It’s not as difficult to buy gifts for someone with migraine or other chronic pain as some you might imagine. Think “comfort” instead of “cure” for neurological disorders and you’ll have a better time finding gifts that anyone would appreciate. After the onset of neuropathic facial pain (formerly called atypical trigeminal neuralgia) three years ago, and an intractable migraine that’s lasted almost 20 months, I’ve been looking for additional products that might bring me comfort or help relieve the pain. I’ve found several that have become my constant companions, so to speak. Here are my favorite products to relieve pain and comfort someone with migraine or other chronic pain.
Essential Oil Aromatherapy Roll-Ons
Essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons, which come in a variety of scents, are portable, cost only about $10-13 each, and have been a life-saving product for me the last several months. My favorites are Migrastil Migraine Stick (therapeutic grade spearmint, peppermint, and lavender essential oils in a base of fractionated coconut oil), Aromata’s Headache Be Gone (lavender, peppermint, and wild-grown frankincense essential oils in almond oil), and Lavender Calm (organic essential oil of lavender in almond oil).
Some people may have sensitivities to lavender, so they might like the lavender-free Prime Natural Headache Relief (peppermint, Spanish sage, cardamom, ginger, and fennel essential oils in grapeseed oil). I like these roll-ons so much that I bought a second set to carry in my purse (the Aromata brands come in a small bag, so I store a few roll-ons in one of those pretty bags and toss it into my purse.) I swipe the essential oil roll-ons along the trigeminal nerve, from my temples to the spot in front of my ear, on both sides of my head (even though I only have pain on one side), on both sides of my collarbone, on the back of my neck down the center and on the back of the neck from the center outward at the hairline. These roll-ons immediately reduce pain, and though the scents only last about half an hour, they are not overpowering.
Essential Oil Aromatherapy Balms
Since someone else wearing perfume or other odorous products can trigger attacks, I try to be extremely conscientious with fragrances in public spaces, even if the fragrances are therapeutic ones. For people who need more subtle or short-lasting essential oil aromatherapy products, I recommend Badger Balm’s Headache Soother and Stress Soother, which are under $10 for a single balm or under $15 for a two-pack.
• Headache Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients: Extra Virgn Olive Fruit Oil, Beeswax, Castor Seed Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Menthol, Peppermint Leaf Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E, Eucalyptus Leaf Oil, Mandarin Peel Oil, Sandalwood Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruid Extract. • Stress Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients: Extra Virgin Olive Fruit Oil, Beeswax, Tangerine Peel Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Cedar Wood Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E Oil, Spearmint Leaf Oil, Damascene Rose Flower Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruit Extract, Roman Chamomile Flower Oil.
Since Badger Balms have more ingredients than any of the roll-ons listed above, I was initially hesitant to try these pain relief products. However, I’d used Badger’s Muscle Balm with great success, so I decided to try some of their other Soothers, which are more portable than their balms in a tin and don’t require you to dip your fingers into the balm to apply it to your skin.
All of these essential oil aromatherapy products, roll-ons and balm sticks, are portable and can be applied directly to the skin (barring absence of any allergies to the individual ingredients). Because these products contain essential oils, already diluted for application to the skin, and because they are portable, they would be weelcome additions to any chronic pain or migraine warrior’s self-care bag.
Heating & Cooling Sacks
SacksyThyme All Natural Premium Herbal Heating and Cooling Sacks are filled with organic flaxseed, or a combination of organic flaxseed and cherry pits, in a woven 100% cotton cover, and cost $30-40 each. The Sack can be put in the microwave for 90 seconds for warmth, misted with a little water before heating for moist heat, or placed in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer for 2 hours for chilled relief (and then stored in the sealed bag in freezer for instant comfort). I bought a Medium Unscented (13″ x 7.5″) one, which has no odor at all from the cloth or the filling; they also have an XL Unscented (16″ x 13″), covered with woven cotton on one side and cotton fleece on the other. The Sack comes in various sizes (L is 22″ x 7.5″), colors (blue, green, black, grey, etc), and prints (paisley, houndstooooth, plaid, leaves, bubbles, etc.). SacksyThyme also offers the same organic flaxseed or cherry pit filling with a proprietary blend of essential oils (lavender, cherry, eucalyptus, and lemon verbena). SacksyThyme makes an Unscented XLong Neck Wrap, filled with organic flaxseed, that can be heated in the microwave and won’t fall off your neck (22″ x 6″, and available in charcoal, hot pink, or dark red).
All SacksyThyme’s heating/cooling pads come with a one-year warranty.
Guided Meditations & Self-Hypnosis
Guided Meditations or Self-Hypnosis can reduce pain, and I’m a big fan of Belleruth Naparstek and have used her guided meditations since the early 90s (when they came on cassette tapes only). I regularly use her Meditation to Ease Pain and Meditation to Help Relieve Headaches, which features a guided meditation for relief of headache pain as well as a meditation designed to help prevent future head pain. Health Journeys has guided meditations specifically for the pain from TMJ, and Naparstek, one of the founders of Health Journeys, has meditations for traumatic brain injury, migraine, to increase healthful sleep, to promote general wellness, and more. These audio guided meditations are available in MP3 or CD format ($11.98 or $17.98, respectively) and are also available to stream from Health Journeys app for Android and iOS, which features a 7-day free trial. Though I still have the original cassettes with these guided mediations, I prefer the MP3 versions since I was able to make a playlist out of all the Belleruth Naparstek guided meditations: I put the volume on Low, put in my wireless earphones, and play the meditations on Repeat all day long to relieve pain.
Health Journeys sponsors a large library of guided meditations, with many of them devoted to pain relief and healing. Health Journeys also has other items for pain relief and healing, including guided meditations by Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leaders in holistic medicine (CDs only), essential oils, books, pillows, lotions, etc. Health Journeys has gift cards ($15-$100) so that recipients can choose their own gifts. Health Journey’s catalogue is available online or by mail. If you or your give receipients have any questions about Health Journey’s Guided Meditations or other products, founder Belleruth Naparstek is available via email to answer questions.
It doesn’t take a great deal of money to comfort people with chronic pain and migraine. Most of us have to spend a great deal of time at home, and virtually all of us with migraine or other chronic pain have to invest a great deal of time taking care of themselves. Gifts developed specifically for people with chronic pain make holiday gift-buying easier. Everyone with migraine or other chronic pain will appreciate receiving gifts that will help with their self-care.
Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice: this is my experience only. The items listed here should not be used to diagnose, treat, or manage any condition. If you are on medication, you should not stop it or change your dosage without your physician’s knowledge and approval. Do not use any of these essential oils, aromatherapy products, vitamins, herbal supplements, or amino acids if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. Do not start any exercise routine without first discussing it with your physician.
I was first diagnosed with migraine disorder when I was five. Virtually all the women in my family have this neurological disorder, and while I was growing up, everyone called it a “sick headache” because of the nausea and crippling head pain that often accompany the migraine attacks. When I was 9, a doctor noticed that I was having seizures during a migraine, but it would be another 30 years till a physician specializing in migraine told me I had hemiplegic migraine as well as migraine with and without aura. Thus, I have all three types of migraine, though I’ve only learned to clearly distinguish them in the past few years. Migraine can also be classified by its frequency, as in “chronic migraine,” which is medically defined as having 15 or more migraine days a month for at least three consecutive months. “Intractable migraine” is a migraine without aura that simply does not stop, no matter what medications or supplements the patient tries.
Types of Migraine
• without aura (sometimes called common)
• with aura (sometimes called complex)
• hemiplegic migraine, which can be familial (genetic) or sporadic (non-genetic, often caused by traumatic brain injury)
(for more details on migraine, see my article)
Recently, I detailed all the natural supplements and vitamins I’ve been using for the past two years that have helped reduce some of my chronic pain, even the excruciating pain of hemiplegic migraine attacks or of neuropathic facial pain (formerly called trigeminal neuralgia). I’ve also found a few pre-mixed essential oil aromatherapy products that reduce this disabling nerve pain. I’ve also changed my diet, made several lifestyle changes, and continued walking to reduce the pain. Although I still have the intractable migraine, which is clearly being continually triggered by something I have not yet discovered, and the neuropathic facial pain, all of these natural alternatives and lifestyle changes together have helped me become more functional by reducing the pain.
