on “cures”

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There is currently no cure for migraine. I’ve heard this from experts, read it, wrote about it, and spent the last year coming to terms with it. After two years of having pain more days than not and being routinely disappointed by treatment options I hoped would provide drastic change, learning to lessen my pain with a variety of tried and true strategies and not wasting my energy chasing after “cures” or miracles has seemed like the best recipe for stability and happiness.

But then some self-appointed migraine experts came into my field of vision and said WAIT, you are WRONG!

The first called me *ahem* “bitter, deranged, hopeless, misled, and selfish,” and challenged the current mantra that migraine is an inherited disease for which there is no cure. A visit to this person’s website offered maybe-not-so-far-fetched big pharma conspiracy theories, claims that the current mainstream approach to migraine treatment is evil, and a lot of strong words written in stress-inducing CAPS!

The second claimed that the mechanism for migraine has in fact been discovered and it’s related exclusively to proper hydration!

Both suggest that migraineurs should buy their books in order to get the answers.

Despite the respective adversarial and simplistic claims of these two self-appointed experts, their attempted interventions did give me pause. My brain began to churn: Am I standing in my own way by not entertaining the possibility that random doctors on the web have the answers? Should I actually be making room for every unconventional solution that crosses my path? Should I be trying to acquire every migraine book out there? After much thought, I have answered these anxious ponderings with a resounding no for the following reasons:


1) There aren’t enough days in a lifetime to try every single migraine treatment or strategy out there. Giving each medication, manual therapy, lifestyle change, dietary restriction, supplement, or mindfulness technique a fair chance takes time, and trying too many things at once can mean added stress and confusion, not to mention an empty wallet.

2) For me, a large part of feeling supported is being able to instil a certain amount of trust in the headache specialist who gives me advice, sticks me with needles, and occasionally prescribes me some new medication. Some of these things have been helpful and I’m not willing to let go of this aspect of my support system in favour of random internet advisors who think Western medicine has absolutely no purpose to serve in migraine treatment.

3) At this point in my research, I have only come across treatments that work for some migraineurs and not others. Thus, I have a right to be skeptical when I’m told that a magical thing worked for other people and will absolutely, positively work for me too.


I hope that these self-appointed experts are intelligent and knowledgeable people who believe in what they are doing and are not just preying on migraineurs to make a buck. I think they probably have found something that works for them and some, perhaps many, of their followers. That’s fantastic! My problem with their approach is this:

Claiming to have the answers when your only credibility lies in the testimonies of a handful of patients reeks of snake oil. If you have the answers, great! Do some peer-reviewed studies and get them published. Garner the support of your colleagues. Reach out to the medical community and spread awareness of your successful treatment approaches. But please, please, do not promise a magical solution based on little evidence, do not suggest that we are simply not trying hard enough by saying your program is “for people who are serious about ending their migraines”, and do not attack me when I am doing the best I can with the information I have.

As Tammy L Rome writes on Migraine.com:

A cure would be the complete elimination of hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli following a treatment that can be used for a limited time and then discontinued. Someone truly cured of migraine would no longer need to avoid triggers. They could stay up late, skip meals, eat foods containing MSG, and drink a glass of wine without fear that it would trigger a migraine. This is not possible right now.

From now on, if I come across someone, anyone offering a “cure”,”miracle” or a sparkly one-size-fits-all approach, I will tread with caution, or maybe even walk away, and I feel totally good about that.

On the other hand, when I come across seemingly credible sources who have the support and recognition of leaders in the field of pain management (such as Dr. Peter Goadsby in this video about an actual potential cure), I pledge to sit up and take notice.

8 comments

  1. Just curious to know if you have tried the new device, “Cefaly?”
    I haven’t spoken with anyone who has, but I’d love to hear from anyone who might have.
    It seems as if it should work, but so do a lot of other treatments. . .

    1. Hi Dura Mater,
      I haven’t, but I am curious! Part of me suspects its success rates have to do just with the routine of sitting quietly several times a day while using the device… I suspect the results are similar with meditation. But worth a try if you’ve got $300 to spare? (I hear they’re cheapest at Costco). Maybe “patientslikeme.com” has some reviews? Let me know if you try it out 🙂

  2. Anonymous · · Reply

    I agree with do not buy into PHARMA. They take so much money from things. I cannot even to begin to address the money they suck out of illness. You are soooo well spoken. XO

  3. Until these “cures” are verified in peer reviewed studies, I will not take them seriously. While I question the ethics of big pharma, I have no doubt that properly run peer reviews are, on the whole, managed ethically. I trust them much more that I do the claims for a miracle cure on some website.

    1. Absolutley Barry. It’s helpful to have people back me up on this. I must remind myself of this reasoning whenever I am tempted to delve into random migraine resources. Credibility is key.

  4. I know this is exactly what you asked people not to do, but I suffered from horrible migraines for eight years. I was fortunate that zomag was a miracle drug for me. If I took it at the right moment, I could be function in a few hours. Tired and drowsy but I didnt have the horrible splitting migraine or the vomitting. A few years ago for no reason, it just stopped working and I spent three months trying half a dozen different drugs. Nothing worked and my migraines were getting worse by the week. I even thought I would have to quit my job because I was unable to care for my clients. I work as a massage therapist and have access to a lot very good health providers. I saw a number of massage therapists, osteopaths, shiatsu therapists, physiotherapists, naturopaths.

    I tried the elimination diet and felt GREAT. I lost a bunch of weight, it improved my digestion, I had tons of energy etc erc. But when the stage of reintroducing food started, everything would trigger my headaches/migraines. It was a depressing discovery since I felt good but no human being could live on such a restrictive diet.

    Around this time, I came across a chiropractor that does acupuncture for migraine suffers. I personally don’t like to get my joints adjusted/cracked and I had received acupuncture for my migraines before with no lasting results.

    I saw this chiro for around 20 sessions of acupuncture and I haven’t really had a migraine or headache since. (Or I have: 3 migraines and a handful of headaches in three years). Her approach to needling was different than others. Very specific and slightly painful. I wasn’t expecting these results and have sent other clients and friends to her. Many have had similar results. Most are completely off their migraine drugs and just relying on over the counter.

    It has really changed my life. I don’t panic when I feel a migraine coming on and race out to get a cab home.

    I haven’t found very much evidence or good research to show that acupuncture can “cure” migraines but this worked for me. It wasn’t intrusive and I didn’t get any cervical adjustments. Maybe the placebo was so strong or the migraines had just run out of steam.

    I am not sure. I haven’t seen her for a follow up in years. And I did a lot of sessions because after a few, I could just feel that it was working and I was nervous to stop. I probably would have been okay with ten.

    This was my experience with acupuncture and being a health provided for a decade in this town. I believe I have access to some of the best practitioners and they were only ever able to take the edge off. This was different. If you haven’t explored acupuncture, I would recommend it. If you are curious about my provider, send me an email.

    1. Hi Susan! This is a remarkable story and one that I delight to hear (although I am, of course, a bit jealous).

      I also see a chiropractor who does acupuncture and other things, and of all the things I’ve tried, I think her treatments have made the most difference. So I too am a firm believer in the power of those approaches.

      I am always hesitant to see someone new because of the emotional roller coaster it seems to entail (high hopes, energy and money spent, disappointment), but I’m gonna buck up and ask you to send me the contact anyway.

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m really quite glad to get advice from fellow migraineurs when it is delivered with the understanding caveat that there is no magic bullet.

      🙂

    2. p.s. I don’t have access to your email (?) so could you contact me? annaeidt@gmail.com. Thanks!!

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