into the possibility of a genetic cause, or at least genetic factors that contribute. For many years now, researchers have recognized that family members of a cluster patient are more likely to have cluster themselves. In late 2016, a study from Italy was published in the Journal of Headache and Pain, indicating some possible genetic variants that seem to increase a patient’s risk (A genome-wide analysis in cluster headache points to neprilysin and PACAP receptor gene variants.).

Most often when we talk about cluster headaches causes, we end up discussing the brain and nervous system. We know, through modern imagine techniques, that the hypothalamus is involved, as has long been suspected. The trigeminal nerve in the head seems to be important, especially in the process that causes symptoms such as eye pain, tears and congestion. Other possible indirect cluster headache causes are related to a nerve cluster behind the nose (the sphenopalatine ganglion), histamine, and the blood vessels themselves. Read more about these factors here: What is behind the dreaded Cluster Headache?

All that being said, there is still nothing we can point to with certainty. Cluster may indeed be caused by a number of factors working together – for example, even someone who is predisposed genetically may not get cluster because other physical factors are lacking. There are other behavioural factors, such as a history of smoking, which seem to play a role.

But what actually kicks off a cluster headache attack (or, what triggers a cluster period)?

Cluster isn’t as closely connected to “triggers”, such as food or hormonal changes, as migraine is. There are some factors which have been related to periods of cluster headache attacks, including smoking, sleep apnea, and the season of the year (autumn being the highest risk time of year).

Once the cycle has started, there may be other individual cluster headache causes. Alcohol is commonly reported, as well as strong chemical fumes. A hot day, or getting “overheated” during exercise seems to trigger attacks for some. However, when you’re not in a “cluster period”, these things will not trigger attacks at all.

Cluster is hard to research because it is so rare. However, we are learning more and more about the brain, and the last 30 years has brought us incredible advances in understanding. Many of these new revelations about cluster headache causes have brought new treatments to the forefront, such as deep brain stimulation for chronic cluster headache patients.

Further reading: Cluster headaches causes and treatments (Medical News Today)


7 Ways to Stick to Your New Treatment (or not)

Migraine patients are constantly frustrated by a lack of good treatments, good information, trained health professionals, and funding for research. And we’re right to be concerned. But there’s another major issue that is keeping many patients from the best treatments.

It’s simply this: we don’t do what the doctor tells us to do.

One of the major recommendations for solving this problem is creating a “blame-free” environment. Well, sometimes we need the truth, even if it involves so-called “blame”. But it’s actually a lot more complicated than simply “the patient is bad because he didn’t take his meds”.

There are many reasons why we don’t listen to our doctor’s instructions. Sometimes – hopefully not often, but sometimes – a doctor may just give horrible instructions. Like “find yourself a husband” or “stop being so stressed”.

There are a lot of things doctors can do to improve “adherence” or “compliance” as it’s called in the medical field. There’s a whole area of study related to this issue.

Did you know, for example, that some doctors will not even discuss certain treatments with you, because they think it’s a waste of time, because chances are you won’t listen? An example might be a strict diet. Even if you could drastically improve your health by weighing and measuring everything you eat – would you? Or by running 10 miles every day?

But there are some things we as patients can do in order to take our doctor’s recommendations more seriously. After all, if you’re going to try it, go all the way, and make sure you know whether it works or not. Taking your medication 60% of the time, or adhering to your diet 3 days a week, really won’t tell you if the treatment “works”.
Planning your calendar
Here are some suggestions to maximize your treatment in the year ahead (remember, this is a very complex issue – these are just a few ideas to help you, not a complete overview of the issue).

