'Oh my aching head!' Cause and treatments of migraines

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by Kelsey Starks

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 29 at 8:02 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- You might call it a sinus headache or just a daily dilemma. We have all had headaches, but you could be suffering from a migraine and not even know it. Twelve percent of Americans have migraines. This means it affects more people than asthma and diabetes combined. You might be surprised at what is causing the aches and what is now being used to treat it.

Kim Nicodemus says a headache could keep her in bed for days. It's no regular headache; Kim suffers from chronic migraines. After 15 years of trying various treatments, a year ago she met Dr. Brian Plato, a neurologist at Norton Neuroscience Institute. He is taking a new approach.

"Integrative medicine is taking what we know as western medicine and using other alternative approaches to integrate them together," Dr. Plato said.

Dr. Plato says everything from what you eat to how much medicine you take can trigger headaches. Hormones play a major role and what works for one person doesn't always work for everyone.

"We take an overview approach to the problem," Dr. Plato said.  "And sometimes we find we have to detox patients from the medicines they are on first."

For Kim's specific condition, he recommended Botox.  It's well known to get rid of wrinkles, but it's getting a reputation in the medical world for getting rid of migraine pain too.

"What botox does, it attach[es] to the nerve, preventing the release of that chemical, making the muscle not contract as much," Dr. Plato said.  "We think it also changes how the brain is receiving and comprehending the message it is getting from the nerves."

Botox treatments can cost up to $5,000. The treatment is recommended every 12 weeks.

"Some insurance companies balk at the idea," Nicodemus said. 

"It's FDA approved," Dr. Plato said.  "And once they realize the impact it has on patients' ER visits, rescue medication and preventative medicines, most will accept the cost."

Kim says the 31 small injections she gets every 12 weeks don't hurt but feel a lot like acupuncture, which she has also tried as a migraine treatment. 

"I was surprised because the first time I couldn't move my forehead," Nicodemus said.  "My forehead is paralyzed."

But so is her pain. She says the length and intensity of her headaches has decreased dramatically.

Not every case is like Kim's. In fact, every headache patient is different. To learn more about why you may be suffering from frequent headaches or migraines and how you can best treat them, call the Norton Neuroscience Institute at (502) 629-1234 or visit NortonHealthcare.com/HeadacheandConcussion to find out more.

The Institute hosts a monthly clinic called "Headache School" where you can learn more and talk to doctors for free.  Upcoming clinics include:

April 11: "Managing the Medication Maze"

May 16: "Diet and Headaches"

June 13: Women and Headaches

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