This might seem self-evident or even ridiculous to some of you, but until I began managing the Migraine Mantras Twitter account in April 2018, when I had to read even more of the research related to migraine than I typically read, I never imagined that dehydration would increase pain levels, but let me assure you that it does. Now when I have aura symptoms which indicate that a migraine attack may be coming, or when the intractable migraine or neuropathic facial pain increases, I head to the refrigerator for more fluids. I don’t have to be thirsty to be somewhat dehydrated, and dehydration, no matter how slight, worsens pain. I pay much more attention to my fluid intake. It doesn’t matter if I have bottled water, a homemade smoothie, or (either hot or cold) tea: as long as I drink more fluids, the increased hydration usually reduces the pain of the migraine and of the atypical trigeminal neuralgia.
Meditation: with Adult Coloring Books
I’ve actually been meditating for a few decades, and I have a Tibetan Singing Bowl which really helps me concentrate and be mindful. But a couple years ago, I re-discovered my joy of coloring. I bought some colored pencils and adult coloring books: one with drawings of cats, and another with intricate mandalas. Coloring in adult coloring books, which are usually much more detailed than those for children, requires so much concentration that you are practically guaranteed a successful meditation thanks to the mindfulness required to color even a small section of some of the illustrations. Even when I have a migraine, I can usually concentrate enough to color for a bit. And, as many studies have demonstrated, mindfulness and meditation do decrease pain.
Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine, derived from herbal medicine, involving the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants, herbs, flowers, trees, or other natural elements to reduce pain, anxiety, nausea, or insomnia, or to boost your own immune system. Many civilizations have used aromatherapy as “complementary or alternative” therapies for thousands of years. I’ve been using essential oil of lavender for over 20 years, after it was first recommeded by one of my doctors, but I’d never tried any other essential oils for pain until last year when I discovered portable essential oils. Aromatherapy roll-ons are portable, diluted and pre-mixed (i.e., in a carrier oil) so they can be applied directly to the skin (but not near the eyes or mucous membranes). All of them have been helping reduce the migraine and neuropathic facial pain.
The first aromatherapy roll-on I tried was Migrastil Migraine Stick (ingredients: therapeutic grade essential oils of peppermint, spearmint, and lavender in a base of fractionated coconut oil) and when I put it on my temples and the back of my neck, I experienced a pleasant cooling sensation. Since I am unable to use ice or cold packs during a migraine attack, I found the cool sensation of the essential oils surprisingly comforting. Headache Be Gone (ingredients: essential oils of lavender, peppermint, and frankincense in a base of almond oil) smells even more strongly of lavender, which I like, though it doesn’t give me as much of a cooling sensation as the Migrastil Migraine Stick. I used both of these roll-ons together as soon as I got them. Because I like the metal rollerball of the Headache Be Gone, which makes the essential oil feel cool going on my skin, I researched more products from its parent company Aromata. I found Lavender Calm (ingredients: organic lavender and almond oil), and I love the fact that this roll-on enables me to carry essential oil of lavender with me when I have to leave home. I use this along with the other two roll-ons, as needed for pain.
Drinking essential oils can cause liver or kidney damage. Putting an essential oil on your skin without first mixing it with a carrier oil, such as olive, almond, coconut, etc. can cause skin irritation or chemical burns. Some essential oils can trigger allergy, asthma, or migraine attacks, so you should not use essential oils without first consulting with your physician. Whether any individual essential oil precipitates a migraine attack, for example, rather than relieves the pain, is highly individual: eucalyptus can trigger a migraine attack for me, but lavender soothes it; for some with migraine disorder, lavender can trigger an attack.
I use several aromatherapy roll-ons now, all at the same time. I simply swipe each roll-on from temple to the general location of the trigeminal nerve root (in front of the ear toward the top where it joins the face) on each side, along my collarbone, along my neck on both sides at the base of my skull, and down my spine from the base of the skull to the top of whatever shirt I’m wearing. These aromatherapy roll-ons reduce the migraine pain and, as an added benefit, have helped lower the neuropathic facial pain (atypical trigeminal neuralgia) as well. (For more essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons and balms to reduce pain, see my article.)
Traditional medicine has not eliminated my pain in over 60 years, so I’ve sought alternative, natural approaches to reduce pain and encourage my body to heal. After extensive investigation and several months of experimentation, I found quite a few supplements and vitamins that consistently reduce the pain of both the migraine and the atypical trigeminal neuralgia (now called neuropathic facial pain). Although I thoroughly researched everything I wanted to try for pain relief, I never took more than one new supplement or vitamin at a time, discontinuing any that triggered a hemiplegic migraine, aggravated the refractory migraine or neuropathic facial pain, or did not noticeably reduce either pain. I also started with the minimum amount of any one item to make sure I didn’t have any allergic reactions. Because so many supplements and vitamins have natural sweeteners (such as honey or stevia), artificial sweeteners (such as sucralose or maltodextrin), or preservatives, all of which trigger hemiplegic migraine attacks in me, I have included only those versions of the supplements with the fewest ingredients. Please note that I also made my doctor aware of all the vitamins and supplements I was taking to help reduce the chronic pain.
Magnesium supplements are often recommended for people diagnosed with migraine, and I started taking Natural Vitality Calm magnesium after the refractory migraine began its second month. If I miss the Calm for a few days, as I did when I had the flu, both the pain of the refractory migraine and of the trigeminal neuralgia increase. Natural Vitality Calm alone does not entirely eliminate the pain, but in conjunction with the other items, it does help significantly lower the pain level (you can see more details in my previous article).
In addition to Calm magnesium, I use several herbal supplements to lower the pain level: Deep Sleep (ingredients: California poppy, valerian, and oat seed in milky form), Secrets of the Tribe California poppy (ingredient: 500 mg of organic California poppy, dried herb and flower), Valerian (ingredients: 500 mg valerian root). (The first few times I took only 1 tablet of valerian for pain, rather than for sleep, I feared it would make me sleepy, but it didn’t, and now I use it regularly for pain. As with many of my supplements, I use NOW products because I’ve found they’re of the highest quality and work most effectively.)
I eat crystallized ginger and use it in my tea all the time, partly because I love ginger, and partly because it provides natural nausea relief during a migraine attack. After reading that ginger reduces inflammation, and knowing that the excruciating pain of a migraine attack is due to inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, I decided to try ginger in a capsule form to get a higher concentration for pain relief, and the ginger does help reduce pain significantly. I prefer NOW Ginger capsules (ingredients: 550 mg ginger root) for the same reason that I use other NOW products: NOW doesn’t contain so many of the nasty sweeteners and preservatives that trigger migraine attacks for me.
The best ginger I’ve ever gotten for homemade tea is Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root. I realize that tossing a couple of pieces of crystallized ginger into a cup of boiling water will give a faint ginger taste, but Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root makes a wonderful tasting tea, better than any of the other commercial teas I’ve tried and stronger than dropping a couple of slices of crystallized ginger into a cup of boiling water. Ginger reduces both the migraine and the neuropathic facial pain, and ginger is generally regarded as safe to eat regularly.*
Researchers discovered that people who have dental or other surgical procedures on their head or face and who develop neuropathic facial pain (formerly called trigeminal neuralgia) may be deficient in vitamin B-12. “Nutritional experts suggest that the most effective form [of B-12] is methylcobalamin,” not the cheaper, more readily available cyanocobalamin version of B-12, which must, in any event, be converted by the body into the methylcobalamin form of B-12 to be used for effective pain relief. Injections of B12 have helped some facial pain patients, but not all of us can afford the injections. Though the Facial Pain Association recommends sublingual methylcobalamin B-12, I have thus far been unable to find any versions that do not contain maltodextrin or stevia, which trigger migraine attacks for me.
Fortunately, the PURE capsule version significantly reduces the neuropathic facial pain and the refractory migraine pain that seems to have been triggered by the atypical trigeminal neuralgia which started in 2017. I use PURE methylcobalamin vitamin B-12 capsules (ingredient: 1,000 mcg B-12 as methylcobalamin) to lower migraine and trigeminal neuralgia pain. There is a PURE sublingual methylcobalamin B-12 liquid version (ingredients: 1,000 mcg B-12 as methylcobalamin, 0.5mg stevia, purified water, natural glycerin, citric acid, and potassium sorbate), but because of its sweetener and preservative, I have not used it. (There are some cheaper methylcobalamin B-12 versions available, but most contain sweeteners or preservatives I must avoid: please do feel free to find versions that suit your budget.)
In a “multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial” with diabetes patients experiencing neuropathic pain, Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) reduced their pain, suggesting that ALA plays a “broader role than just simply being an antioxidant.” Although many foods contain ALA, higher doses of ALA may be needed to repair any damage to the trigeminal nerve, and ALA is generally regarded as safe.* Since I began taking ALA, the neuropathic facial pain and the migraine pain have both been noticeably lowered. I’ve used both Simply Nature’s Pure ALA (ingredients: 600 mg. alpha lipoic acid in vegetarian capsule) and Nutricost ALA (ingredients: 300 mg alpha lipoic acid each tablet, serving = 2 tablets for 600 mg ALA, gelatin, rice flour, calcium silicate, vegetable magnesium stearate). While both of these versions of ALA reduced the pain, the Simply Pure brand has fewer ingredients, including no preservatives, binders, or sweeteners, which I always prefer. Further, two of the Nutricost tablets equal one tablet of the Simply Pure ALA so the 240 Nutricost tablets is only 120 servings: the same as the Simply Nature’s Pure servings per bottle. More important to me, however, is the fact that Simply Nature’s Pure ALA clearly identifies its capsules as containing 300 mg of R-LA (naturally occurring) ALA and 300 mg of S-LA (synthetic) ALA. No other brand I’ve researched indicates whether its ALA is naturally sourced or synthetic, so I must assume it is all synthetic.
Methlycobalamin B-12 and Alpha Lipoic Acid
The pain of the constant and refractory migraine (without aura), even if caused by damage to the middle branch of the trigeminal nerve from the originally abscessed tooth, has also been reduced by the ALA. The more severe pain of hemiplegic migraine or of migraine with aura is also improved by my taking ALA. No matter the type of migraine attack I may be having — refractory/constant (without aura), chronic, with aura, or hemiplegic — the methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12 and the amino acid ALA significantly reduce pain. Further, the combination of the methylcobalamin B-12 and the ALA significantly reduces both the constant neuropathic facial pain and slightly reduces the severity of the sudden, lancinating pain triggered by things like coughing, sneezing, lying on my pillow, or touching my face.
Herbal Supplements, Vitamin B-12, and Alpha Lipoic Acid
Taking all of these natural supplements and vitamins has made a noticeable difference in lowering the pain level of this neuropathic facial pain (atypical trigeminal neuralgia) and the refractory migraine. I have even stopped taking any additional pain medication such as aspirin or acetomenaphin (opioids are not very effective at eliminating nerve pain). Is any one of these supplements more responsible for the pain relief than the others? In reality, I believe that it is the synergistic effect of them all that is finally significantly reducing the pain, but if I were forced to choose only one or two of these supplements, I’d start with the ALA and the methylcobalamin B-12. You can find more details of these supplements, vitamins, and the amino acid in my earlier article.
Supplements, vitamins, and an amino acid
to reduce migraine and neuropathic facial pain
• Deep Sleep
• California poppy
• valerian root
• ginger root
• Methylcobalamin vitamin B-12
• Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
First of all, let me tell you that I am most definitely not able to walk when I have a hemiplegic migraine: even getting out of bed dramatically increases the pain during one of those attacks. For every other kind of migraine attack, however, and for the neuropathic facial pain (atypical trigeminal neuralgia), walking does, in fact, predictably and consistently decrease the pain. Research indicates that walking reduces arthritis pain, and that swimming, walking, and stretching all reduce chronic pain. I don’t have access to a swimming pool or other body of water for swimming. Instead, I’ve taken Kundalini yoga classes for the past five years, and I walk. I’ve not noticed significant pain reduction with the yoga, although I’m guessing that the mindfulness involved is good for managing chronic pain. I concentrate my exercise on walking.
I don’t walk outside any longer because we live on a mountain and the terrain is too uneven for me to walk on safely, but I have a treadmill that will go as slow as 1 mph, and that’s about how slowly I walk when I have a non-hemiplegic migraine attack. I make sure to hold on to the handrails for safety, and I don’t increase the speed since speed is not the issue: pain relief is. As little as 10 minutes of slow walking helps lower the pain levels, although 20 minutes is better. That’s usually all I can handle when I have a migraine or a flare-up of the neuropathic facial pain, but for the past year, slow walking has reduced the pain every time.
Cooking (and Baking) from Scratch
In my absolute desperation to get rid of the intractable migraine that began in April 2018, although it had begun to show up earlier, in 2- to 3-week migraine attacks, I cleaned out the entire freezer, refrigerator, and all the kitchen cupboards. I was sure that some ingredient which I was positive was not affecting me or triggering migraines was, in reality, causing my incessant pain. I did find a few canned or bottled foods that had forms of MSG, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives in them that I hadn’t recognized as such. Out went all the things with maltodextrin, for instance, a preservative, sweetener, and thickener that is also called modified corn starch, modified rice starch, or modified wheat starch, and which can trigger a migraine attack in me virtually immediately. I have since found spaghetti sauces, which we also use for pizza sauce, as well as Pacific organic soups with no artificial or otherwise modified ingredients, which taste delicious, and which, more important, do not cause migraine attacks.
Though I was already realtively proficient at quick breads (they have no yeast so don’t have the 1-3 hour rising period of yeasted breads), I had to learn how to bake more kinds of bread. Since I was fortunate enough to have a friend who had gifted me her older bread-baking machine when she and her husband went gluten-free, I knew a little about yeasted-bread baking already. I learned how to bake without the bread machine when I wanted to have more variety in my bread: focaccia, pizza crust, and scones, for instance, all of which, even if started in a bread machine, have to finish in a traditional oven. I’ve learned to do all those types of breads, and though it takes more time to bake bread each day, I doubt I would ever go back to buying bread.
Artificial Sweeteners, Preservatives, and Other Additives
Another thing I noticed after getting rid of anything I thought might be triggering the intractable migraine is that, after being free of all artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and additives for almost two years, I can taste when a food or drink has anything artificial or chemical in it. After our monthly grocery shopping trip a few months ago, we went to a nearby restaurant and had lunch. Since it had been over a year since I’d had any soda, I ordered a Coke (or Pepsi) which has “caramel color” but no artificial sweeteners. When I tasted it, I felt sick: it tasted like chemicals. I asked for a Sprite (or 7-Up) instead, and found that it merely tasted like seltzer with some sugar. While we were waiting for our food, I looked up “caramel color” and found, to my horror, that it is not, as I’d always thought, sugar cooked till it is browned like caramel: caramel color is sugar that is browned by being treated with ammonia and sulfites at high temperatures. I was clearly tasting the ammonia. I’ve never had a cola soft drink since, and I also gave up buying commercial iced teas since most of them also contain caramel color. I make my iced tea at home again, as I used to do in college and grad school, when there weren’t any bottled iced teas (or, if there were any that I wasn’t aware of, they would have been far too exclusive and expensive for me to purchase regularly).
Despite any initial inconvenience caused by making all my food from scratch every day, I not only feel physically better, I feel safer avoiding all those preservatives and additives. I reduced some of the migraine attacks, though the intractable migraine has not yet stopped, but I like knowing that whatever I eat contributes to my health rather than causing more pain.
Lifestyle Changes and Alternative Supplements for Pain Relief
• Adequate Hydration
• Meditation: with Adult Coloring Books
• Essential Oil Aromatherapy Roll-Ons
• Herbal Supplements
• Methylcobalamin Vitamin B12
• Alpha Lipoic (Amino) Acid
• Slow Walking
• Cooking & Baking from Scratch
The last few years of increased pain have forced me to become even more independent of traditional medicine and wary of pharmaceuticals. Indeed, the opioid crisis, with insurance companies and even pharmacies simply refusing the refill authorized prescriptions for migraine and chronic pain patients, might have precipitated my lifestyle changes even if I hadn’t already begun my search for natural alternatives to prescription drugs. I didn’t make all these changes at once, mind you: it was a slow process, over a couple of years. I never made more than one change to my diet, lifestyle, supplements, or medications at a time: I wanted to know if any one of them was responsible for any improvement or pain reduction. I am happy that I was forced to change my lifestyle to an even healthier one and that I found activities and natural supplements that further reduce the chronic pain of migraine attacks, intractable migraine, and neuropathic facial pain.
