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HeadWay, Issue #110 -- Answering (some of) Your Questions!
August 21, 2013

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In this issue:

Answering Your Questions

Say what?! Beta Blocker

Answering Your Questions

It's been a while since I dedicated an issue to answering your questions.  So - it's time!  Thanks for all your great comments and questions - I wish I could get to them all.

What is migraine?  I understand that a couple years ago, migraine had always been understood as a cardiovascular problem.  Yet, recently specialists and the NIH pronounced it as a neurological disorder.  If it so, why do Beta-Blockers work as preventative? . . . Why do meds geared towards blood pressure work on a neurological disorder? ~ Fadia Elia (USA)

Excellent question!  In the past few years, researchers have increasingly come to believe that migraine is not simply caused by changes in blood vessels.  There is no doubt that migraine is much more complex.  With modern techniques we can see physical changes in migraineurs during an attack - even differences in their brains and biology when they're not having an attack!

But this does not mean that the cardiovascular system is not involved.  It clearly is.

As with most migraine medications, we're not sure exactly how beta-blockers prevent migraine in some people.

Think of your body's system as a spider's web.  Everything is connected, but in a very complicated way.

Now any given drug probably has a number of "mechanisms" - ways that it changes things in the body.  A medication or supplement is going to touch one or more parts of the web.  The threads will change and vibrate.  And everything will be influenced in various ways.

Tracking those changes in a human body is far more complex, and we can only get partial answers.  That's why we're always discovering new things about old medications and supplements - new ways they can help you, and also new things to be cautious about.

These medications may work for migraine because of how they impact blood vessels - but that's only one theory.

You might be interested in the recent post: Migraine: Are Blood Vessels to Blame After All? and the previous HeadWay issue Blood Vessels and Migraine.

What can one do when one gets over 10 migraines per month and your specialist says 'live with it'.  I live in a small county town so I had to travel into the city to see the specialist.  I get this all the time from docs over here - they think its all psychosomatic . . . Sandee (Australia)

Unfortunately, this is a question I get all the time.  Basically from people who aren't getting good treatment, and yet they have very few options where they are.

In a perfect world everyone would have access to good treatment, but that's not the case.

Sandee, on the bright side, you and people like you will learn the hard way that you are the one who has to take control of your treatment.  Many people with lots of options just bounce from doctor to doctor without taking responsibility.

You, on the other hand, don't have that option!

Back in February, we talked about "How to Reboot Your Treatment Plan".  I would recommend you start with the suggestions there, one by one.

If your specialist thinks that "it's all in your head", you may simply need to try another doctor, even if they're not a specialist.  But before you change doctors, take the time to do your homework.

I have a question for you!!  My doctor and I have notice a pattern in the amount of my aura migraines, in both spring and fall!  They are a lot more frequent and come on real fast!!  Could the pressure in the air have anything to do with that??? ~Francine (Canada)

That's great that you're keeping track of your attacks.  That will be a big help to you.

You're not alone in noticing a seasonal pattern to your attacks.  In a survey we did back in 2007, for example, there were people who noticed their symptoms were worse in certain seasons.  Spring was the worse offender.

Yes, barometric pressure could be a part of it.  Histamine, related to allergic reactions and hay fever, could also be to blame.

Here are some articles you might like to check out that could help you get to the root of the problem: I have headaches from concussions.  Is it possible to get barometric headaches as well?  I find that I'm getting headaches when the whether chances as well. ~Dan (Canada)

I threw this in because it's related to the one above.  The answer is yes, absolutely.  You could be getting more than one type of headache, or you could have post-concussion syndrome.

Here it's very important to get a correct diagnosis, because your treatment may be different depending no your type of headache.  Keep careful records of your symptoms, and note when they started.  Share these with a doctor who knows your medical history.

That's all we have time for today!  We'll try to get to more of your questions soon.  Keep them coming!

Say what?!  Beta Blocker

Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are a class of medications used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and migraine.   Beta blockers work in various ways on the nervous system, with results such as slowing the heart rate and dilating blood vessels, depending on the type of beta blocker.  Although there is no agreement about how beta blockers work as migraine preventatives for some people, many believe that the influence on cardiovascular function is at least part of the story.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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