Headache and Migraine: Highlights and My Picks from 2016

A look back at 2016...New treatments? New research? Tips? What have you missed this year in the world of headache and migraine news?

It’s time for a brief look back over the year. This is what we’re going to do – for each third of the year, I’ll share the four posts which were the most popular with you, our guests. The most-read posts. Then I’ll share four more posts that I think you shouldn’t miss.

January to April

A left-over popular topic from the end of last year, Daith Piercing for Migraine: Resources and Updates was a follow-up of two other popular posts, which you can read here and then here.

Next, some research and a new app featured in Discover the Real Truth about Your Migraine Triggers.

A fascinating new treatment which is being researched – $5 Eye Drops to Stop Migraine Attacks?.

Finally, a reminder to be cautious in Are You Taking These Common Medications (that could hurt your brain?).

And my picks for the first four months. First, another way to think about migraine and share the reality of migraine with someone else – Migraine as Virtual Reality (Don’t Miss This Video)

Next, let’s get really practical. They Hated Swallowing Pills, Until . . .

And here’s a news story that will make you think twice about the “painkillers” you buy – Is Your “Targeted” Migraine Painkiller Worth the $$$?

And finally, a specific condition explained – Lumbar Puncture Headache: Science In Clear Language

May to August

First, are your headaches related to a thyroid condition? Thyroid Headache.

A different kind of help for migraine (and other types of) dizziness and vertigo – Migraine Treatment: Vestibular Rehabilitation.

Next, a challenging question for all of us – “Coming Out” As A Migraine Sufferer (and why we don’t).

And a specific condition you should be aware of – MUMS – Migraine and Arm Weakness

And now, my recommendations from the second third of the year. First, excuse me for getting on the soapbox again, but you really should read Why You Should Not Accept the “Stress” Diagnosis of Migraine.

Another practical post – some rare research on probiotics here (it made me change my brand) – More Research on Probiotics – Which Should I Use?.

It’s a very modern issue – migraine genetics, and whether or not we will soon be able to “repair” genes that are causing migraine attacks. Here it is – Migraine Genetics – What if…?

Finally, a podcast to listen to, on a very important topic for anyone considering butterbur for migraine. The Butterbur Controversy (Podcast).

September to December

That’s a good question – Should Doctors watch for “Cognitive” Problems in Migraine Patients? Will it help us get better treatment?

Next, back to the thyroid. Migraine and Hypothyroidism: New Study Confirms the Connection

Can a little technology help fight migraine? Let’s consider FitBit and Migraine.

And the last of your favourites, a very important topic – Helicobacter Pylori and Migraine.

For my picks – another symptom you should mention to your doctor – When Taking a Shower Hurts: Migraine and Depression.

Next, a recent update on the coming new migraine-targeting medications – Approaching the Finish line: CGRP Inhibitors.

What if I have different types of pain? Should I be treating a “nerve headache” along with my other headache condition? Nerve Pain in Head: A Different Kind of Headache

And last but not least, an important reminder to watch for certain symptoms in children – Is Your Child With Migraine Tired and Depressed?

See You Next Year!

Thanks for being a part of the community in 2016. I hope that you’ve been able to see improvements in your health thanks to things that you’ve learned here. Thanks also to those who have written to tell me that they’ve been able to fight back against migraine and other headache conditions!

You can certainly write me if you appreciate the hundreds of articles here. But why don’t you consider giving to the Migraine Research Foundation as well? Just a few dollars can make a difference when we all pitch in. Of course, large donations go a lot farther!

As the new year begins, let’s not give up. As always, it’s time to fight back.


Overcoming Migraine as an Ironman Athlete

It’s certainly time for some good news – so as we near the end of the year, it’s time for a story of a battle against migraine that was won.

No, it’s not a story of migraine that was cured, but – well, let’s tell the story.

This is the story of Dr. Susan Hutchinson. As a doctor in her mid-30s, she started experiencing headaches. Sinus headaches? Just bad headaches? I’ll just have to deal with them

That approach didn’t work well – but using migraine medication did help. That’s when she realized that it was migraine.

This set Dr. Hutchinson on the road to more personal and professional study. Dr. Hutchinson became a specialist in the study and treatment of migraine and headache, and in 2007 founded the Orange County Migraine & Headache Center. You can find my review of one of her books here.

Knowing that exercise is an important way to fight migraine, Dr. Hutchinson slowly began to work on swimming and cycling. Going slowly is important for migraine patients – that is, increasing your exercise and training slowly.

Ironman 70.3Earlier this year, the Ironman 70.3 competition was held in Imperial Beach, California. The 70.3, or Half Ironman, is a marathon 113km/70.3mi long, including a swim of 1.9km (1.2mi), a 90km (56mi) bike ride, and a 21.1km (13.1mi) run.

After a long time of training and preparing, Dr. Hutchinson qualified for and entered the competition. It was her goal for her 60th birthday.

Then the morning of the event arrived – and so did a migraine attack.

She was prepared – she quickly took an abortive medication for migraine, and was able to begin the race.

Not only did she complete the raceshe placed first in her age category! Congratulations!

This story doesn’t tell us that a certain medication is that answer, or that with sufficient exercise every migraine patient can win an Ironman race. Although, of course, these things have helped a lot of us.

But for many, just getting a few chores done in a given day will be a major triumph.

But maybe we need to celebrate those triumphs more than we do. Everything from one less migraine attack a month, to successfully going to an event you might have missed in the past, to winning an Ironman competition or seeing major improvements in your health.

Let’s cheer for people like Susan Hutchinson, and let’s cheer for one another when those big and small steps are taken.


10 Headache and Migraine News Highlights from the past 3 Months (December 2016 edition)

Yes, soon I’ll do a year-in-review. But for this week, let’s look over the posts from the last three months. The ones in bold had the most “likes” on Facebook. Most popular are first.

  1. FitBit and Migraine
  2. Migraine and Hypothyroidism: New Study Confirms the Connection
  3. Helicobacter Pylori and Migraine
  4. Nerve Pain in Head: A Different Kind of Headache
  5. Botox for Migraine: One size does NOT fit all!
  6. When Taking a Shower Hurts: Migraine and Depression
  7. Approaching the Finish line: CGRP Inhibitors
  8. MSG, Migraine, and New Treatments
  9. Ketamine: An Option for Migraine and Depression?
  10. New Headaches Late in Pregnancy? Get Checked!

New Rules for Clinical Trials (video)

If you’re interested in what “the science” says about migraine or headache treatments, you’ll certainly be interested to know what clinical trials have been done. However, in a world that considers science to be so important, you may be shocked to know just how many problems there are with clinical trials, and how hard it can be at times to draw accurate conclusions from them.

One of the common problems is that, for many trials, no results are ever published – at least, not where you can find them.

Now just imagine if researchers had done 17 trials of migraine drug x, and that only 10 had been published? Of those 10, 7 had positive results. But wait – what if the other 10/17 (that’s 59%) had negative results? Or what if the 7 unpublished trials found problems with side effects? Wouldn’t you want to see all of the results?

For more on this challenging issues, see Are Clinical Trials Still Being “Hidden”?

In the USA, where a large number of important trials take place, steps are being taken to improve the credibility of clinical trials. In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that specifies requirements for registering certain clinical trials and submitting results of those trials.

To hear a quick explanation of the new policies, watch the video below. For more information, see this Summary of HHS/NIH Initiatives to Enhance Availability of Clinical Trial Information.


Laser Therapy (LLLT) for Migraine

Yes, there is current interest in using lasers to treat migraine. In this case, low level laser therapy, otherwise known as LLLT.

The idea of adding more light and heat to migraine may not sound appealing at first. But LLLT is a non-invasive and non-painful therapy that has been used for a number of pain conditions including headache disorders. There are specific laser treatment devices that are used for certain conditions.


One of the K-Laser devices

In the case of LLLT, the lasers are set at a lower level than what is used for surgeries. This is not a cutting treatment. Instead, it stimulates your cells in certain ways that may promote healing.

The trials of this type of laser therapy for various conditions have not always had spectacular results. However, since the therapy seems to be side effect free and non-invasive, there is some interest in further researching the treatment.

So that brings us to migraine. Currently, The San Francisco Clinical Research Center is putting together a sham-controlled, single attack study to test the effectiveness of LLLT for migraine. Now, this is a very specific and small study, but it might be a place to start.

The LLLT needs to have a target. In this case, it’s the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG). The SPG, a nerve cluster behind the nose, is already the focus of migraine treatment (and cluster headache treatment). Injections to this site have shown great promise in migraine treatment – could laser therapy do the same thing?

This study won’t give us all the answers, because it will not be a series of treatments (which may be what is needed) but only a single treatment.

However, if this treatment can help with a single attack, it could be another situation where a migraine patient could have a hand-held device at home that would allow them to treat themselves.

If you’re interested, you can talk to a migraine specialist about this treatment. If they have had success with their patients, it might be something to pursue.

Meanwhile, we’ll look forward to hearing about future research.

For more information: