When a killer headache or migraine hits, the average person takes over-the-counter medication like Excedrin or Ibuprofen, and crashes into bed in a dark room. Some people eventually make it to the doctor to get a preventative prescription medication.
But are there any other options for chronic headaches and migraines besides the typical over-the-counter or prescription medication? There are some surprising alternatives to try, especially if a pill isn’t cutting it.
A new pilot study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology is testing a new treatment method for "suicide" or cluster headaches, ScienceDaily reported.
Researchers would use a needle-like tool inserted up the nose to inject Botox into a nerve bundle. A Botox injection could stop a “flow of impulses along the nerves,” according to researchers.
Dr. Houtan Chaboki, a facial plastic surgeon, said in an email that for some patients with “large jaw muscles” he will inject Botox as a method to slim their face. However, some patients with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) and teeth grinding have noticed they have less in the way of pain and headaches after the Botox sessions as well.
“Typically, I need to give a much higher dose into each masseter muscle, as compared to forehead wrinkles, for jaw volume reduction and pain improvement,” Chaboki said.
“Unlike Botox for wrinkles, results for masseter muscle treatment gradually develop over months, but the treatment needs to be repeated less often, usually after several months.”
He said insurance does not pay for these procedures so it can be pricy, and it needs to be done two to three times a year to keep lasting benefits.
There are other treatment methods that have been around longer but people may not know about commonly.
According to MedicineNet, trigger point injections are a pain management treatment. “TPI is a procedure used to treat painful areas of muscle that contain trigger points, or knots of muscle that form when muscles do not relax,” according to the article.
A needle is inserted into the trigger point, and sometimes injections contain a corticosteroid and local anesthetic, but a “dry needle” with no medication can also be used. After an injection, the trigger point is no longer active and the pain diminishes.
However, researchers note that trigger point injections have not always proven to be so effective.
A 2011 review in the journal Anesthesiology Research and Practice states that “there is so far no strong evidence for the effectiveness of trigger point injections, and many physicians consider trigger point injections a little more than, if not equivalent to, placebo effects.” The authors suggest the treatment could be more effective with ultrasound technology though.
Another treatment method for headaches is a nerve block. Dr. Joshua Tobin wrote about this treatment on the website for the American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education (ACHE).
“A nerve block is an injection onto or near a nerve,” Tobin stated. “It involves use of a syringe, a small needle, and medication to decrease or stop passage of nerve impulses.”
Nerve block injections can include a local anesthetic and corticosteroids.
He added that generally injections for headaches are done in the back of the head, and the most common nerve block type is the “regional occipital nerve block” or ONB. Some studies have been done, and it seems that it is currently most effective for cluster headaches.
On the Cleveland Clinic’s page for the 2013 Medical Innovation Summit, it mentions a specific nerve block for the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) nerve bundle. It is “located deep in the face, behind the bridge of the nose,” according to the website.
The website mentions that researchers have created a small implantable neurostimulator that can be situated into the upper gum. The tip of the device touches the SPG nerve bundle, and the patient can control the stimulation through a remote control device placed onto their cheek. The device has already been tested, proven to be effective in Europe, and is approved and available for use there.
There are also many options to treat or cope with migraines and headaches that don’t involve medication. Some of these are chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, acupuncture and diet changes. Other methods include sleep changes, exercise changes, food allergy testing, and avoidance of any food sensitivities.
What are some non-traditional ways that you have handled your migraines and headaches?
ScienceDaily. Botox to Treat ‘Suicide’ Headaches. Web. November 6, 2013.
MedicineNet.com. Trigger Point Injection (TPI) for Pain Management. November 7, 2013.
Wong, Clara and Wong, Steven. Anesthesiology Research and Practice. A New Look at Trigger Point Injections. Web. November 7, 2013.
Tobin, Joshua. Nerve Blocks for Headaches. Web. November 7, 2013.
Cleveland Clinic. 2013 Medical Innovation Summit. Top 10 Innovations for 2013. #2 Neuromodulation Therapy for Cluster and Migraine Headaches. Web. November 7, 2013.
Chaboki, Houtan. Email interview. November 5, 2013.
Reviewed November 7, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith