The real cost of unproven treatments

freeimage-4272523-highThere are so many treatment options to help manage migraine; it can be difficult to know what to try next. That’s why it’s so important to find a good headache specialist you can trust. Together, you can work as a team to create the best treatment plan that’s right for you. Migraine is a complex neurological disorder. Researchers have yet to determine what causes migraine, let alone discover a cure. That doesn’t mean there are no treatment options. In fact, there are hundreds that can be tried.

In addition to medication, trigger avoidance, and lifestyle management, there are a growing number of questionable, unproven treatments. Desperate for safe, effective options, many of us will seriously consider one or more of these treatments. We may even decide to try a few of them. At best, we will get lucky and find some relief. At worst, these treatments may create harm or delay us from getting proven treatments.

With a shortage of headache specialists, health care providers from all disciplines are jumping into the migraine treatment arena. Dentists, chiropractors, plastic surgeons, cardiologists, physical therapists, naturopaths, and even unlicensed, untrained wannabes are offering to treat, and even “cure” migraine. Some of the treatments have been subjected to clinical trials, but most have no good science to support their claims. They may or may not help the problem.

These controversial treatments are often tempting because they claim to be safer and longer-lasting than the tried-and-true treatment available from headache specialists. The ugly truth is that many of these options are only effective for a small fraction of patients. Often, patients reach for unproven treatments before they have even been properly diagnosed. Both patient and doctor may erroneously believe that migraine is the problem when another condition better explains the symptoms.

For the most part, controversial treatments aren’t necessarily bad or unsafe (although some can be). One big problem is that unproven treatments are rarely covered by insurance and come with a high price tag. These treatments also offer a false sense of hope by promising relief and/or a cure that isn’t possible. When a treatment fails, many times the patient is blamed for the failure because he or she “isn’t doing it right”.

Because patients often view controversial treatments as a “last resort”, depression can set in when these treatments fail. Patients start believing that there is no hope. Living with migraine is hard enough. The last thing we need are parasitic charlatans seeking to make a profit off our suffering. Don’t believe anyone who tells you there are no more options. There is always another option.

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