New Treatment For Chronic Migraines

By: Rachel McNeill, NBC News Email
By: Rachel McNeill, NBC News Email

For those who suffer from migraine headaches, the pain can be debilitating. Now, there's a new procedure that's giving hope to patients when medications failed.

Kayleigh Smith is a patient at the Houston Methodist Headache Clinic. She said, "The first time I did this, I was like 'I don't care.' I wanted to get this done, but then after the first time it really helped."

Smith has suffered debilitating headaches since her junior year of high school. Most of the time, her migraines are triggered by sunlight and loud noises. According to Smith, some headaches were so bad she would be stuck in bed for at least a day or two.

Neurologist Dr. Howard Derman diagnosed Smith with occipital neuralgia, which is inflammation of the nerves in the back of the head.

Dr. Derman said, "Invariably, we find some tenderness in this area where the nerve exits the skull and what we do is we press on that area and we find they may have excruciating pain there."

When medications fail, doctors can treat such chronic migraine headaches with an occipital nerve block, using a steroid shot to get medicine near the nerve.

Fortunately for Smith, the length of time she needs to go between shots is getting longer and longer; whereas, it started every six to eight months and now it's about once a year.

Dr. Derman said, "It's safe, it's simple, patients come in and we don't put them under. They get to go back to work immediately; they can drive there (the doctor's office) and they can drive home."

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