♦ Related Posts on Migraine,
Chronic Pain, and Pain Relief
*Safety* It’s generally regarded as safe to eat ginger — up to 1000mg per day. if you eat too much in one day, you might get heartburn or diarrhea, so start slowly. Also, ginger may be an anti-coagulant: consult your physician if you are on prescription blood-thinners, and do not consume any ginger products for two weeks before scheduled surgical procedures. (back to article)
Note: Research with diabetics taking ALA supplements revealed that it can lower blood sugar, so be careful using it if you are a diebetic on insulin or if you have hypoglycemia. ALA has also been shown to interact with some medications, so you should not take it without checking first with your medical provider. back to article)
Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice: this is my experience only. The items listed here should not be used to diagnose, treat, or manage any condition. If you are on medication, you should not stop it without your physician’s knowledge and approval. Do not use any of these essential oils or aromatherapy products if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
I was first diagnosed with migraine disorder when I was five. Although virtually all the women in my family had the neurological disorder, everyone called it “sick headaches” because of the nausea and crippling head pain that often accompany the attacks. When I was 9, a doctor noticed that I was having seizures during a migraine, but it would be another 30 years till a physician specializing in migraine told me I had hemiplegic migraine as well as migraine with and without aura. The recent crackdown on migraine and chronic pain patients, which involves some doctors’ refusing to write new prescriptions, as well as pharmacies and insurance companies’ refusing to fill (or refill) legitimate prescriptions, has been crippling many chronic pain and migraine patients. Recently, I detailed all the natural supplements and vitamins I’ve been using for the past two years that have helped reduce some of my chronic pain, even the excruciating pain of migraine attacks or neuropathic facial pain (formerly called trigeminal neuralgia). I’ve also found a few pre-mixed essential oil aromatherapy products that reduce this disabling nerve pain.
Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine, derived from herbal medicine, involving the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants, herbs, flowers, trees, or other natural elements to reduce pain, anxiety, nausea, or insomnia, to boost your own immune system, or as a supplementary treatment with some cancer patients. Many civilizations have used aromatherapy as “complementary or alternative” therapies for thousands of years. Though some physicians consider aromatherapy to be “quackery,” there are limited studies indicating that the essential oils can be useful adjunctive therapy for critically or terminally ill patients as well as for chronic pain patients, and can be beneficial to patients experiencing anxiety and claustrophobia from the restrictive environment of MRIs, for instance. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists govern national educational standards for aromatherapists, but essential oils are not evaluated, overseen, or controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
I’ve been using essential oil of lavender for over 20 years, after it was first recommeded by one of my doctors, but I’d never tried any other essential oils for pain. All of these essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons and balms are portable, diluted and pre-mixed (i.e., in a carrier oil) so they can be applied directly to the skin (but not near the eyes or mucous membranes). All of them have been helping reduce the migraine and neuropathic facial pain.*
The first aromatherapy roll-on I tried was Migrastil Migraine Stick (ingredients: therapeutic grade essential oils of peppermint, spearmint, and lavender in a base of fractionated coconut oil) and when I put it on my temples and the back of my neck, I experienced a pleasant cooling sensation. Since I am unable to use ice or cold packs during a migraine attack, I found the cool sensation of the essential oils surprisingly comforting. (This is the only roll-on I’m using that has a plastic rollerball, and while that doesn’t seem to affect the cooling sensation or pain relief, I prefer the roll-ons with metal rollerballs because they feel cooler during application.) After I used Migrastil Migraine Stick for a few weeks, I researched some other aromatherapy roll-ons being sold for pain relief, specifically for migraine or headache relief. Because I felt better after using the Migrastil Migraine Stick roll-on, I was encouraged to look at some others.
Headache Be Gone (ingredients: essential oils of lavender, peppermint, and frankincense in a base of almond oil) smells even more strongly of lavender, which I like, though it doesn’t give me as much of a cooling sensation as the Migrastil Migraine Stick. I used both of these roll-ons together as soon as I got them.
Because I like the metal rollerball of the Headache Be Gone, which makes the essential oil feel cool going on my skin, I researched more products from Aromata. I found Lavender Calm (ingredients: organic lavender and almond oil), and I love the fact that this roll-on enables me to carry essential oil of lavender with me when I have to leave home. I use this along with the other two roll-ons, as needed for pain.
Headache Relief Roll-On (ingredients: essential oils of peppermint, Spanish sage, cardamom, ginger, and frankincense in a base of grapeseed oil) has a completely different scent from the previous roll-ons, and I initially got it because it included ginger, cardamom, and frankincense, all purported to be anti-inflammatories.
Aromata has become one of my new favorite companies: so far, I’ve liked all their pain-relieving roll-ons. After using their Headache Be Gone and their Lavender Calm, I decided to use their Frankincense (ingredients: essential oil of wild-grown frankincense in almond oil), which is one of the ingredients in Prime Natural’s Headache Relief Roll-on. Used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce inflammation, frankincense might be useful to reduce pain for anyone who cannot tolerate essential oil of lavender well.
Balms in a Stick
Aromatherapy balms and sticks are basically the same as the aromatherapy essential oil roll-ons except the balms have a firmer consistency. Since I’ve used Badger brand’s muscle balm, I was excited to use their headache and stress Soother balms, which are available in a stick, like a thick chapstick or lip balm in a tube. Both Headache Soother and Stress Soother are very pleasant smelling and relaxing. Though there are a few more ingredients in each (making my favorite essential oil, lavender, just a bit harder to distinguish), these essential oil sticks are very pleasant. I swipe these balms on my wrists and inhale deeply. At bedtime, these tend to help me fall asleep more quickly, which is always a relief when you’re in pain. I like both of the versions I tried.
Headache Soother has more ingredients than any of the roll-ons listed above, which made me initially hesitant to try it. However, I have used Badger’s Muscle Balm with great success, so I decided to try some of their other Soothers, which are more portable than their balms in a tin and don’t require you to dip your fingers into the balm to apply it to your skin. Headache Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients (I have not included the Latin names for these ingredients, all of which are listed on the label, preceding the English names):
Stress Soother is also very effective when I’m in pain. Whether the anxiety before a migraine attack is my body’s instinctive warning sign of a migraine or is a result of the pain, it’s helpful to have products that can help with the anxiety that accompanies chronic pain. Badger’s Stress Soother is a good accompaniment to the essential oil roll-ons I’ve been using. Stress Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients (as above, I have not included the Latin names for the ingredients, though Badger does supply all of these on their labels):
Extra Virgin Olive Fruit Oil, Beeswax, Tangerine Peel Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Cedar Wood Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E Oil, Spearmint Leaf Oil, Damascene Rose Flower Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruit Extract, Roman Chamomile Flower Oil
Badger instructs you not to use any of their aromatherapy sticks near your eyes, and, as with any other product containing essential oils, you should never ingest them.
Drinking essential oils can cause liver or kidney damage, so do not ingest any essential oils. Putting an essential oil on your skin without first mixing it with a carrier oil, such as olive, almond, coconut, etc. can cause skin irritation or chemical burns, so do not use undiluted essential oils directly on the skin. Limited studies indicate that prolonged exposures to essential oils via inhalation, as in a diffuser or in a closed environment, might have some harmful effects, such as lung or eye irritation, after the essential oils’ initial benefits. Also, some essential oils can trigger allergy, asthma, or migraine attacks, so do not use essential oils without first consulting with your physician. Whether any essential oil precipitates a migraine attack, for example, rather than relieves the pain, is highly individual: eucalyptus can trigger a migraine attack for me, but lavender soothes it; for some with migraine disorder, lavender can trigger an attack.
I use all of these roll-ons and sticks now, all at the same time. I simply swipe each roll-on from temple to the general location of the trigeminal nerve root (in front of the ear) on each side, along my neck on both sides at the base of my skull, and down my spine from the base of the skull to the top of whatever shirt I’m wearing. I use the Badger aromatherapy balm sticks on my wrists and collarbone. I’ve been taking Gabapentin since October 2018, which reduces the pain but did not entirely eliminate it. Along with the natural supplements and vitamins detailed in my earlier article, these essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons and balm sticks have further reduced the migraine pain and, as an added benefit, have helped lower the neuropathic facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia) as well.