  1. Get Organized. Do you forget to take your meds? No time to make that healthy meal? A big part of it may be organization. What can you do to help remember? Why not invest in a nice pill dispenser (here are some popular examples – Pill Organizer Box Weekly Case, 4ucycling 2 Pack Easy Carry Waterproof Pill Case, or the extremely popular Borin-Halbich 7 Day 3 Compartment Pill Organizer)? How about an app to remind you (like the very entertaining Medisafe)? Why not plan a weekly menu on Saturday morning? Whatever works for you.
  2. Find a Friend. Can someone else help you? Hold you accountable? Everyone needs a friend once in a while.
  3. Rewards. How about a reward at the end of the month if you stick to your treatment?
  4. Understand your disease (and the treatment). Sometimes we’re reluctant to try a treatment because we don’t see why it would “help”. Educate yourself – it’s your responsibility. But feel free to ask your doctor lots of questions.
  5. Understand your disability (keep track!). If we have a 20% improvement, but don’t notice it, we won’t care about the treatment. As much as you can, keep track of where your symptoms are at. Use a paper diary, or an app, or a periodic test. Whatever works – the more detail the better.
  6. Recognize your beliefs. Sometimes we’re not even aware of them, but we have a lot of ideas (whether correct or correct under some circumstances, or even mistaken) that affect our treatment. Are you afraid of taking a “daily medication”? Why? Do you believe that “vitamins” won’t help? Why? Are all “drugs” bad? There may be a lot of wisdom in your idea, but there may be circumstances in which you need to rethink a little. Don’t be afraid to examine your beliefs.
  7. Communicate with your doctor (and be honest). Do you have a plan for communicating with your doctor? Ok, under some circumstances you may just need to find a new doctor. But if you’re going to stick with the one you have, you need to communicate. And be honest. If the treatment regimen is just too complicated – say so. If you’re simply not going to give yourself an injection – admit it and move on. If you need a break from trying new meds – take a break. There are going to be times when you can’t “adhere” perfectly to your treatment – and sometimes you just need to be ok with that. But if you communicate to your doctor, she can help you find something that you can adhere to.

One more thing – at this time of year, full of focus on New Year’s resolutions, there is actually some good advice out there to help you stick to your plan. If you’re reading that advice, think about how you might apply that to your medical treatment.

After all – imagine if you gained even a few more days of health this year! What would you do with them?


5 Ways to Maximize Your Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 supplements are recommended by many doctors, not just for general help but also to help fight migraine.

But it’s easy to spend your money on something that really won’t be a big help. So here are some tips to help you get the most out of your omega-3 supplement.

Viva Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil

  1. Take your supplement with food. In fact, a fatty meal is your best bet to make sure the oil is absorbed. Good fats, of course. Whatever that looks like for you. But just be aware that you will absorb the oil far better with a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast than with a glass of skim milk.
  2. If possible, use fish oil. If you’re a vegan, you won’t want to go this route. But if you can do it, this is probably your best bet.
  3. Take with a healthy, balanced diet. It’s best to get your nutrients from food. Supplements are “supplements”, not “replacements”. Eat a healthy diet low in processed foods and high in fruits and vegetables. For omega-3 foods, try omega-3 fortified eggs, fish, ground flax seed, chia seed, and hemp seed.
  4. Choose the right brand. Consumer Lab recently tested many different brands for accuracy on the label, freshness, etc. See below for some of the recommended brands.
  5. Watch for EPA + DHA. These amounts should be on the label. 1000mg of fish oil is not the same as 1000 of the EPA/DHA combination. For plant based supplements, look for the ALA amount.

People with migraine often opt for the higher concentration omega-3 supplements. Consumer Lab recommends Viva Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil. Viva Naturals is tested to avoid contamination (mercury, PCBs, etc) (and Consumer Lab confirmed this), is fresh, and is also the lowest-cost approved fish oil in its category.

Although not certified gluten-free, this supplement is made gluten free in a dedicated gluten free facility.

This brand also received an “A” ranking from Labdoor (the brand was then “Viva Labs”, but according to the company the product hasn’t changed).

For certified gluten-free versions, try OmegaVia Pharma-Grade Omega-3, which is also enteric coated (which should help with absorption), or GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil, also enteric coated. As with the Viva Naturals brand, they were tested for contaminants and freshness.

The OmegaVia brand also made the top 5 in the Labdoor rankings.

Some brands that were not approved included Kirkland Signature, NutriGold, and Vitacost brands, because they contained less EPA/DHA than it said on the label, and/or they contained contaminants.

If you’re going to take omega-3 supplements this year, save your money and get the most out of what you buy. Following the above instructions can result in getting several times better absorption – much more benefit for your money!

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