Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Migraine Misery?

My daughter has been having migraine symptoms, which are scary. Her doctor said the headaches were "classic migraines," but to be safe, he ordered a CT scan. Are there other tests he could have performed to determine whether her headaches are migraines?

Answer (Published 10/2/2009)

The term "classic migraine" usually refers to one-sided headaches preceded by an "aura" - seeing visual changes like flashing lights or zigzag lines about a half an hour before the headache sets in. These can be pretty intense with throbbing pain in the forehead, temple, around one eye, or even in the jaw or ear, often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. There are no specific medical tests - no X-rays or other scans that identify headaches as migraines. Instead, doctors usually can make a diagnosis on the basis of a patient's symptoms and medical history. CT scans are sometimes done to exclude the possibility that something else is causing the headaches.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Not all migraines are "classic" - you can have a migraine without an aura or accompanying nausea or vomiting. Once you've got a diagnosis, you can focus on prevention. As a start, keeping a diary of what she eats may enable your daughter to identify any foods that might trigger the headaches.

In women, migraines often occur with the hormonal changes prior to menstruation. Changes in weather, lack of sleep, stress, and skipping meals can all bring on the headaches. Neurologists who treat migraines recommend trying to maintain a regular daily routine in order to hold the headaches in check. They also recommend regular, aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week to reduce frequency and severity.

Conventional medicine treats migraines with drugs called triptans. These drugs can relieve many migraines but are not free of side effects, some of which are serious.

Many alternative treatments are available, both to relieve and prevent migraines. A study published in the December 28, 2004, issue of Neurology found that patients who took two 75 mg tablets of the herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) cut headache occurrence by an average of 48 percent (compared to 26 percent among patients who received a placebo). When buying butterbur, choose extracts guaranteed to be free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), compounds that are toxic to the liver. Take butterbur with meals.

Another possibility is high-dose vitamin B-2. A Belgian study published in the February 1998 issue of Neurology found that 400 mg of B-2 reduces the frequency and duration of migraines. You'll need a doctor's prescription to get that dosage.

Biofeedback training can also help.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here