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Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice: this is my experience only. The items listed here should not be used to diagnose, treat, or manage any condition. If you are on medication, you should not stop it without your physician’s knowledge and approval. Do not take any of these vitamins or supplements if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
It began with a migraine and a strange feeling in one of my teeth. Actually, it was more like a strangely noticeable lack of feeling in the tooth: when I tapped it, it was almost as if the tooth weren’t in my mouth any longer. A migraine came and went, as usual, but the odd sensation in the tooth remained. A few days later, I had another migraine, which also came and went in a pattern I was accustomed to. The next week, despite having passed its annual inspection, my car’s radiator cracked and blew the engine, leaving me stranded at the side of the road and, worse, without any vehicle in an area where there is no public transportation. The stress of having to suddenly and unexpectedly find another (used) vehicle triggered another migraine. When I went to my doctor a few days later, he asked what had caused the increase in the migraine attacks, and I dutifully related my recent woes. “Reduce your stress,” he said before adding nonchalantly, “Oh, by the way, did I tell you I’m retiring at the end of the month?”
By the I got back home, I had another migraine. When I called for a refill on my pain pills, I was told it would be the last one the doctor could refill: he’d decided to retire at the end of the week instead of at the end of the month. Now I had only one bottle of 30 pain pills (Tylenol 3), had just lost the doctor I’d been seeing for thirteen years, and couldn’t get in to see a new doctor for at least 6 months. Despite my learning later that the odd-feeling tooth was infected and despite my having the tooth extracted, the migraine attacks did not relent. They were not only increasing in frequency but in duration. Instead of lasting 3-5 days as they usually did, each attack was lasting about two weeks. Then 3 weeks. A month. Six weeks. Early in 2018, I had a migraine that, to date, has lasted almost 15 months. The migraine had become chronic, intractable, refractory, status migrainosus, and any other benign-sounding words invented for this type of constant, debilitating pain.
After staying in bed the first three months of this migraine in 2018, I knew I had to find alternative ways to handle the situation. I wasn’t willing to be in bed the rest of my life, nor could I keep taking opioids every day. Saving the pain pills to use only during a hemiplegic migraine attack (whose pain is literally unbearable), I switched to aspirin for the refractory migraine, which is a migraine without aura. Aspirin is legal without a prescription and, for me, as effective as Tylenol 3 on that particular type of migraine, which means the aspirin takes the fiercest edge off the pain off but does not eliminate it. Since I wasn’t sure what was triggering this incessant migraine and feared it might be ingredients like dyes or preservatives, I began taking GeriCare aspirin, which includes only aspirin and cornstarch. I began using a sound wave device to help reduce the migraine pain, and it helped enough that I began to believe that the abscessed tooth, extracted in 2017, had damaged the middle branch of the trigeminal nerve and was triggering the refractory migraine. I had enough success to begin to get out of bed for a couple hours each day though I still had the unending migraine (I was wearing the sound wave device in a headband-sleeve during the day and sleeping with it under my pillow at night).
Six months later, when I was diagnosed with atypical trigeminal neuralgia (also called neuropathic facial pain) and put on Gabapentin, the constant facial pain and pressure were slightly reduced, but the excruciating lightning-bolt pain was not changed at all. Gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication used for hemiplegic migraine, did not affect the refractory migraine in any noticeable way. I began to be convinced that the months-long intractable migraine, whose pain is in the uppermost branch of the trigeminal nerve, was being triggered by the damage in the middle branch of the trigeminal nerve, damage which had originated with that odd-feeling tooth the previous year. Traditional medicine had not yet eliminated my pain, so I sought alternative, natural approaches to encourage my body to heal itself. After extensive investigation and several months of experimentation, I found quite a few supplements and vitamins that consistently reduce the pain of both the migraine and the neuropathic facial pain (atypical trigeminal neuralgia).
Although I thoroughly researched everything I wanted to try for pain relief, I never took more than one new supplement or vitamin at a time, and I discontinued any that triggered a hemiplegic migraine, aggravated the refractory migraine or neuropathic facial pain, or did not noticeably reduce either pain. I also started with the minimum amount of any one item to make sure I didn’t have any allergic reactions. Because so many supplements and vitamins have natural sweeteners (such as honey or stevia), artificial sweeteners (such as sucralose or maltodextrin), or preservatives, all of which trigger hemiplegic migraine attacks in me, I have included only those versions of the supplements with the fewest ingredients. Please note that I also made my doctor aware of all the vitamins and supplements I was taking to help reduce the chronic pain.
Natural Vitality Calm (Magnesium)
Magnesium supplements are often recommended for people diagnosed with migraine, and I started taking Natural Vitality Calm magnesium after the refractory migraine began its second month. Since too much magnesium too quickly can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, I started with a ½ teaspoon each night and slowly worked my way up to the recommended dosage of 2 teaspoons a day. I tried splitting the dose into 1 teaspoon each morning and night, but as it didn’t make the migraine go away and as I sleep better with the Calm at night, I now take the entire dose at night about an hour before bed. (I dissolve it in about ¼ cup of hot water and drink it when it’s cool.) If I miss the Calm for a few days, as I did when I had the flu, both the pain of the refractory migraine and of the trigeminal neuralgia increase. The Calm alone does not entirely eliminate the pain, but in conjunction with the other items, it does help lower the pain level.
Natural Vitality (unflavored, plain) Calm ingredients are Ionic magnesium citrate, made from a proprietary blend of citric acid and magnesium carbonate. Calm is also available in individual packets, for when you are away from home.
Calm is available in several flavors, and each flavor comes in different sizes: lemon (8-oz or 16-oz plastic bottles), raspberry-lemon (8-oz or 16-oz), cherry (8-oz or 16-oz), or orange (8-oz or16-oz). Since the flavored versions contain stevia, which triggers migraine attacks if I consume it, I have only tried the plain flavor.
I buy the unflavored Calm in the larger 16-oz size, which is more cost-effective( less packaging), and it’s cheaper to buy the pack of two 16-oz bottles (my guy uses the other bottle, and the magnesium eliminates his nightly leg cramps). Taking the recommended dosage of 2 teaspoons/day, one 16-oz bottle of Calm lasts me a year.
Lemon and Raspberry-Lemon are also available in two-pack of 16-oz bottles for significant savings, as is Cherry. Natural Vitality Calm is available as capsules in bottles of (120 or 180) or as gummies in bottles of (120 or 240); reviewers note that both capsules and gummies are as effective as the powder formula at reducing anxiety and insomnia, so there is reason to believe that the capsules and gummies would also both help with pain relief. (As soon as I try the capsules and gummies, I’ll update this post.)
I am plagued with insomnia before and during a migraine. The insomnia worsened with the neuropathic facial pain. Initially, I thought the extensive facial pain was due to the refractory migraine and not, as I now believe, vice versa. After the migraine lasted three months, I wondered if the accompanying insomnia was, in fact, extending or perhaps re-triggering the migraine. In addition to recommending the Natural Vitality Calm magnesium supplement, my medical massage therapist takes Deep Sleep, and she let me have a few pills to try them. I didn’t fall asleep, but within thirty minutes of taking one softgel, I noticed that the migraine pain was slightly less.
At least three of Deep Sleep’s herbal ingredients — California poppy, valerian, and oat seed in milky form — are also noted for pain relief. I began taking the Deep Sleep every day, for pain, not just to combat insomnia, and it helps lower the pain. I’ve tried Deep Sleep in liquid form (with alcohol in 2-oz or 4-oz bottles, and without alcohol in a 2-oz bottle) and in soft gel form. All three versions of Deep Sleep reduced the pain, though I thought the liquid form with alcohol worked slightly better on the pain than did the version without alcohol. (All three forms of Deep Sleep helped with insomnia.) I now take one softgel tablet 3 times a day for convenience (total = 600mg/day); using the softgel tablets allows me to put the Deep Sleep in a small bottle with all my other medications and supplements for the day.
The Deep Sleep softgel ingredients are alcohol-free organic concentrated extracts of California poppy, valerian, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, oat (seed in milky stage), and orange peel; and the proprietary blend is equal to 200 mg per softgel. Deep Sleep softgels come in bottles of 60 or 120 softgel capsules, and the larger bottle saves considerable money. Deep Sleep noticeably reduces migraine pain and neuropathic facial pain.
