Migraine Relief

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

Sept. 29, 2011

*Link to original article here

Imagine waking up in pain every day for more than 20 years.

Jennifer Hovestadt was hospitalized for her first migraine at the age of 14 where she spent four weeks undergoing testing and treatments. Every day since has been a struggle for the 36-year-old.

Making plans with her friends is not possible when her only focus is pain. Not only does pain affect her social life, but her livelihood.

“Sometimes I only work a couple of days a week,” she said. “Sometimes only a couple of hours in a week.”

It isn’t just a headache. Migraines are an often debilitating condition that can leave people reliant on medication for their entire lives. A 2010 Statistics Canada health report showed that among Canadians ages 12 to 44, 1.8 million reported suffering from chronic migraines.

Hovestadt has tried prescription medications, but nothing offered her relief.

“I have tried everything else,” she said. “I just take Tylenol 3. The other medications don’t work.”

What was worse was the side effects.

“I’ve put on so much weight from the other medications,” said the Cambridge resident.

Looking for relief
When prescription drugs, such as Zomig and Imitrex, no longer offer relief, many sufferers turn to acupuncture as an end-of-line treatment option.

Fed up with the effects of pain and medications, Hovestadt decided to attend a seminar at the Ontario Migraine Clinic in Georgetown.

Brendan Cleary, founder of clinic, initially opened Ah-Shi Acupuncture in 1997 and treated a number of ailments. Finding that his assessments worked exceptionally well with migraines, he opened the Ontario Migraine Clinic two years later.

Clients receive multiple treatments, spaced at about 90 minutes apart, reducing the need for frequent visits. This is especially helpful to those who travel great distances, says Cleary.

“I knew I couldn’t keep popping Tylenol for the rest of my life.”

As an acupuncture practitioner, Cleary has to work doubly hard at explaining assessments and treatments to prospective patients.

“Western medicine, it’s everywhere and we’re familiar with it, so we rarely question it,” said Cleary.

Peter Berardi was skeptical at first, but at the urging of family members who have witnessed his agony for decades, he decided to seek treatment from Cleary.

“I knew I couldn’t keep popping Tylenol for the rest of my life,” he said. “My liver wouldn’t take it.”

The Peterborough man has lived with migraines since he was a teenager. Simple pleasures, like going out to dinner with his wife, became unbearable.

“Someone would drop their fork or knife on the china plate,” he said. “It would be like someone banging cymbals up against my head.”

Committed to treatment, he travelled for his weekly appointments for about five months, even in snowstorms. Now 66, he no longer gets migraines.

Living a pain-free life is an obvious ideal, but if you experience a sudden migraine, there are people who understand and can help.

Getting help on campus
Tracy O’Donnell, the charge nurse at Sheridan College’s Davis Campus, knows all too well how migraines can affect people.

“They’re usually pretty bad,” she said. “By the time they get to us they’re in quite a lot of pain. A lot of the times they’re barfing, very sensitive to light, just having a really rough time.”

Students who are struck with migraine pain can visit Health Services for solace. There is a quiet rest area with a bed where students can recover.

“We do what we can to get them to feel better.”

Nurses are limited on what they can offer, she said. They can’t give out prescription medication, but if on site, the doctor can give injectable anti-nausea medication.

Migraine medication, such as Imitrex, is sometimes available in the college’s medicine cabinet for doctors to give in extreme cases, she said.

Doctors are usually on site about four days per week for scheduled appointments.

Headaches are a common ailment, but if you are experiencing persistent pain with visual disturbances or nausea, experts advise it might be a migraine. Seek medical attention and don’t worry about being perceived as a hypochondriac.

“I felt like, ‘OK, I’m not crazy,’ ” said Hovestadt. “When I say I have a headache every day, I’m not the only one.”

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