National Migraine Awareness Month

June is National Migraine Awareness Month, and we would like to recognize this by discussing a few current news articles and events surrounding migraines and how this misunderstood affliction affects our readers who suffer from migraines.  Migraines are very common in the United States, with the World Health Organization estimating that 37 million people suffer from them.  This includes 17 percent of women and 8 percent of men in the U.S. that experience some form of the condition.  Caused by many different triggers, there is no singular definitive cause for migraines, but many studies and tests increasingly point to types of hyperactivity in the brain.  New studies are beginning to shine some light on the causes of these debilitating headaches and how people can help mitigate the effects of migraines and continue to successfully contribute in their careers.

Several new studies are aiming to find the root causes of migraines.  In a June 10 study published in Nature Genetics, researchers have isolated two gene variants that are present in sufferers of migraines that were not found in the control groups.  This research builds on a previous study that identified three more gene markers that are linked to migraines.  Although this data may not have an immediate impact for sufferers, it’s an important step in identifying the areas researchers need to focus on in order to find successful, permanent cures and treatments.  Also, research has found links between changing weather and the occurrence of migraines.  Weather is known as one of the top five migraine triggers.  This study found that twenty percent of migraines were due to temperature changes, usually brought on by cold.

In the treatment field, there are several new studies that aim to more effectively mitigate the effects of migraines.  A University of Kent-led study beginning this summer is investigating the use of non-invasive neuro-stimulation.  Designed for severe migraines, this procedure is intended to replace surgical implants that are currently used as a last resort as well as in developing countries, where different types of alternative treatments are needed.  Another new study deals with behavioral treatments for migraines.  Behavioral therapy has been shown to not only treat but even help prevent migraines in many cases.  Unfortunately, too many physicians and patients aren’t aware of these results and don’t insist on such therapies.  Behavioral therapy is considered a “Grade A” treatment, meaning that the benefits almost always outweigh the risks of the therapy.  Migraines often lead to other disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.  These complications are often overlooked by migraines specialists but can be a very important part of a thorough treatment plan.

Outside of the scientific and medical fields, it’s crucial to remember some simple tips in order to keep migraines under control.  Our firm focuses on disability insurance, but we know our clients don’t want to be disabled forever and would love to reclaim their lives as soon as possible.  With this in mind, it’s important to remember these 10 vital tips to keep your head in the game while trying to work and keep migraines under control.

  1. Dim your triggers.  Every sufferer has different triggers.  It’s important to be aware of yours and mitigate their effect as much as possible.  For example, if you are bothered by the glare of computer screens, try using an anti-glare screen protector on your monitor.
  2. Check your work set-up.  If you work at a desk, make sure the ergonomics of your workspace are beneficial to your health.  For example, position your screen to be at eye level so you aren’t looking up or down.
  3. Drink more water.  Really!   Dehydration is one of the most common triggers of migraines.
  4. Limit caffeine.  Caffeine can be a trigger for some individuals, and it can dehydrate you as well.
  5. Avoid salty foods.  Salty foods also dehydrate you, and you’ll have to drink more to make up for it.
  6. Don’t go hungry.  Hunger is another common trigger of migraines.  When you’re busy at work, skipping lunch is tempting to do.  But that can cause more harm than help if it causes a migraine.  Eating balanced, healthy meals will help prevent an episode.
  7. Get a change of scenery.  Build in a short break every so often in your day.  Take a short walk or practice meditation and a quick self-massage during your lunch break.  Cutting the tension of work can help prevent triggers.
  8. Reduce job stress.  Stress is the single most common trigger for migraines.  Create a schedule to stay focused on manageable tasks so you don’t become overwhelmed.
  9. Call for back-up.  Certain jobs don’t leave much time for a break.  Don’t be afraid to involve your manager, your wellness or human resources department if you need to pause for a break.  This will help keep you able to work and reduce the chances of losing productivity or even becoming disabled from migraines.
  10. Schedule downtime.  Most jobs are stressful, so it’s important to take vacations.  Using your vacation days in small amounts is better than saving them up for a large trip and will help keep your triggers at bay.

Many people don’t realize the pain and suffering that those who experience migraines go through every day.  And, there are people who suffer from migraines that don’t respond to any current treatments.  Research now being conducted, as in the studies mentioned above, will hopefully develop more effective treatments to help these individuals reclaim their lives.  Our firm has helped several clients who had to stop working because no matter what they did, no matter what they tried, migraines would not allow them to work.  If you need help with your disability benefits or would like to find out more about our firm, please call (855) 828-4100 or sign up for a free consultation.  For more information on migraines, please visit the National Migraine Association or the American Migraine Foundation.  As always, please feel free to relate your stories or comments below.

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