The tools you need to help migraine sufferers.
It’s no surprise that, with healthcare costs rising, more people are turning toward alternative solutions for their health problems. You have probably noticed that most patients coming to you are tired of being prescribed new (and often dangerous) medications and treatments.
Meanwhile, chiropractors are likely to start seeing more migraine patients in their practices. With stress levels on the rise, it’s no wonder the number of patients suffering from migraine headaches has skyrocketed. Adjusting, cryotherapy, electric stimulation, and ultrasound therapies may give relief to patients plagued with the debilitating symptoms of frequent migraines; but as migraine headaches are largely biochemical in nature, the throbbing pain, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound doesn’t always respond to a skilled adjustment to the atlas.
Migraine sufferers (also called migraineurs) are searching for safer and more natural approaches to put an end to their headache misery. After all, the medications available for migraine headaches can be expensive and have a significant number of side effects (and often fail to reduce the number of headache attacks).
Migraines are one of the most difficult health problems to treat because they can be caused by a variety of underlying issues including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, stress, malnutrition, inadequate sleep, and physical exertion. Sadly, there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for migraines because treatment depends on the cause of the malady.
Current research leans toward the notion of migraines being neurologically based. The longstanding view of migraines as a vascular problem stemming from a decreased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is still being reviewed—and losing support.
Traditionally, patients are prescribed medications such as tryptamine-based drugs for migraines. Alternatively, they can use over-the-counter medicines like Excedrin and Tylenol if they don’t want to go the heavy-duty medicine route. Most patients find these medications rarely work if not taken quickly after the migraine begins, and they generally reduce neither the frequency nor the duration of attacks. There are a few medications that act preventatively, but they often come with daunting side effects that most people are not willing to tolerate.
Migraines are often seen in females 20 through 55 years of age, and these women are often reluctant to take daily medication because the side effects are significant and interfere with their busy lifestyles. They would rather risk suffering the debilitating pain of migraine headaches a few times a month than be sedated and nauseous every day.
So how can you help your patients not only treat their migraines but prevent them from occurring so often? Fortunately, there are natural, safe, affordable, and easy-to-implement options.1 You can incorporate the following approaches in your office and make a substantial difference for your migraine patients in just a few weeks.
Multiple studies have shown a magnesium deficiency in 50 percent of patients when they have a migraine attack. An infusion of magnesium at the onset of the migraine provides almost instant relief for these patients. Furthermore, patients who supplement daily with magnesium were found to have fewer attacks and, when one did occur, the intensity was far less severe.
A magnesium deficiency can allow the neurotransmitter serotonin to flow unchecked throughout the body. Extremely high or low levels of serotonin can cause a number of biochemical problems.
Decreased serotonin levels lead to vascular spasms, which can block blood flow and lead to migraine headaches. Low levels of serotonin result in an excess production of pain-producing chemicals including certain prostaglandins and the neuropeptide substance P.2
Caffeine and some types of medications like those used to treat asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, diuretics, heart disease, and blood pressure can deplete magnesium. Stimulants like alcohol and nicotine can also deplete magnesium levels by preventing absorption. Diet changes can help restore some magnesium levels, but the patients who are on magnesium-depleting types of medications also need a magnesium supplement.
Start with recommending foods rich in magnesium such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, unpolished rice, and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Decrease processed foods and sugars.
Tell your patients to eat only lean meats and add fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets. About 50 to 75 percent of migraine patients will find that changing their diet and supplementing daily with magnesium will significantly reduce the intensity and number of their migraine attacks. You might start migraineurs with approximately 500–750 mg of magnesium daily, depending on their symptoms and comorbidities.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Vitamin B2 helps the body’s cells use energy efficiently. When riboflavin levels are low, mitochondria do not function properly, and this has been found to trigger migraines in many patients. Studies have shown those with frequent migraines often have reduced riboflavin levels.3
A recent study has found that high doses of vitamin B2 taken daily were able to prevent migraine attacks.4 Patients who took 400 mg of B2 for three months had almost 40 percent fewer migraines, and the duration of the attacks was also reduced. Unfortunately, the intensity of migraines remained the same. The patient’s benefits usually start within a month of taking riboflavin, with maximum effect seen after three months of daily use.
The markets are flooded with natural remedies for migraines and almost every other ailment. Rarely, however, are these scientifically supported by clinical trials.5 Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one of the few natural supplements that has been extensively studied and more recently found to help prevent migraine headaches.6
CoQ10 is a naturally occurring compound in the body used for cell growth and protection against free radical damage. Animal studies have shown CoQ10 to help with immune system function, and it helps protect against certain types of cancers.
A trial published in Cephalalgia found that CoQ10 is essential in the mitochondrial electron transport chain and thus in the treatment of mitochondrial disorders. Because of its behavior within cells, it was thought CoQ10 could be helpful in the prevention of migraines as well, so researchers decided to investigate this further.
In a large-scale study, slightly more than 60 percent of patients taking 150–600 mg of CoQ10 daily had at least a 50 percent reduction of migraine frequency by the end of the four-month trial. Furthermore, this supplement was found to be helpful in migraines with and without aura.
With the very few side effects (mostly gastrointestinal complaints like nausea), it was concluded in this large-scale study that CoQ10 is an excellent addition to migraine prevention measures. It can be given to nearly any age group without the potentially dangerous side effects associated with prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Generally speaking, it will take between six and 12 weeks for supplementation to relieve patients’ migraines. Patients can try one of the aforementioned supplements at a time or all three at once, and they should have their urine checked periodically for intracellular magnesium levels.
Brenda Slovin, DC, has been in private practice since 2001. She is the founder and clinic director for a large practice located in Norwalk, Connecticut. Slovin uses some of the most sophisticated, yet practical, scientifically-based nutritional therapies to prevent and reverse migraines. She can be contacted at 203-840-0000 or through endmigrainesnow.com.
1 Goadsby PJ. Recent advances in the diagnosis and management of migraine. BMJ. 2006;332(7532):25-9.
2 MacGregor A. (2006). Understanding Migraine and Other Headaches. Poole: Family Doctor Publications (BMA).
3 Smith CB. The role of riboflavin in migraine. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1946;54:589-91.
4 Schoenen J, Lenaerts M, Bastings E. High dose riboflavin as a prophylactic treatment of migraine: results of an open pilot study. Cephalagia. 1994;14(5):328-329.
5 Evans RW, Taylor FR. “Natural” or alternative medications for migraine prevention. Headache. 2006;46(6):1012-18.
6 Sandor PS, Di Clemente L, Coppola G, et al. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 2005;64(4):713-5.