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The Women's Migraine Survival Guide

by Christina Peterson and Christine Adamec

Chapter One

What Is Migraine?

Her migraine came on without much warning, leaving Amy temporarily paralyzed. It felt like a vise tightening around her head, delivering a steady, throbbing pain interrupted only by the jackhammer drilling into one side of her skull. Amy couldn't go to work; she couldn't even leave the bedroom. In fact, the only thing she could do was to lay perfectly still on her bed in the dark; the slightest movement or trace of light or sound would deepen and intensify the pain.

This headache was worse than the one before it, but Amy was no stranger to the pain of migraine. She'd been down this excruciating road many times before. As she lay there, feeling comatose, Amy thought back to the first migraine she'd had as a young child. It hurt so badly that she'd begged her mom to chop off her head. If her mother were here today,she'd probably ask for the same mercy-anything to put her out of her misery.

If you're a woman who suffers from migraines, it's likely your experience resembles Amy's. It may provide you with some small measure of comfort to know that you're not alone-in fact, millions share your pain. And while men do ge migraine, this is no equal-opportunity disease. Of the estimated 23 million migraine sufferers or "migraineurs" in this country, 18 million are female. Most experts cite a lifetime ratio of three to one for female to male migraineurs.

Just which women are most prone to migraine?

They are women just like-and including-you and me. Though migraine can afflict people in just about any age group,from toddlers through the elderly, its most typical victim is a woman in her childbearing years, with one study showing women in their forties to have the highest incidence. And while people from every racial group are prone to "brain pain"(as migraine is often called), Caucasian women are somewhat more likely than African-American and Asian-American women to suffer. Recent studies show that those living in rural areas are slightly more likely to suffer from migraine than those living in major metropolitan areas. And it's long been established that migraine tends to run in families. If your mother, grandmother, or uncle had them, you're more likely to get migraine than someone with no family history of the illness. Although no one is sure why this is true, recent studies-contradicting earlier ones-show migraine to be more prevalent among individuals with less formal education than among those with college degrees. Despite all these likelihoods, however, we know that migraine afflicts individuals of all ages, racial groups, economic segments, and professions.

Although I am a neurologist specializing in migraine and headache care who's knowledgeable about the most advanced medical and pharmaceutical developments and breakthroughs in migraine research, even I am not immune to the strickening power of these vicious, throbbing headaches. In fact, I have suffered from the anguish of migraines since I was twelve years old. So prominently have they figured in my life that when I sat down to take my neurology boards, I was hit by a migraine. Sick to my stomach, my head pounding, I had no choice but to leave the room.

In this chapter I'll provide an overview of migraine and its key symptoms, lay out the different kinds of migraines, cover some theories on its causes, and review twelve common myths and facts associated with migraine. You can complete a questionnaire to help you determine whether what you're having is really a migraine or if it's another kind of monkey. In addition, I will discuss why women are more prone to migraine than men and touch on-get ready for this-the "good"news about migraine.

If you find that you do suffer from migraine, let me reassure you, both from the perspective of a physician and that of a fellow migraineur, there are ways of preventing these headaches and of treating the pain when a migraine does strike. I'll share insights with you about how I manage my own migraines. My goal in this book is to help, you to cope effectively with yours.

In later chapters I'll discuss the quantum improvements provided by new medications prescribed for migraine, many of which have just been introduced. They work for many women, including some who have found little or no pain relief from previous medications. Some of these new medications have the advantage of working very quickly-often in a matter of minutes-enabling women to maintain a normal life and not have to "stand down" and lose precious hours and days every time a migraine hits.

I'll also provide the latest information on alternative treatments for pain relief-from massage and acupuncture to aromatherapy and herbal remedies. Some of these solutions may never have occurred to you before and may greatly reduce both your pain and your incidences of migraine.

Perhaps even more significant, I will arm you with as much knowledge as possible to prepare yourself for the onset of a debilitating migraine. You may even be surprised to discover that preventive strategies described in this book ranging from keeping a migraine diary to recognizing and avoiding your personal food, hormonal, and lifestyle migraine triggers-will provide you with the best arsenal of relief yet.


But It's "Just A Headache"!

No doubt you've heard this aggravating phrase countless times before-perhaps from your friends, your boss, your coworkers, maybe even your spouse and children. To those people who think "it's just a headache," the obvious solution for you is to simply pop two aspirins (or some other over-the-counter painkiller) and get on with your life. Clearly, these people have never experienced the debilitating pain of migraine; they just don't get it.

"People hear the word headache and immediately think 'Tylenol," said Cindy, thirty-one, a patient and migraine sufferer for almost twenty years. "And I think, oh, terrific! A Band-Aid for a bullet wound!"

We'll teach you how to #LiveTo100!

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