When Migraines Require Lifestyle Change

Originally published April 5, 2024

Last updated April 9, 2024

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Man with headache exercising has chronic migraines and vestibular migraines.

Some patients need holistic treatment for migraine headaches beyond clinical procedures and headache medication alone.

Migraines can make it impossible to manage daily activities. Patients who experience severe, persistent migraine headache pain may seek medical care from headache specialists. What these experts often know is that some patients require migraine care that goes beyond prescription headache medication and clinical procedures alone. For these patients, multidisciplinary care from a team of experts is what can make the difference in managing migraine symptoms in the long term.

Interfering with daily life

Specialists at the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center, part of Keck Medicine of USC, recall a recent 52-year-old male patient who had a 14-year history of headaches. In addition to head pain, his headaches caused light sensitivity, nausea, fatigue and vertigo. Ultimately, the patient was diagnosed with chronic migraines and vestibular migraines.

The patient underwent various treatments at the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center, including botulinum toxin injections and eptinezumab-jjmr infusions. While these treatments worked, the team — led by a neurologist and a pain psychologist — knew that combining the treatments with additional health strategies would optimize their efficacy.

The patient’s care plan was expanded to include various types of therapy. Occupational therapists helped him incorporate strategies for managing headache symptoms, including how to self-monitor for early symptoms and how to intervene when symptoms worsened. Physical therapists, meanwhile, helped the patient improve his tolerance to visual and motion stimulation. The care team was even able to help the patient, who is an artist and a martial arts instructor, integrate his martial arts training in his vestibular and balance exercises.

The patient was also advised to make other holistic lifestyle changes, such as improving daily sleep routines and sleep quality. He was also taught about the mechanisms of pain and additional tools for “resetting” his nervous system’s stress response.

Mostly, the patient wanted to learn how to prevent migraines from restricting his daily activities. His care team taught him strategies for conserving energy in order to manage tasks during headaches. Occupational therapists provided further ways to build functionality back into his daily routine.

Ultimately, the multidisciplinary care from the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center helped the patient manage his chronic migraines and vestibular migraines and prevent them from overcoming his life.

Moving forward with purpose

Today, the patient says that the cumulative care he gained from the team empowered him and inspired him to feel hopeful about his ability to manage future migraines. “This program is the best thing I have,” the patient says. “It’s been so helpful.”

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