Because California poppy is the first ingredient listed in Deep Sleep, I bought a bottle of that as well when I realized that the Deep Sleep was reducing the refractory migraine pain. When one manufacturer ran out and didn’t know when the item would be in stock again, I didn’t bother to find more of it: the pain increased. After I began taking it again, the pain returned to its lower level. Adding California poppy to the Deep Sleep helped reduce the pain, and I take one tablet 3 times a day (total = 1500mg/day).
Secrets of the Tribe California Poppy only has one active ingredient: 500 mg of organic California poppy, dried herb and flower, in a pure gelatin capsule. Secrets of the Tribe California Poppy comes in bottles of 90 or 230 capsules; as with other products, the larger size is more cost-effective.
Valerian is an herbal supplement that has been used to alleviate insomnia and anxiety. Valerian also seems to reduce pain. When I began taking some valerian during the day during this atrociously long migraine attack, I immediately noticed that the pain level was lowered. I use NOW Valerian because they don’t include any preservatives, colors, flavorings, or other unnecessary ingredients in any of their products.
NOW Valerian ingredients is 500 mg valerian root in a cellulose capsule. NOW Valerian comes in bottles of 100 and 250 capsules, and the larger bottle, because it contains less packaging, is noticeably cheaper to purchase. In addition to taking valerian for the chronic pain, I take 1-3 more valerian at night before bed to help me sleep better.
I tried turmeric capsules when this migraine first started, and then tried supplements that combined turmeric and ginger since both have reputations as anti-inflammatories. Each time I’ve tried anything with turmeric, however, it’s triggered a hemiplegic migraine. Since I eat crystallized ginger and use it in my tea all the time (it’s provides natural nausea relief during a migraine attack, but I also happen to love ginger), I decided to try ginger in a capsule form to get a higher concentration. I prefer NOW Ginger for the same reason that I use its other products: because NOW doesn’t contain so many of the nasty things that trigger migraine attacks for me. At first, I didn’t think the ginger was having any effect. When I ran out, and the pain level spiked upward, I got more ginger capsules right away. I take one 550 mg capsule 3 times a day, and, with everything else, the ginger keeps the pain level lower.
NOW Ginger ingredients are 550 mg ginger root in a gelatin capsule, magnesium stearate from a vegetable source, and silica. NOW ginger comes in 100-capsule bottles, and also in a 2 pack of 100 capsules, but it’s cheaper to purchase multiple bottles of the 100-capsules than to buy the more expensive 2-pack version.
Methylcobalamin Vitamin B-12
Researchers discovered that people who have dental or other surgical procedures on their head or face and who develop neuropathic facial pain (formerly called trigeminal neuralgia) may be deficient in vitamin B-12. “Nutritional experts suggest that the most effective form [of B-12] is methylcobalamin,” not the cheaper, more readily available cyanocobalamin version of B-12, which must, in any event, be converted by the body into the methylcobalamin form of B-12 to be used for effective pain relief. Injections of B12 have helped some facial pain patients, but not all of us can afford the injections. Though the Facial Pain Association recommends sublingual methylcobalamin B-12, I have thus far been unable to find any versions that do not contain maltodextrin or stevia, both of which are migraine triggers for me. Fortunately, the PURE capsule version significantly reduces the neuropathic facial pain and the refractory migraine pain that seems to have been triggered by the atypical trigeminal neuralgia which started in 2017.
PURE Encapsulations methylcobalamin B-12 has only one ingredient: 1,000 mcg B-12 as methylcobalamin, in hypoallergenic plant fiber (cellulose) vegetarian capsules (cellulose, water). PURE methylcobalamin vitamin B-12 comes in bottles of 60 or 180 capsules. PURE methylcobalamin vitamin B-12 also comes in a liquid form (30 ml bottle), but it contains stevia as well as the preservative potassium sorbate, so I cannot take it (if those two ingredients do not trigger migraine or neuropathic facial pain for you, please do let me know how the liquid version works).
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
In a “multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial” with diabetes patients experiencing neuropathic pain, Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) reduced their pain, suggesting that ALA plays a “broader role than just simply being an antioxidant.” Although many foods contain ALA, including beets, brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes, higher doses of ALA may be needed to repair any damage to the trigeminal nerve.
Research with diabetics taking ALA supplements revealed that it can lower blood sugar. Since I have hypoglycemia (diagnosed over thirty years ago after several episodes in which I lost consciousness from very low blood sugar levels), this ALA-lowered blood sugar was initially a problem for me, and caused some hypoglycemia-related dizziness and cold sweats. I started the ALA at a low dosage and, with my physician’s supervision, slowly increased it. ALA has also been shown to interact with some medications, so do not take it without checking first with your medical provider.
Since taking ALA, the neuropathic facial pain and the migraine pain have both been noticeably lowered. Further, along with the methylcobalamin B-12, the ALA significantly reduces both the constant neuropathic facial pain and slightly reduces the severity of the lancinating pain triggered by things like coughing, sneezing, lying on my pillow, or touching my face.
One of the bestselling ALA supplements is Nutricost ALA, but it doesn’t make it clear whether its ALA is the natural (R) or synthetic (S) version, so I can only assume it’s the synthetic version. (Update: I tried a bottle of Nutricost ALA, and it triggered 2 hemiplegic migraine attacks in 10 days, so one of the ingredients used to make the capsules is something I cannot tolerate.) I take Simply Nature’s Pure ALA, which contains 300 mg each the R-ALA (natural form) and the S-ALA (synthetic form) version. Simply Nature’s Pure also offers a money-back guarantee if you do not find that their ALA helps with your pain, which influenced my choice of their product.
The pain of the constant and refractory migraine (without aura), even if caused by damage to the middle branch of the trigeminal nerve from the originally abscessed tooth, has also been reduced by the ALA. The more severe pain of hemiplegic migraine or of migraine with aura is also improved by my taking ALA. No matter the type of migraine attack I may be having — refractory/constant (without aura), with aura, or hemiplegic — the ALA significantly reduces pain. I now take 3 capsules a day (total 900 mg of R-ALA and 900 mg S-ALA) of Simply Nature’s Pure Alpha Lipoic Acid.
Simply Nature’s Pure Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) ingredients are 300 mg R-ALA (natural) and 300 mg S-ALA (synthetic), vegetable capsule. Simply Nature’s Pure ALA comes in a bottle of 120 capsules, and if you find that the ALA works for your migraine attacks or trigeminal neuralgia or both, it is significantly cheaper to buy the 2-pack or 3-pack of ALA 120 capsules.
Supplements and vitamins to reduce migraine and neuropathic facial pain
• Natural Vitality Calm magnesium
• Deep Sleep
• California poppy
• valerian root
• ginger root
• Methylcobalamin vitamin B-12
• Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
All of these natural supplements and vitamins make a noticeable difference in lowering the pain level of this neuropathic facial pain (atypical trigeminal neuralgia) and the refractory migraine. Is any one of them more responsible for the pain relief than the others? In reality, I believe that it is the synergistic effect of them all that is finally significantly reducing the pain, but if I were forced to choose only one or two of these supplements, I’d start with the ALA and the methylcobalamin B-12. Since I am beginning to have a few pain-free hours each day, I am optimistic that eventually, as the nerve damaged by the originally abscessed tooth continues to heal, I will one day be mostly free of the atypical trigeminal neuralgia as well as of the refractory migraine, which I think is being triggered by the neuropathic facial pain. At the very least, I’ve found a combination of natural supplements and vitamins that have helped me reduce the severe pain of both these conditions and allowed me to regain control of my life.
Sound healing is not new. Tibetan Singing Bowls, chanting, humming, lullabies — they’re all forms of sound that have been used throughout history for soothing, healing, or meditation. I’ve had a Tibetan Singing Bowl for almost two decades now. I meditate with it and use it to reduce anxiety during a panic attack. Unfortunately, the Singing Bowl doesn’t reduce the pain or duration of a migraine, whether it is with aura or without, nor does the Singing Bowl reduce the excruciating pain of atypical trigeminal neuralgia, from which I’ve suffered for the last two years. Because my medical massage therapist had actually used a Sound Vitality Infratonic sound wave device on some of my childhood injuries to reduce recurrent inflammation and pain, I decided to use that specific device on my head in the summer of 2018 after a three-month migraine showed no sign of ending.
