So Many Questions – Do You Have One?

One thing that I really enjoyed about the recent World Migraine Summit were the many, many questions that I saw in the chat feeds. Of course there wasn’t time to answer all of the questions. A few were answered, but there were a LOT of AMAZING questions that were left.

Important QuestionsBut the questions were so great, that I have decided to try an experiment. In the left sidebar of this site, there is not a button you can click on to ask your questions here. I can’t guarantee I can answer more than a few of them, but hopefully I’ll get some of those great questions here and we can explore them together.

Of course, feel free to search the site, where many of your questions have already been answered over the past 14 years!

Also, if you haven’t invested in a copy of the World Migraine Summit library from 2017, I highly recommend you do so. There you will find the most up-to-date answers to many common migraine and headache related questions. For tips on how to best use this material, click here.

So – let the experiment begin! There are reasons why I’ve never done this before. With so much information and news out there, and so little time, it’s hard to answer a lot of questions. But we’ll give it a try, and see if it’s a useful feature for you.

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10 Headache and Migraine News Highlights from the past 3 Months (May 2017 edition)

Here are the ten recent posts which have been most popular with guests to this website. The articles in bold text received the most “likes” on Facebook.

  1. Candesartan for Migraine
  2. Migraine and TMD: A Complex Relationship (that should not be ignored)
  3. A Quick Update on Cefaly for Migraine
  4. Yes, it matters which Magnesium supplement you use…
  5. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) for Migraine
  6. A “Smart” Non-Drug Arm Patch to Fight Migraine
  7. Podcost: Migraine and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  8. Transient Global Amnesia: Risk of Related Problems?
  9. Chemotherapy Headache
  10. New Device Approved by FDA to Fight Cluster Headache (video)
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Headache and Constipation

If you’re suffering from both headache and constipation, could they be connected? Yes, but it’s not that simple.

What is Constipation?

Constipation occurs when your colon absorbs too much water from your food, leading to overly dry and hard stools. You might still feel like your bowels are “full” even after you’ve used the bathroom. And you’re having less than three bowel movements in the course of a week.

There are actually a number of things that can contribute to constipation, and we’ll talk about some of those below. But if you’ve never been constipation, or the symptoms don’t go away, or there are other symptoms such as weight loss, blood in your stools, or stomach pain, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Note that laxatives can actually lead to worse constipation (yes, you read right) – check with your doctor first!

Constipation and Headache?

Sometimes headache and constipation go together. It may just be that you have both – no connection at all. But there are situations in which there may be a clear connection.

  • Headache Medications: Yes, some headache and migraine medications may actually lead to constipation. These include: opioids (such as codeine), antidepressants (such as amitriptyline), calcium channel blockers (such as verapamil), beta blockers (such as propranolol), and NSAIDs (such as acetylsalicylic acid/aspirin or ibuprofen). That’s not an exhaustive list, so be sure to let your doctor know what medication you’re taking.
  • Diet problems: Problems with your diet can lead to both headache and constipation. For example, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, not getting enough liquids, and even not eating on a regular schedule – a typical migraine trigger.
  • Comorbid diseases: Some conditions that typically go along with migraine are also related to constipation, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, and stroke. This is another reason to see a doctor so that she can rule out some dangerous causes of constipation.
  • Hormone imbalance: Hormonal imbalances may also lead to constipation and headache conditions such as migraine.
  • “Straining” headaches: Not to be too graphic, but there are some headaches specifically triggered by pushing hard! These include cough headaches and headaches from brain abscesses. If straining triggers a headache or makes it worse, see your doctor.

Treating Constipation and Headache

As mentioned before, it may be that both conditions simply need to be treated separately. However, improvement in one may lead to improvement to the other.

First, with any new headache or constipation symptoms, talk to a doctor who knows your medical history and what medication you’re taking.

Second, your body may be telling you that you need to make some simple changes. Go for a walk once a day, drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables. That alone can help treat both.

When you need to go — go! And take your time.

As a last resort, with your doctor’s supervision, you may want to try a laxative. But be cautious here.

In most cases, especially with an improvement in your diet, constipation will go away on its own. But it is important to take it seriously, because it can be a sign of a serious condition.

