UMN Medical School Department of Neuroscience Helps Forge New Path Towards Headache and Migraine Research and Care

More than four million people in the United States suffer from chronic migraines. Some experience at least 15 migraines per month, and nearly 50 percent of those are never diagnosed. Experts with University of Minnesota Health and University of Minnesota Medical School are now offering patients a program unlike any other in the metro, state and region.

What sets the new Headache Care Program apart is the expertise of and direct connect to the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Neuroscience. Understanding the root cause of neurological disorders, including headaches and migraines, paves the way for the development and implementation of new therapies and treatment. These new strategies are especially important, as traditional prevention strategies with medication often fail when it comes to headaches and migraines: 71% of patients are non-adherent after 6 months and 13% still have one or more ED visits a year.

“It’s really an exciting time to be treating headaches because we have so many more options available to us just in the last few years,” said Abby Metzler, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “We’ve had a new class of medications come out now, specifically to prevent migraines, that have been taken from the lab and put into the clinic.”

One such example is Monoclonal Antibody Injections which treat chronic migraines. It was just approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2018. The injections bind either to CGRP or to the receptor for CGRP, blocking the peptide and preventing it from triggering the signals that would cause a migraine. This option is available through the new Headache Care program.

One in five women and one in ten men suffer from migraines. It is the most common genetic brain disease in the world. Symptoms of a migraine include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sometimes one to two days before the migraine itself sets in, followed by four to 72 hours of severe head pain, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to lights sounds smells.

“For most people there is no cure for headaches, but our program neurologists and physiatrists are trained to help patients understand their type of headache, such as migraines, tension headaches, or cluster headaches, and find a solution that helps decrease the intensity and frequency,” said M Health neurologist Sarah Benish, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Minnesota. “We develop a customized treatment plan with each patient and can connect them to resources like acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic care — there are options besides just taking medication.”

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.