My therapist was afraid to use her Infratonic device on my head: I have hemiplegic migraine that can cause seizures, and my therapist feared that the sound waves might trigger a migraine-induced seizure. In June 2018, she let me borrow her Infratonic 8000 (an older version) to use at home, cautioning me to make sure I was lying down in bed before using it on the migraine pain so that, if the sound waves did trigger a seizure, I would already be in a safe environment.
When I first put the Infratonic 8000 on my head, directly over the migraine pain, the pain increased slightly. Almost immediately, however, the pain changed in a way that’s difficult to describe. Before I’d even removed the Infratonic 8000 from my head to change its settings, the pain began to reduce in intensity. (I wrote an article detailing the treatment of that particular migraine, and another with placement suggestions for anyone else treating migraine pain with Infratonic sound wave devices.) Using the Infratonic 8000 never triggered a migraine-seizure, and because the Infratonic 8000 so noticeably reduced the pain, I started researching the science behind the sound wave device as well as how I could acquire an Infratonic of my own.
How The Chi Institute (formerly, Sound Vitality) Sound Devices Work The Chi Institute (formerly, Sound Vitality) makes no claims that their sound wave devices heal you. Instead, their devices reduce pain and inflammation with infrasonic sound waves (varying from 8-800 Hz or cycles per second, which is below the threshold of most humans’ ability to hear), allowing your own body to begin to heal itself. The patented Infratonic is 501(k) listed by the FDA as medical massage device, though it doesn’t really “massage” your tissue. The earlier units, which plug in, vibrate a bit, but it’s not actual massage. The Infratonic 9 does not vibrate.
The newest version of the Infratonic sound wave device is a dramatic improvement over the earlier devices, which were rather large and cumbersome, and which needed to be plugged in to operate. To use the Infratonic 8000, you had to literally be within a foot or two of the device’s base. The Infratonic 8000 is no longer available for sale because the company now offers a new version: the Infratonic 9, or I-9 for short. Not only is the Infratonic 9 smaller than the previous versions of The Chi Institute’s devices, it is portable and rechargeable. The I-9 is approximately 3.5″ wide, 6.5″ long, and slightly over 1.5″ deep. It weighs 14 ounces (i.e., much less than the hardcover Lord of the Rings in one volume). The I-9 comes with its own non-padded, vinyl carrying case and AC adapter/charger.
I was delighted to learn that you do not have to have a medical massage license to purchase The Chi Institute’s Infratonic 9. You do not need your physician’s recommendation or a prescription to buy one, and you most certainly do not need the permission of an insurance company to buy the I-9 to treat your own pain.
After using the Infratonic 8000 periodically for a few years in my medical massage therapist’s office, using the Infratonic 8000 daily for a month to reduce the pain of an intractable migraine, and using the Infratonic 9 virtually 24 hours a day for the last 7 months, I can now comfortably review both the product and the company.
The Chi Institute
(formerly, Sound Vitality)’s
How to Operate the Infratonic There are three sound wave settings on the I-9 for reducing pain and promoting healing, on the right side of the On/Off button, operated by the Signal button after you turn the I-9 on. Each setting has its own frequency of sound waves.
Balance (which some medical massage therapists call “body”): soundwaves at 8-17 Hz
Acute (which some call “body and mind”): soundwaves at 8-50 Hz
Deep Calm (which some call “spirit”): soundwaves 8-800 Hz
To the left of the On / Off button is the Timer button: the I-9 has two pre-set timers, for 10 or 20 minutes each, which also operate with an electronic alarm (which sounds just like the device when you turn it on). The timed settings, with or without alarm, shut the device off automatically after designated 10 or 20 minutes.
To run the device on any setting — Balance, Acute, or Deep Calm — continuously, press the Timer button until all the lights on the left side of the control panel are off. The device will run continuously until you manually turn it off with the On / Off button in the center bottom.
The I-9 has a rechargeable battery (life expectancy = 3 years) and a plug-in adapter/charger. It took 45 minutes to charge it the first time (their site says it takes 90 minutes). You can safely use the I-9 while it is charging, but don’t put it under a pillow when it’s plugged in and charging as the I-9 gets hot to the touch when plugged in and under a pillow. Sound Vitality estimates 60-65 hours of continuous usage from one battery charge: I’ve gotten as much as 2.5 days of continuous use before the unit alerted me, with a noise and the battery light, that it needed to be recharged.
The Battery light in the center of the control panel only operates when it needs to be charged, in which case it will glow red, or when it is charging, also red. The Battery light turns green when it is fully charged and goes off when you unplug the unit.
The sound waves are emitted from the underside of the I-9, which looks like the grill of a fan. No air comes out. The I-9 has a patented Chaos system that makes the sound waves come out in a “chaotic pattern” so that your brain and body cells cannot accustom themselves to the sound waves. If your cells can find the pattern, they can replicate it, which allows the damaged cells to remain damaged.
If you hold the I-9 to your ear, you might hear the sound of the Chaos-mechanism whirring slightly, but you have to have exceptional hearing, i.e., beyond the usual human range, to hear the sound waves themselves. Horses and dogs can hear the sound waves. I think my cats can, too. I hear something beyond the Chaos mechanism on both the Acute and Deep Calm settings, but most people hear no sound when they put the I-9 up to their ear.
You can place the Infratonic directly on bare skin: it will not burn you or heat up. You do not need any gels or lotions for the sound waves to pass through your tissue and bone; further, I wouldn’t advise putting the I-9 on top of gels or lotions since those might damage the machine by getting inside. You do not have to take breaks from using the I-9: I’ve used it the entire 9 months that I’ve had the migraine that is being triggered by the trigeminal neuralgia, including when I sleep, and I’ve been using the I-9 specifically for the atypical trigeminal neuralgia for over six months, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (during the day, I wear it in a headband-sleeve that I made for the device; at night, I put it under my pillow).
For such an expensive device, the carrying case is pretty cheap and flimsy. It is not padded in any way. To carry the fully charged Infratonic device with me in my purse or backpack, I put it into a sturdier, fully lined, padded leather pouch.
Since the AC-adapter/charger doesn’t have retractable prongs and doesn’t fit in either the original carrying case nor in my leather pouch, I’d put the Infratonic 9 in my padded, suede, iPad-mini case if I were traveling, if only because that case has a separate zipped outer compartment where I could safely store the adapter/charger.
The adapter could have been improved by having retractable prongs, but it would have been even better to have a USB adapter and a separate plug (with retractable prongs). A USB-adapter/charger cord would easily fit into the vinyl carrying case that comes with the device as well as into the smaller leather case I have. A USB-adapter/charger would not scratch the I-9 itself as the attached-plug charger could if it were forced into a case with the device. This type of adapter/charger would also allow the device to be charged at home and at work, for instance, without requiring you to carry around the bulky plug.
Warranty and Customer Service The Infratonic 9 has a 30-day Unconditional Return Guarantee and 1-Year Warranty on Parts & Labor from The Chi Institute itself. Mine behaved strangely the first few days: it kept sounding the alarm and shutting itself off randomly. The Chi Institute paid my return shipping, replaced the circuit board and battery, and shipped the repaired I-9 to me, all free of charge. After it was returned to me, I used it over 6 months, virtually continuously, and it worked perfectly. Until it began misbehaving again: shutting itself off randomly, only without its customary warning beep.
At the end of the seventh month of constant usage, the light indicating that the battery needed to be charged on my I-9 began coming on in less than 24 hours — far shorter than the 48-60 hour charge time I’d been used to — and the unit began turning off and on and off again, by itself, but without the customary warning beeps. When I contacted Sound Vitality’s customer service about buying a new battery, they informed me that the battery should last 3 years. They talked me through some trouble-shooting tips to reset the device, and mailed me a replacement battery free-of-charge. After the trouble-shooting, which I was easily able to do myself, the device stopped randomly turning itself on and off. Once I installed the replacement battery, the device returned to its original 48-60 hours of operation before needing to be charged.
Update: My original device began behaving erratically, once again, in April 2019, less than a year after purchase, and still within the warranty period. The device kept turning itself off randomly but without the usual accompanying warning beep. It was also taking about 8 hours to charge, despite the newly installed battery. Sound Vitality sent me a demo device as well as a new plug, along with a shipping label to return my defective unit. As of this date, The Chi Institute has decided to keep the defective unit while I will keep the demo unit, which is performing marvelously and is greatly reducing my pain. I am beginning to have a few hours each day completely pain-free: there is still pressure in my head and face along the middle and upper branches of the trigeminal nerve, but I consider pressure-only an great improvement in the chronic pain.
