The headaches began after Karin Schwab turned 40. They struck as often as twice a week, lasted for half a day or more and felt like “knives stabbing” at her forehead. The Sharon, Ont.-based homemaker had to lie down with her eyes closed to block out light until the pain dissipated. Her GP diagnosed her with migraines, after a CT scan ruled out other potential ailments. On his advice, Schwab cut out certain food groups including caffeine, chocolate and dairy—all to no avail. Then she tracked weather changes, and discovered that the migraines clustered in the spring and fall when temperature fluctuations were frequent and dramatic. (A naturopath weighs in on the causes of headache and migraine pain.) For the next 10 years, she learned to live with the chronic condition, and took a prescription migraine medication as needed.
The breaking point
“I was sick and tired of taking medication,” says Schwab. “Some weeks in the spring or fall, I was taking it five times a week.” These medications can help if it’s a headache you’re dealing with.
To find a new way to alleviate her migraines.
In the fall of 2008, Schwab’s husband noticed an ad for a local pain relief clinic, laserpainrelief.ca. Eager to try something new, the then 51-year-old booked a consultation appointment and signed up for 20 sessions (five times a week) of a laser therapy called MedX Phototherapy, combined with sessions of traditional acupuncture.
The biggest obstacle
Schwab says she was disconcerted by the idea of the needles used in acupuncture. But she convinced herself to give it a go through sheer determination to take charge of her migraines. Her first acupuncture treatment was not at all scary. “You can feel the needles go in,” she says, “but it doesn’t hurt.”
The migraines never returned. Within the first few weeks, Schwab experienced only mild pressure in place of the usual pain. “I was so happy!” she says. “I regret that I didn’t try it sooner.” She continues to be migraine free, even after experiencing major temperature changes vacationing in Jamaica this winter. Schwab will continue with maintenance treatments, once a month or as needed.
- Find the cause
“I was really lucky to have a doctor who helped me identify the cause.” Schwab encourages migraine sufferers to search for their triggers, rather than simply treat the symptoms.
- Try different options
Schwab is grateful that laser and acupuncture treatments worked for her. But if they hadn’t, she says, she would have kept on experimenting with other remedies. “You can’t give up.”
- Be optimistic
During treatment, Schwab made a point of maintaining an open mind. “When I started treatment, I told myself, this is going to work. You have to think positive; otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and money.”
Next, learn about how to deal with frozen shoulder pain.
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