June has been Migraine Awareness Month. I had planned to do a few posts about migraine, what it is, who gets it, how disabling it can be, new treatments….ect… unfortunately I’ve been having some severe migraines this month and simply haven’t been able to focus well enough to write and get all the facts straight. It’s not just the pain of the migraine that has stopped me, it’s all the other symptoms that go with it, the fogginess, nausea, insomnia, sensitivity to light, sound and smells….I simply can’t concentrate or get things done.
New Migraine Doctor – On Tuesday I saw a new migraine specialist. He’s with Banner Health/University of Arrizona’s neurology department. First impression, he was pretty thorough, and seemed to know what he was doing, however, there were some things he said that I felt were just rude, but it may just be his sense of humor that I didn’t get. For example, after we went through my history he looked at hubby and said, “Did you know she had all these issues before you married her?” Then he laughed a little and said he was joking, but honestly that did not make me feel good at all. But he did take the time to go over my records and listen. At first I felt that he was going to be a butt, because when I told him all my different types of headaches (chronic migraine, vestibular migraine, cluster headaches, and Intracranial Hypertension), he said, “I don’t believe it” He questioned if I could have Intracranial Hypertension on top of the rest. I told him I had numerous lumbar punctures and that diagnosis came from Duke, he seemed to understand then that I really have been diagnosed with these things, they weren’t just speculation. We went through a huge list of drugs I’ve tried and if they worked at all, and we discussed other treatments that haven’t worked (acupuncture, chiropractic, a ton of supplements….). He finally said, “So, it sounds like nothing has worked” and I agreed. (Oh, I was given a complete exam, testing all my reflexes, checking my optic nerve….he really was thorough) He left the room for a moment and came back with a gammaCore.
Using the gammaCore – The gammaCore is a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator. It’s pretty darn cool actually. Most of what I’m including next can be found on the gammaCore site, you can read more about it there if you’d like. https://gammacore.com/
“gammaCore (nVNS) sends gentle, patented stimulation through the skin to activate the vagus nerve, providing relief from migraine and cluster headache pain in a different way than drugs.
- The vagus nerve is an important highway of communication between your brain and many parts of the body
- The vagus nerve plays an important role in regulating pain”
He gave me a demo and it was interesting. You take this little device and put a gel on the electrodes then place it on your neck, right where you’d check someone’s pulse, you increase the signal until you get the results you are looking for (a twitch of your mouth or side of your face) you keep it there for 2 minutes and it cuts off by itself. They say there’s a beep, but I can’t hear it, I just notice that it stopped, I don’t know why you’d need a beep to tell you that it stops, you can feel it. People like to give sounds for all kinds of things that really don’t need them, in my opinion anyway. After it stops on one side, you repeat it on the other side, and that’s it. That’s a treatment. If pain persist after 20 minutes, do it again. After 2 hours, if you still have pain, or if it returns, repeat a treatment.
I will be receiving my gammaCore in the mail in a few days. The first month is free, I don’t know how much it will cost after that. When it was first approved earlier this year Stuart called to see if insurance would cover it and they weren’t there yet. If it helps, I sure hope that insurance will cover at least part of it. You are supposed to use it at the first sign of migraine pain, unfortunately I am NEVER without a headache, so I need to use it at the first sign that it’s getting bad. I still don’t feel that the doctor understood that I have a headache ALL THE TIME. I actually plan on using it as often as I can to see if I can get some lasting relief, maybe I’ll actually have a day without a migraine! I am cautiously optimistic. If it doesn’t work, I haven’t lost anything. If it does work, I will have to decide if I can afford it.
One HUGE thing I hate about the gammaCore is that it’s disposable. Why can’t they make it so you can charge it or change the battery or something, having to replace this device every month is so wasteful and bad for the environment. I’m having a very hard time coming to terms with that. I can only think that they do it this way so that people will have to buy a new one each month, that’s just a rip-off. What am I supposed to do with all these used devices? If nothing else, they need a recycling program. (Yes, I will be suggesting this to them)
Medical Marijuana – I also had an appointment on Wednesday to get approved for my medical marijuana card. Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona and severe migraine is on the list of conditions that can be treated with it, so I decided to apply. I should get my card in a couple of weeks.
Full disclosure here, I have been using marijuana to help me for a couple of years now, but I had to rely on what I could get on the street, I don’t know the strains, or anything like that, so results have varied. Sometimes when the pain hits I can vape a little and it is gone, other times it just makes me feel funny, and other times it does nothing. I’m hoping that getting it from a dispensary where I will be assured of quality and will know what strains and hybrids I’m getting, I will be able to medicate more successfully; more pain relief with less high feeling would be optimal. After I started using a little every night before I go to bed (I made brownies) my vertigo has been reduced drastically. When I can’t get it, I have more vertigo again. This is not an approved condition in Arizona (Meniere’s is an approved condition in some states), but it should be. I can’t be 100% sure that it’s the marijuana that has helped my vertigo, but it would be some strange coincidence if it isn’t. It even helps stop an attack….if I start to have a vertigo attack I will vape just a little and it will often stop it, even if it doesn’t stop the vertigo, it stops the vomiting. I cannot stress how important that is. The only reason I will go to the ER with all of this (vertigo or migraine) is if I’m also dehydrated. Throwing up for hours on end will cause dehydration, I know that the marijuana has stopped me from going to the ER numerous times. I’m so very grateful I have found some relief through medicinals.
As I navigate this new world of treatment, I will post more about it and give you lots of updates. To learn more about how medical marijuana can help with migraines there’s a great article here: https://www.marijuanadoctors.com/conditions/chronic-migraine/
Now, it has taken me many hours to write this post, so I will close for now. Hopefully my head will calm down soon and I will be able to write more often. I would like to thank Lorraine for being so kind and helping me keep up my weekly Mindfulness Monday posts. They mean a lot to me and it was really hurting me when I couldn’t post. Thank you Lorraine, you are the best, I love you my friend!!
Have any of you tried the gammaCore? If not, would you?
How about medical marijuana, have you tried it? Did it help?
I’d really like to know your experiences.