For more information, see: Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments and When to Get Help for Constipation

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Back to Sleep: Simple Lifestyle Changes to Fight Chronic Migraine

A recent study related to chronic migraine and sleep is giving hope to many who struggle with comorbid insomnia and migraine.

As we’ve discussed many times, sleep problems and migraine often go hand in hand, which is why both need to be treated together. Many patients are rightly concerned about taking “sleeping pills”, and thus adding another drug with possible side effects to the mix, as well as possible long term dependence.

But a study published last year from the University of Mississippi suggests that simple lifestyle changes may be a lot more powerful than many people believe (Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of Behavioral Insomnia Treatment for Chronic Migraine With Comorbid Insomnia).
Insomnia

For the study, patients (mostly women) were specifically recruited who had both insomnia and chronic migraine. Each person came in for three special training sessions focusing on learning and practising 5 skills.

The control group learned skills that related to consistent liquid/food intake, range of motion, and acupressure.

But the study group were give skills related to improving sleep quality.

Two weeks after the treatment, researchers measured the change. Both groups improved – actually, the control group improved slightly more than the sleep-quality focused group.

But then came the surprise. The researchers measured again after 6 weeks. The control group still had a drop in headache frequency – 25%. But the sleep group had a 46% reduction in headache frequency.

The sleep group also improved significantly in their time asleep and “efficiency” of that sleep time.

46% is a significant improvement. So what was the secret? What skills did this group learn?

No, it wasn’t taking sleeping pills, or performing complex exercises. Actually, it was simple advice you’ve probably heard before:

  • Associate your bed with sleeping. It’s not the place to read, check Facebook or watch television.
  • Keep a regular schedule – go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time.
  • If you can’t sleep after 1/2 an hour, don’t panic. Just get up and do a quiet activity for a little while, then try again.
  • Try not to nap during the day.

Although naps may be great for some people, that last tip may help people get out of the insomnia cycle.

Once patients received training and understood more about how to optimize their sleep time, they found they could keep it up – and they also found that their sleep improved, and their migraine symptoms dropped significantly.

This was a small study, and the researchers would like to see further studies over a longer time frame. But for now, there is good reason to think that simple changes in the way we do “sleep-time” may have a big pay-off over the long term.

Special note: This study was sponsored by the Migraine Research Foundation, an organization we have been happy to support. You can support the MRF directly here. Also, investing in the Migraine World Summit collection will support the MRF and other organizations dedicated to fighting migraine.

Via: Non-drug treatment of insomnia helps headaches

See also: UM Study Affirms Treating Insomnia May Ease Migraines

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Restless at Night? More Links to Migraine…

You feel restless when you’re trying to — rest! Especially your legs – you just have to move them. It’s making it hard to sleep, actually. You might just feel restless, or actually feel “pins and needles” or an itchy feeling in your legs.

Restless Legs Syndrome and MigraineThis is a common condition known as restless legs syndrome. It has long been associated with migraine, as well as conditions such as diabetes. For a quick summary, check out this graphic on restless legs syndrome and migraine.

A study completed last year has confirmed once again the connection between RLS and migraine (Prevalence of restless legs syndrome in migraine patients with and without aura: a cross-sectional, case-controlled study).

This study did find a that your risk of RLS increases with migraine with aura, and also with chronic migraine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, other factors included anxiety and poor sleep.

Some people have this condition and don’t even realize it. But it is robbing them of sleep – and that can lead to more and worse migraine attacks.

A while ago we talked about an important question that your doctor should ask you – When you woke up this morning, did you feel refreshed? If you have chronic migraine – the answer is almost certainly no.

The lack of good sleep could be caused by RLS – or a type of sleep apnea, among other things. But it’s almost certainly going to lower your sense of well being, increase anxiety, and increase symptoms of migraine.

Treating migraine may actually help with symptoms of RLS, but it could also work the other way around. That’s why it’s wise to talk to your doctor about both.

If you’re not sure if you have RLS, the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation has a handy tool you can use to keep track, similar to a headache diary. Talk to your doctor about your sleep. Be cautious of caffeine (watch out for medications that contain caffeine!), and try taking a walk shortly before bed time.

It can be a vicious circle when you suffer from migraine and RLS. But there is help available if both conditions are taken seriously.

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