One late summer afternoon, two young women returned home from their 10-year college reunion. Although they were best friends in college, they hadn’t seen each other since they graduated.
A healthy lifestyle can help you thrive as you move through your life’s journey.
They were still very much alike; both had similar jobs working for technology companies, both were married with beautiful small children, and both had graduated with better-than-average grades. They were personable and filled with ambitious dreams for a wonderful future filled with family, friends, children, careers, love, health, and happiness.
One of the women’s lives was all she had ever hoped for—she had a wonderful, loving husband, great kids, and a challenging and exciting position in her company resulting in two promotions. She played tennis in her local ALTA league, occasionally golfed with her husband, and they both enjoyed going biking and hiking together with their kids as a family. She was active in her church, enjoyed cooking, and still found a little private time for exercise on her treadmill, reading her favorite mystery novels, and even having coffee with her girlfriends. Life was good.
Although all of this is true, she’d suffered terrible migraine headaches in college, and for the year or two that followed. But after that, she had moved on and no longer had any pain.
Her best friend, however, suffered from mild depression in college and took a prescription antidepressant to combat it. She now has debilitating migraines almost daily. She can barely go through a day at work and has missed quite a few days at the office due to her pain. She had been admonished that if she missed any more days she might be fired. When she gets home most days, she has to go straight to bed. Her husband dotes on her and often makes dinner for the kids.
They rarely go out, as she doesn’t have the energy to be very active. Physical pursuits are forbidden as they only make her pain much worse. The kids have their school friends but they don’t have a lot of fun together as a family. She watches a lot of TV, and sleeps even more. She takes medication daily to try to prevent the migraines or lessen their impact, and she’s tried so many pills from so many doctors that she’s lost count; no one and no pills have helped.
Have you ever wondered what can make this type of difference in people’s lives? The difference isn’t of capacity or luck. The two aforementioned women both started out with the same clean slate, and they both had the same severe migraines in college to contend with.
The difference lies in what each person knows and how they made use of that knowledge—and in the decisions they made and the actions they took. You have the power to make those choices, too. If you are living with chronic pain from migraines and no one has been able to help you, just understand that availing yourself to the right information can make all the difference in the world. So what are we talking about here? It all comes down to symptomatic relief vs. treating the underlying cause.
Traditional medicine, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies are all optimized for quick-fix symptomatic relief when it comes to headaches and migraines. In most cases the diagnosis is made strictly from what the patient reports anecdotally, not from extensive testing. The average doctor’s visit might be five minutes in length, resulting in the patient leaving the office with a handful of prescriptions.
If they help, great. If not, there’s a good chance you’ll leave the doctor with some new prescriptions to try next time. This is the all-too-common scenario for most migraine sufferers. But be aware that there’s a price to be paid with your liver, kidneys, stomach lining, and heart for taking some of these drugs. The smiling, dancing people we see in all the television commercials for these pills may not be smiling if they have some of the side effects that we hear the announcer hastily mention in the ad’s last few seconds.
Masking or blocking symptoms can only take you so far. If the underlying physiological cause that’s driving the pain is not addressed and treated, the pain continues and possibly continues to deteriorate bodily tissue.
The solution starts with knowledge and understanding the physiology of pain. It starts with the mindset that masking symptoms and allowing the underlying driver of the pain to continue is no longer acceptable. There are doctors and specific treatment regimens that can accurately determine the cause of pain and successfully treat to eliminate it—not merely provide symptomatic relief.
Most migraine pain comes from the muscles of the head and neck and the trigeminal nerve. There is a close relationship between these structures, and each affects the other. It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into detail, but let it be known that the function of the offending muscles of the head and neck can be quantified with electromyography (EMG) tests, which identify and therefore help to successfully treat noxious signals to the trigeminal nerve, which potentiates headaches and migraines.
So, which of the two ladies will you more closely emulate? I hope it’s the lady who knew what to look for and what questions to ask her doctor for the right treatment of her migraines. If you take this approach, you can get on with enjoying your life without the chronic pain of migraine headaches. Migraines can be successfully treated without resorting to daily medications or a temporary quick-fix treatment designed to only mask symptoms. The information is available. The doctors are available. The treatment is available. Now it’s your turn to create a happy ending to your story.
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