Migraine Headaches…Is there Any Relief?
By Dr. Nicholas Howland
My first experience with a migraine wasn’t even my headache. It was my wife. We had only been married a few short weeks when she awoke one morning complaining of a terrible headache. Despite those who would say this was probably just a side effect of being married, especially to me, I knew that this headache was different! We spent most of the day trying to comfort her. Loud noises, bright light, and any movement only aggravated the terrible pain—“daggers behind my eye…constant daggers,” was the only description she could afford. Cold compresses, caffeine, Excedrin migraine extra strength, foot massage…all of this was tried with little relief. That first experience was in 2007. Little did I know that thousands of miles away, in Ohio of all places, there was a plastic surgeon that was doing groundbreaking work in not only providing relief for migraines, but actually curing them.
Dr. Bahman Guyuron is the current plastic surgery chairman at Case University Hospitals in Ohio. In 2000, he had a patient who had undergone a forehead lift procedure tell him that surprisingly, ever since her surgery, she had not experienced any migraine headaches. Dr. Guyuron began to look into this phenomenon and found that several of his patients who had forehead lifts and a history of migraine headaches had significant improvement or total relief of their migraines. Researching further, he developed a theory that many migraine headaches are the result of nerve compression. This compression causes the release of neurotoxins that lead the symptoms of migraine. He identified several “trigger points” or sites of peripheral nerve compression, and developed specific surgical procedures for nerve decompression of these trigger points. Since that remarkable finding in 2000, over 24 peer-reviewed journal articles have been published in relation to these procedures. Between 80-92% of patients treated experience at least a 50% reduction in their migraine frequency. Approximately one-third of those treated have complete relief.
Migraine surgery is now one of the fastest growing outpatient procedures performed in the US. And yet, in my own experience, it seems to be one of the most under recognized, or underappreciated. When you tell someone that they should see a plastic surgeon for help with their migraine headaches, they are quick to question your judgement. However, Botox, a drug commonly associated with plastic surgeons, has been used for treatment of migraines for years. In fact, it was FDA-approved for this very purpose in 2010. Interestingly enough, the method by which Botox helps migraine symptoms only further confirms Dr. Guyuron’s nerve compression theory. Botox is a neurotoxin that paralyzes affected muscle. This paralysis helps to relieve the very same “trigger points” that Dr. Guyuron’s surgical procedures target.
The next time you or even your spouse suffers a migraine headache without relief, don’t give up hope for treatment that works! Talk to your local plastic surgeon.