Dear Dr. Gott: I am a 44-year-old female with migraines. After smoking for 15 years, I finally quit when my mother passed away from lung cancer. Almost immediately after quitting smoking, my migraines came back and were so bad that I couldn't function. Can you offer any suggestions?


Dear Dr. Gott: I am a 44-year-old female with migraines. After smoking for 15 years, I finally quit when my mother passed away from lung cancer. Almost immediately after quitting smoking, my migraines came back and were so bad that I couldn't function. Can you offer any suggestions?

 

Dear reader: I am not aware of any connection between smoking and migraines. However, in your instance, this is clearly the case. I cannot recommend you continue smoking in order to control the headaches. I can, however, try to offer you some advice and recommendations that you may not have tried.
If possible, retreat to a quiet, comfortable place at the first sign of a migraine. Turn off the lights, apply heat or ice to your head and neck, and gently massage the painful areas. For some, taking an aspirin or other OTC pain reliever with a caffeinated beverage such as a soda or coffee can boost the pain-relieving effects of the medication. Too much caffeine, however, may worsen the pain or lead to a withdrawal headache when the caffeine intake is stopped.
Typical prescription medications include antidepressants, antiseizure drugs and migraine-specific medications such as those you have tried. For some people, certain blood-pressure medications and other cardiovascular drugs may also be beneficial. However, because you have tried this without success, I recommend one of the following alternative treatments. Be sure you have physician approval first.
Acupuncture may provide positive results, even though it is not routinely recommended because scientific studies have failed to show strong beneficial evidence. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that utilizes special equipment to monitor and control certain physical responses. By understanding the body's response to certain stimuli such as tension, a person may be able to learn how to control and alter those responses.
The herbs feverfew and butterbur have shown some positive results in preventing or reducing the severity of migraines. High doses of vitamin B2 may also act as a preventive. Still others have had success with coenzyme Q10.
Finally, some migraine sufferers have had success with cervical manipulation; however, there is no scientific proof that chiropractic or spinal manipulation will help migraines. This treatment also carries the risk of arterial damage that may result in stroke or death. When performed by a qualified professional with experience, this is very rare.
I suggest you return to your primary-care physician or neurologist to discuss these options.
In the meantime, you should quit smoking. Substitute over-the-counter nicotine patches or gum to reduce the severity of your migraine symptoms during this stressful period.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Headaches." Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website at www.AskDrGottMD.com.