Dr. Sharlin: How to Know If You Need Migraine Treatment

 In Brain Tune Up!, Chronic Migraine, Functional Medicine, Neurology

Samantha, a local bank manager, came to see me recently for her migraines. At the time of our first visit, she told me she was having as many as 8 migraine attacks a month. For her, an attack could last up to two days, which meant that at least half of every month was spent in the throes of this debilitating illness. Samantha struggled for a long time before she came to see me at Sharlin Health and Neurology. If you have been struggling with migraine pain, read on to learn how to know if you need migraine treatment.

The Pain Is a Problem

Weekdays or weekends, Samantha’s migraine pain was a persistent problem. When they hit at work, she would have to dim the lights in her office, close the blinds, avoid co-workers as much as possible, or hide out in the breakroom. She limited her time on the computer and on the phone. Work-related responsibilities were compromised because, though she rarely missed a day, migraine days meant less productivity — a fact that did not go unnoticed by her supervisor. 

When migraines hit at home, her life was equally affected – less time for herself, her husband, and her children. She had been treating her migraines with a pharmacopeia of over-the-counter pain medications. While these drugs seemed to provide temporary relief, the migraine pain would always come back. 

Workplace Worries

If you suffer from migraines, you have probably struggled with workplace absenteeism due to migraine pain. A 2009 presentation by migraine expert Dr. Steven Landy at the 14th Congress of the International Headache Society followed 509 migraine sufferers through 3 consecutive attacks. Landy and his colleagues found that, out of the total work time lost due to migraines, 43% was due to being absent from the job. No one likes calling in sick, and even though some employers allow for sick days and paid time off, frequent absence can ultimately threaten job security. 

What is even more striking is that presenteeism, or working while sick, was even more common. Presenteeism accounted for a whopping 57% of lost work time, according to Landy. Presenteeism impacts work productivity, job security, and the overall success of a business. The American Productivity Audit, a telephone survey of nearly 29,000 U.S. workers, found that health-related lost productivity cost employers $225.8 billion dollars per year in 2003. Migraines, specifically, have been estimated to cost employers about $20 billion each year. Finally, Landy found that 64% of migraines occurred on workdays!

Migraines Are Costing You Money

These are big numbers. Putting aside the total economic burden of illness to the workforce, it may also be interesting to know the average migraine sufferer is spending a large amount of money on the direct medical costs of the illness. This information was highlighted in The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study (2016). 

Focusing our lens on episodic migraines and chronic migraines, the costs are substantial. The total annual cost of episodic migraines, on average, is $2649 per person. The total annual cost of chronic migraines, on average, is $8243 per person. In both cases, 70 to 80% of the cost is due to drugs.

If the financial cost of living with migraines is not enough to convince you to seek migraine treatment, then perhaps the time cost may also be important to consider. The average work-time lost per episode was just over 2 hours, which adds up quickly if you have migraine half the days of every month.

In summary, consider the true cost of missing work, being at work but not functioning at your best, the economic burden to the U.S. workforce, the costs that come right out of your pocket, the costs that your insurance pays, and the time you lose while suffering migraines. All these factors need to be considered when you decide to seek migraine treatment.

You’re Ready for a Change

If you want treatment for your migraine, I’d like to help. 

At Sharlin Health and Neurology, we offer a variety of choices and solutions to our patients – an approach that makes us unique. This is because I believe everyone is different and the causes of migraines for one person are different than the causes of migraines for another person. And if that is true, why should the treatments always be the same?

Migraine Treatment Can Make a Difference

What happened with Samantha? Samantha needed help urgently. After taking a careful history, getting to know her as a person, reviewing her overall health, and completing a thorough examination, I recommended a medication to help prevent migraines that would not interfere with her ability to perform her job, and I made sure she was well-armed to treat the migraines that did occur. These are referred to as preventative and acute treatment strategies. 

Also, I had her stop taking all the over-the-counter medication that might actually be contributing to her migraines, both in terms of frequency and severity, a phenomenon called “rebound headache.” As my old Vanderbilt professor Dr. John Warner used to say, “Today’s medication causes tomorrow’s headache.”

Take Feeling Great to the Next Level With Dr. Sharlin

Treating Samantha’s migraines was a major first step, but she was also ready for more!

Because Sharlin Health and Neurology integrates the best of conventional medicine with holistic strategies, we were able to take a deep dive into factors that were contributing to her headaches in the first place. 

We discovered that when her sleep was optimized to a regular schedule of 7-8 hours per night, she eliminated sugar and processed foods from her diet, and took a few key supplements that targeted specific imbalances we identified from blood work, her migraines dramatically improved.

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