HEALTH / Migraine: How two sufferers broke the pain barrier

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The Independent Culture
SUMATRIPTAN: A NEW WONDER DRUG?

Brian, a 51-year-old consultant to the oil industry, inherited migraine from his father. He had his first attack when he was about 14, and thereafter would get them between once a week and once a fortnight.

'There's a pain on one side of the head over the left eye, of an intensity quite unlike anything I've ever experienced. It feels like a cold knife going into and around the eye. The pain is a throbbing one, and just to think or move makes it unbearably intense.

'I used to have to take painkillers, go into a darkened room and keep still until the pain subsided. Sometimes it was so bad that my wife had to call the doctor to give me an injection.'

Brian, who has two grown-up children and lives in Surrey, tried various remedies such as acupuncture, relaxation techniques and tranquillisers, but they all had drawbacks of one kind or another. 'The first real breakthrough was when my doctor prescribed beta-blockers (drugs normally used to lower blood pressure). They made a huge difference and cut down the frequency of attacks.

'Then, just over a year ago, I was prescribed the new migraine drug, Sumatriptan. It was a revolution, really. I inject it and the pain decreases within 20 minutes; within an hour I am OK to function fairly normally again.

'The impact is on two levels. It has taken away the dreadful pain and I can now plan to do things without fear of being struck down. My GP is very good about prescribing it. He admits it is expensive but because he has been called out sometimes when I am in the middle of an attack, he knows how bad my migraine can be.'

Brian now only gets a migraine about once a month, which he thinks is partly due to retiring from his job as an oil company personnel manager to become a consultant. 'I am living a better lifestyle now.'

NUX VOMICA: THE HOMOEOPATHIC WAY

Marie Garioch's migraines started when she went through an early menopause at the age of 44. They came every two weeks, lasted three to four days and were accompanied by severe nausea and vomiting.

'They were quite debilitating. There were times when my husband had to come home from work because I was vomiting so much I became dehydrated. I had a heightened sense of smell and could not bear even the smell of the chlorine in the tap water.

'There is something very depressing about getting a migraine on a glorious summer's day. You are lying in a darkened room with an ice-pack on your head, and even the sound of the birds is too much for you. I felt like a troglodyte; I wanted to crawl away into a dark cave.'

Mrs Garioch, now 56, who lives in Bexleyheath, Kent, tried a range of remedies from beta-blockers and anti-depressants, which work for some people, to acupuncture and the herb feverfew. None of them was any use.

Early last year she agreed to take part in a trial of homoeopathic remedies for migraine at the Charing Cross Hospital, London (see main story). She did not know until the trial ended what she was being given, but it immediately stopped the vomiting. 'I was told at the end of the trial that I had been taking the remedy nux vomica. My headaches have also become less painful, and the duration has halved - but that may be due to the natural course of events.'

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