Procedure offers shot of relief for migraine sufferers

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - About one in five people suffers from headaches and for some, it can be so debilitating, they are unable to function.

An outpatient procedure is giving new hope when medications have failed.

Kayleigh Smith came to the Houston Methodist Headache Clinic for a shot of relief.

"The first time I did this I was like, 'I don't care. I wanted to get this done.' But then after the first time, it really helped," said Kayleigh.

Since her junior year of high school, Kayleigh has suffered from debilitating headaches.

"I do everything I can to stop it, but most of the time it just takes over," Kayleigh explained.

Her migraines were often triggered by sunlight and loud noises.

"It's so bad I am just stuck in bed for at least two days," Kayleigh said.

Neurologist Dr. Howard Derman, the director of the Houston Methodist Headache Clinic, diagnosed her with occipital neuralgia, which is inflammation of the nerves in the back of the head.

"Invariably, we find some tenderness in this area where the nerve exits the skull and what we do is we press on that area and we find they may have excruciating pain there," Dr. Derman said.

When medications fail, doctors can treat such chronic migraine headaches with an occipital nerve block using a steroid shot.

"If we can put some medicine directly near the nerve, then it will help with the inflammation of that nerve," Dr. Derman explained.

"As long as it makes me feel better, then I don't really mind getting it done," Kayleigh said.

Fortunately for Kayleigh, the length of time she needs to go between shots is getting longer and longer. She started getting a shot every six months, then eight months and now it's about once a year.

"It's safe. It's simple. Patients come in, we don't put them under, they get to go back to work immediately," said Dr. Derman. "They can drive here. They can drive home."

"They've helped me and I really think that it's going to help a lot of other people," Kayleigh said.

Migraines are more common in women. Genetics, hormonal issues, weather changes, even certain foods such as red wine can exacerbate the problem.

But, for about 70 percent of patients, nerve blocks can be successful treatment.

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