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Migraine Pearls or Onions? 2/7/11

PearlsOrOnions125 When it comes to online Migraine information, the quality of what we find has quite a wide range. It can be bright, polished, and valuable, or it can be... well, rough and stinky.

This feature, "Migraine Pearls or Onions?," highlights both the Migraine Pearls I come across online and the stinky Migraine Onions.

Pearl100 So, first up...today's Migraine Pearl... the American Headache Society (AHS). The primary function of the American Headache Society is a professional society of health care providers dedicated to the study and treatment of headache and face pain. The Society's objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders. Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of this organization. AHS activities include an annual scientific meeting, a comprehensive headache symposium, regional symposia for neurologists and family practice physicians, publication of the journal Headache and sponsorship of the AHS Committee for Headache Education (ACHE) (description taken from their web site).

There are many reasons I respect the American Headache Society. Today, I want to point out that on the web site for their journal, there's a section for patients. That's right, for patients, and it can be accessed free of charge. Just go to www.headachejournal.org. The third section down in the left column is "FOR PATIENTS." There's a great deal of information there, including podcasts, patient education pages, article summaries, and much more. I strongly recommend visiting their journal site and bookmarking it so you can return to it easily.

While you're at it, you don't want to miss the section of their main site that's for patients and the public. Another site too visit and bookmark - www.AcheNet.org. I'm honored to be serving as an advisor to ACHE, the AHS Committee for Headache Education, so I can tell you first-hand how much concern and work is being put into enlarging and improving this site. My thanks go to the AHS!

Onion100 Now, on to today's Migraine Onion. This one is an article - "Headache and Migraine Medication Types," by Cricket Webber at BellaOnline. Before I go into the details of why I think this article is "a stinky onion," let me clarify a few points:

  • Webber's intentions are good.
  • Webber is not one of the spammers and scammers out to make $$ from the misery of Migraineurs.
  • She is not pushing a product.

So, why is this article an onion? Because it's inaccurate. Allow me to point out some of the inaccuracies to be sure you have the correct information:

  • Webber talks about only two types of medications for Migraines and headaches - pain relievers and "preventative" medications. She says, "Also included in the pain reliever category are medications such as triptans and ergot." Triptans and ergotamines are not pain relievers; they are Migraine abortive medications that work to stop the Migrainous process in the brain. In stopping the Migrainous process, they don't just relieve the pain of Migraine, they stop the other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, etc. They will do nothing for pain that is not Migraine or Migraine-like (cluster headaches, some post-traumatic headaches).
  • She says, "As a last resort, your doctor may prescribe opiate pain relievers for your migraines. This option is generally reserved for people who cannot take triptans or ergots and for whom over-the-counter pain relievers do not work. Narcotic pain relievers are addictive, so your doctor will most likely only prescribe these after all other avenues have been tried." Addiction is not the main reason doctors don't like to prescribe opioids for Migraine. When you take opioids for pain, you do not become addicted. You might become dependent, but that's far different from addiction. Doctors don't like to prescribe opioids for Migraine for many reasons including their potential for causing medication overuse headache and research showing that any use of opioids increases risk of transformed Migraine.
  • Webber states, "Preventative medications are generally the best option if you experience headaches or Migraines because of an underlying health condition, such as high blood pressure, or if pain relievers so not work to relieve your Migraines and narcotic medications are not an option." This is not the criteria generally used to decide if preventive medications are advisable. If an underlying condition is triggering Migraines or causing headaches, the first step is to treat the underlying condition. Also, preventive medications are generally recommended when the patient has three or more Migraines per month or if their Migraines are especially severe or debilitating. For example: It would generally not be recommended that preventive medications be prescribed for someone who has a few mild Migraines a year.

I don't know how Webber researched this article (She doesn't list her sources.), so I don't know why this article isn't more accurate. Rather than write more about it, I'll remind you that an article being published online, even when it's on a significant network such as Bella, doesn't necessarily mean that the information is accurate.

When trying to determine the reliability of online information, here are a few things to look for:

  • What are the qualifications of the person providing the information?
  • When was it written? Advances in knowledge about Migraine and treatment options for it are advancing,. If information is very old, it may be outdated.
  • Does the author list the sources of information the used to write the material? If so, what are they? If not, why not? Is the material very common knowledge, or should they have listed their sources?
  • Is the site HONcode certified? Not all sites with reliable content are HONcode certified, nor is that the only criteria to use when determining the reliability of material, but it's a start. Sites that are certified will carry the HONCode seal that you can find at the top of the left column of this blog.

For more information on the types of medications used to treat Migraine, please take a look at Types of Migraine Medications: Preventive, Abortive, Rescue.

If you'd like to make a suggestion for a
Migraine Pearl or a Migraine Onion,
please leave me a comment!

Live well,



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© Teri Robert, 2011
Last updated February 7, 2011

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