Block migraine pain with a back-of-the-head injection

12:04 PM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
(AP file)
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(NBC) -- The 36 million Americans who suffer migraines would like you to know: A migraine is not "just a headache."

It's a neurological condition in which the person experiences an intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head, and it's usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, plus extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last four to 72 hours, and they can be so severe that they knock the sufferer out of commission until the pain subsides. Doctors use a combination of medications, physical therapy, nerve stimulation and even Botox treatments to help with the pain.

Wednesday morning on TODAY, we watched a procedure at Chelsea Community Hospital in Michigan called a nerve block, which can help ease migraine pain. "This is not a first line treatment. This is usually after people have exhausted medicines and other routine procedures," said Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor for NBC News.

A nerve block is an injection of a steroid into the occipital nerves, which are located in the back of the head. The injection reduces the inflammation and swelling of the tissue surrounding those nerves, which may also reduce pain. The patient -- explained Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute -- is sedated and given a local anesthetic before undergoing the procedure. If all goes as planned, the migraine sufferer would come out of sedation and feel better almost immediately after the procedure.

For people currently reliant on narcotics to manage their migraines, "it really allows them to get off medicines they don't want to be on anymore," Snyderman said.

(The Today Show)

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