Finding Relief for Vestibular Migraine

Vestibular migraine is a neurological condition where people with migraines experience dizziness and other similar symptoms. Unlike a typical migraine, a headache may not always occur in vestibular migraine. However, vestibular migraines are no less debilitating.

People experiencing vestibular migraines will feel dizzy and off-balanced, similar to motion sickness. They might find it difficult to walk or speak correctly, or might feel as though speaking is hard or impossible. Vestibular migraines might prevent you from completing day-to-day tasks because they affect both your physical and neurological functions.

Here are some common symptoms of vestibular migraine:

  • Sensitivity to motion
  • Feeling unsteady or dizzy
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Problems balancing
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea or vomiting

How to Treat and Prevent Vestibular Migraine

Unfortunately, doctors aren’t sure what causes vestibular migraine. Because of the little amount of research, doctors focus most treatments on reducing the frequency of migraines. It’s sometimes tricky for doctors to diagnose a vestibular migraine because they’re not always accompanied by a migraine headache. People often feel dizzy for many reasons, so it’s not immediately obvious that someone suffers from vestibular migraine.

Luckily, there are still things you can try to prevent vestibular migraines. Some preventive measures include:

Changes to diet

The best-known advocate for a nutritional approach to preventing vestibular migraine is Alicia Wolf, author of “The Dizzy Cook” cookbook. Diagnosed in 2016 after having no history of migraine or vertigo, Wolf found relief in following the migraine diet developed by Dr. David Buchholz, MD, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Buchholz’s diet outlined a list of foods to avoid because they’re known to trigger migraines. Here are some examples of what to avoid on a vestibular migraine diet:

  • Chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Processed meats
  • Alcohol or vinegar
  • Citruses

The list of prohibited foods (most containing tyramine or histamine) is long, Wolf acknowledges. The key is using the list as a starting point and then testing potential trigger foods for four to five days in a row. However, this strategy can be tricky because your threshold for migraine varies. Weather, hormone levels and stress can make us more or less susceptible to migraines. In turn, we might get a migraine due to these outside factors but assume it was because of a food.

Doctors recommend using an elimination diet to see which foods might trigger your migraines. This strategy uses two different phases:

  • Elimination phase: During this period, you avoid all foods that could potentially cause a migraine. Then, you monitor your migraine frequency without all these foods.
  • Reintroduction phase: After two or three weeks, you can slowly start reintroducing these foods to your diet. Try adding one food at a time over several days, and carefully take note of whether it causes your migraines to return or worsen.

Medications

You can also try different medications for vestibular migraines. Some of these work best when you take them at the onset of a migraine, while others are taken daily for prevention. Commonly prescribed medications for vestibular migraine include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Topiramate
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Ask your doctor or healthcare provider for more information about these medications and how they might help you.

Supplements

Many people with vestibular migraine find some relief in over-the-counter supplements. These supplements can lower migraine frequency and regulate other bodily functions. Overall, vitamin supplements work well for vestibular migraine treatment, but always consult your doctor before adding one to your routine.

Here are examples of supplements that might help with vestibular migraines:

  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D

Vestibular rehabilitation

This type of rehabilitation is a specialized type of physical therapy for people who experience dizziness or vertigo. With the right amount of therapy, you could improve balance levels and decrease dizziness. Therapists teach you important exercises you can continue practicing after therapy is finished.

In vestibular rehabilitation, you might complete these exercises:

  • Posture and balance training
  • Vision stability training
  • Stretching and exercise

All of these exercises might differ depending on your therapist and the severity of your symptoms.

Acute Treatment for Vestibular Migraine

For typical migraines, doctors usually prescribe triptans. These pills help you manage migraines, reducing feelings of nausea and pain. If they work correctly, triptans reverse the changes in your brain that induced the migraine in the first place.

For vestibular migraines, doctors may prescribe the triptans often used for migraine attacks, even if you don’t have headache symptoms. They might also prescribe antihistamines and other vestibular suppressants. These medications might relieve you of vestibular migraine symptoms, but it depends on the person.

Does CEFALY Help Treat Vestibular Migraine?

CEFALY’s migraine prevention devices aim to reduce migraine frequency. CEFALY DUAL is FDA-approved and recommended by healthcare professionals and has helped thousands of patients with migraines. It stimulates the Trigeminal nerve, the origin of most migraine attacks, to provide relief.

Here are more results from clinical studies on CEFALY:

  • Many users reduced migraine frequency by 50% per month
  • After using CEFALY, many decreased their usage of acute migraine medications by 74%
  • 40% of patients using CEFALY reported a 40% decrease in pain after one hour

CEFALY DUAL has also helped with vestibular migraines, working as a drug-free vestibular migraine treatment option. A recent study published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences showed that 19 out of 19 patients showed improvement in vertigo symptoms after using the CEFALY device to treat their vestibular migraine attacks.

This positive result suggests that external trigeminal nerve stimulation (eTNS), the technology that drives CEFALY, might be effective for treating vestibular migraines. Doctors reported that CEFALY shows promise as a safe and effective treatment for vestibular migraine.

However, every person with vestibular migraine needs to try different treatment regimens to discover what works best for them. The Vestibular Disorders Association is a great resource for more information, with an active community that can offer support.