The Chi Institute has very good customer service, and someone is available to answer questions by phone or online chat to help you with your device.
The Chi Institute Sources of Infratonic Information
If you have questions about the I-9 itself, the customer service department at The Chi Institute is happy to answer you via online chat or by phone at their toll-free number. They have a former website at Chi Institute, which has several articles on the 30-year history of the Infratonic, on how infrasonic sound waves work healing injured horses, on how the Infratonic reduces pain and cellular trauma, and how the Infratonic device accelerates recovery. The Hospital Protocol pages lists some of the types of injuries and tissue damage for which the Infratonic may be used. The Chi Institute also has testimonials on its site about the type of conditions the Infratonic machines have been used to treat.
Their older website has some diagrams about using the Infratonic (all versions), but I actually found it more effective when I just put the Infratonic (whether the older 8000 model or the latest model I-9) on the pain itself, as well as on any areas that might be contributing to the pain. The Infratonic Therapy User’s Guide for the I-9 is 110 pages of testimonials from customers who have used it on themselves or their animals, for injuries, surgeries, etc. You can read the entire guide online.
The Chi Institutte (formerly, Sound Vitality) has a video on the I-9 settings and timer, a brief video tip on using the I-9 for sleep, a very brief video mentioning the I-9 for headache and migraine, and a 48-minute webinar on treating various injuries and illnesses with the I-9, but there are no detailed instructions on how to specifically use the I-9 to treat specific injuries beyond “put it where it hurts” and “chase the pain.“
I had to figure out where to use the Infratonic for migraine pain myself. That’s why I wrote my first I-9 article: I would have loved to have found such a detailed article when I was researching ways to reduce migraine pain with sound waves, and I wanted to share what worked (and what didn’t) with others suffering from migraine.
Final Evaluation of The Chi Institute’s
Infratonic 9 Sound Wave Device
My main purpose in using the Infratonic 9 sound wave device is to reduce and eliminate chronic and acute (sometimes excruciating) pain: the I-9 scores extremely high in that area. It reduces both chronic and acute pain almost immediately. I have been using The Chi Institute’s Infratonic sound wave devices continuously since Jun 2018, for migraine without aura, hemiplegic migraine, and atypical trigeminal neuralgia. Since August 2018, I have been using the Infratonic 9 constantly for the atypical trigeminal neuralgia. I even made a pocket for the device out of a sport’s headband, and I pin the device-in-the-pocket to another sports headband, and wear the I-9 all day long, over the area of the damaged trigeminal nerve. At night, I sleep with the I-9 under my pillow, vent side turned upward.
The I-9 reduces the duration of hemiplegic migraine attacks and enables me to use less pain medication (though I still have to stay in bed). After 3 months of continuous usage, the Infratonic sound wave devices enabled me to differentiate the migraine without aura that was being triggered by the atypical trigeminal neuralgia, the hemiplegic migraine attacks, and the unremitting pain of the atypical trigeminal neuralgia. The I-9 also has reduced the frequency and the excruciating lightning-bolt pain of the trigeminal neuralgia. For the last week, I have had several days when I was relatively pain-free for several hours at a time: when I tried not wearing the I-9 a couple mornings this past week, I had severe pressure in my face from the atypical trigeminal neuralgia and some excruciating breakthrough pain, but nothing I couldn’t handle with several aspirin, herbal supplements, and brief usage of the I-9.
The Infratonic 9 has given me hope that I will one day be pain-free.
Having used the Infratonic 8000, which is most decidedly not portable, the newer I-9 scores high with its portability and light weight. Considering the fact that I’ve been able to actually get out of bed regularly the last few months, despite continuing pain, by literally wearing the I-9 (in the headband-sleeve, attached to another sports headband worn around my forehead), the smaller size, lighter weight, and portability of this newer device rate very high.
The I-9 was relatively easy for me to use, but I may be more familiar with all types of electronic devices than some people. Considering the fact that there are I-9 videos which demonstrate how to actually use the I-9, there are obviously some people who don’t understand its working mechanism. Sound Vitality would do well to have an instruction sheet on the device’s basic operation, especially if they wish to have people who are not medical massage therapists using the device on themselves.
More important than even a padded carrying case that would hold both the device and its adapter/charger, Sound Vitality needs to provide an owner’s manual that instructs us in how to treat chronic or acute pain with the I-9 sound wave device. Because I have been going to medical massage therapists for over two decades, and because I have purchased many medical textbooks to help me learn how to treat my own chronic pain, I was a little more informed about treatment areas for the pain of migraine and atypical trigeminal neuralgia than other consumers may be. However, I had to basically teach myself how to treat the damaged areas with the Infratonic 9. Some treatment areas reduced the pain, some didn’t have any effect on the pain (though, at least, treatment on these areas did not increase the pain). I would have greatly appreciated having an owner’s manual that gave me some rudimentary advice about I-9 placement (such as in my first article on the Infratonic 9).
Infratonic 9 Evaluation • Ease of use: A-/B+
• Portability: A
• Reduction of pain, chronic and acute: A+
Accessories • Carrying case: D-
• Adapter/charger: C
• Owner’s manual: F
• Warranty: A
• Customer service: B+
Purchasing an Infratonic 9
I first had experience with an Infratonic 8000 in my medical massage therapist’s office, who told me that she had first used one on herself at the office of another medical massage therapist before she purchased an Infratonic for her office.
I realize that this is a rather expensive unit, and if I hadn’t used it in my medical massage therapist’s office for a recurring injury and its pain, I would have hesitated even longer about buying my own. My research into sound healing and The Chi Institute’s 30-day money-back guarantee convinced me to purchase my own I-9, and I was saving the money to buy it when I learned that The Chi Institute allows you to make a purchase via PayPal Installment.
You do not need a physician’s prescription or a medical massage license to purchase an Infratonic 9. I am not aware of any insurance companies’ covering the cost of the device, although you can purchase an I-9 with the funds in a Health Savings Account (HSA) if you have one.
If you have any questions about using the Infratonic 9 for pain relief, please feel free to ask me in Comments to this post, on Twitter or on Facebook, or in an email via the Contact page. I’ll do my best to help you figure out how to use the Infratonic 9 to help you reduce your pain.
♦ The Chi Institute
(formerly, Sound Vitality)
Infratonic 9 *
My Infratonic 9 was purchased directly from The Chi Institute (formerly, Sound Vitality). I have not received any sort of compensation for this review, nor have I received any compensation for any of my other articles about my experience treating migraine and atypical trigeminal neuralgia with the Infratonic 9. I did all the research on sound healing, ultrasound, infrasound, and Chi-sound machines myself, both before and after my Infratonic 9 was purchased. When I had some questions about the frequencies of the sound waves, I contacted Sound Vitality, and their Director told me the specific ranges of the sound waves, as well as why the Chaos mechanism was added to disrupt those sound waves for healing purposes. I learned everything else from my own research and my own experience with the Infratonic 8000 and the Infratonic 9, and that includes all the suggested placements for pain relief and treatment in the Related Posts (below).
The Infratonic 9 by The Chi Institute can be purchased directly from their site. After you have the item in your cart, you can choose Pay with PayPal if you wish to pay in installments. You will then be taken to PayPal’s site, where PayPal handles all the financial information and installment arrangements. Otherwise, you pay with a credit or debit card.
The Infratonic 9 it is also sold by The Chi Institute through Amazon, which lists the same device three different times (all at the same price): for sports injuries recovery, abdominal pain relief, and menstrual cramps relief. They are all the same device, though the photos make the device look slightly different, If you buy the Infratonic 9 from Amazon, The Chi Institute will be sending your device. This is the I-9 that I use for the pain of migraine and atypical trigeminal neuralgia.
Note: though marketed for different kinds of pain on Amazon, these are all the identical product, and The Chi Institute (formerly, Sound Vitality) will be sending your device. This is the I-9 sound wave device that I use for the pain of migraine and neuropathic facial pain (formerly called "atypical trigeminal neuralgia")
Copyright 2012-2019 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman, Ph.D. All rights reserved. No content may be copied, excerpted, or distributed without express written consent of the author and publisher, with full copyright credit to the author. Please, don’t support the piracy of Intellectual Property.
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