Migraines are the third most common illness in the world, with around 12 percent of people in the U.S. suffering from this condition. Most people can't function normally when they are in the throes of a migraine due to the neurological symptoms caused by these severe headaches, making it the 6th most disabling medical condition in the world.
Typical Treatment Options
The most common treatments prescribed for migraine headaches include pain relievers and, for those with more severe migraines that occur often, preventative medications. These medications can help, but come along with their own potential side effects. Some people may be helped by another treatment option -- migraine surgery.
Migraine Surgery Basics
Migraine surgery procedures are meant to surgically decompress the peripheral sensory nerves found around the skull, which can make migraines less frequent, less severe, and of shorter duration. This is an outpatient surgery that usually takes one or two hours and doesn't involve cutting through the skull or operating on the brain. It also doesn't mean cutting the nerve, just removing some of the pressure from these nerves. General anesthesia is usually used, and people are typically able to resume all normal activities within two to three weeks. Most incisions are made so they'll be hidden in the eyelids, scalp, or back of the neck.
People who have identifiable nerve compression areas who don't get much relief from the medications usually used to treat migraines may benefit from migraine surgery. Common trigger sites include the forehead, temple, back of the head, or nasal area behind the eyes. Using BOTOX injections in these areas can give a good idea if surgery is likely to help since it works on the same principle of relaxing the muscles to release tension on the nerves.
Studies have shown that an average of 70 percent of people experience at least some improvement with this surgery, with about one-third having no more migraines after the surgery. This is a treatment, not a cure. People are often able to start enjoying activities that they were previously unable to do because of their migraines. This surgery will help with migraines triggered due to nerve compression, not those caused by other triggers, which is why not everyone benefits to the same degree and why it's important doctors select only to patients that are most likely to benefit from the surgery.
If you are considering migraine surgery, be sure to find a doctor that you trust.