The Vestibular Migraine Treatments That Cured My Daily Dizziness

Is it possible to recover from vestibular migraine?

This is a question that is frequently asked and one that the author has personally pondered. After consulting with their neurologist, the answer is a resounding yes. It is completely possible to be cured of dizziness and feel 100% on most days. The author serves as proof that with an effective vestibular migraine treatment plan, recovery is possible.

It is important to note that it took the author approximately two to three years to completely have dizzy-free days. However, they now experience symptoms much less frequently and find them more manageable. This improvement occurred even after undergoing infertility and IVF treatments. The concept of remission is subjective and varies from person to person, but any reduction in dizzy days is a significant achievement. The author wants to offer hope and emphasize the importance of finding the right doctor and treatment plan when battling a migraine or vestibular disorder. It is crucial to understand that these treatments require time to work and are not quick fixes. While migraine itself may not have a cure, the daily symptoms of vestibular migraine can certainly be cured.

Migraine without Headache

The author shares their personal experience of experiencing episodes where they felt like they were moving when standing still or walking on marshmallows. They had constant dizziness accompanied by brain fog, memory loss, and a floaty feeling. Bright lights and loud noises exacerbated their symptoms. Despite these symptoms being indicative of vestibular disorders, the author’s test results did not show hearing loss. Ultimately, they were diagnosed with vestibular migraine, which was initially difficult for them to accept. They had always associated migraines with headaches, but their doctor explained that vestibular migraines can manifest without head pain. The author experienced constant vestibular symptoms without any respite. Activities like driving, exercising, using a computer or phone, or even going for a walk would trigger debilitating sickness or vertigo attacks.

A Vestibular Migraine Specialist

After consulting with seven doctors, including neurologists and ENTs, the author finally met with a specialized neurologist named Dr. Shin Beh, also known as “The Dizzy Neurologist.” Dr. Beh was based at UT Southwestern’s Medical Center and had expertise in treating vestibular migraines and unexplained dizziness. Finding doctors who specialize in this specific condition is rare, so the author was excited to consult with Dr. Beh. After an extensive review of the author’s vestibular symptoms and various tests assessing balance and eye movement, Dr. Beh diagnosed them with chronic vestibular migraine.

Although the author did have a family history of migraines, their parents rarely experienced attacks, making the diagnosis less obvious. However, the author’s childhood experience of car sickness was seen as a potential indicator of vestibular migraine, as it is a common occurrence in individuals with this condition.

Medications

The author worked with Dr. Beh to establish migraine recovery goals. Since their original plan was to conceive, it was crucial to select medications suitable for vestibular migraine that could either be used during pregnancy or gradually withdrawn. The following medications were chosen:

  • Timolol Eye Drops: A beta blocker that has shown success in migraine prevention studies. The eye drop form is absorbed more quickly and can also be used as an acute medication to rapidly alleviate a migraine attack. The eye drop format allows for smaller medication dosage, reducing side effects. The author used these eye drops twice a day, in the morning and at night, and noticed their effectiveness after two to three months of usage. They experienced no side effects other than a slight stinging sensation upon application.
  • Ativan: Prescribed at the lowest possible dosage to be taken before bed. Ativan helped calm the author’s brain and mitigated severe vertigo attacks. It also provided relief from anxiety associated with their unbalanced life. Within a few weeks, the author experienced relief, although complete relief was not immediate. As their condition improved, they gradually reduced the dosage and transitioned to using it only for severe attacks or while traveling. After six months of daily usage, they began using it as needed. The weaning process was smooth but conducted at a slow pace.
  • Steroid Taper and Afrin: These were used occasionally when more severe attacks occurred. For instance, when the author experienced congestion during a flight, causing their ears to become plugged and triggering heightened vestibular migraine symptoms like dizziness, they implemented a short steroid taper combined with 2-3 days of Afrin. This combination helped alleviate symptoms quickly.

The author did not take any of these medications during pregnancy and managed their symptoms with the treatments discussed below. They kept Timolol as an acute medication option throughout pregnancy. However, their OB advised against restarting Timolol postpartum in order to obtain accurate blood pressure readings.

Instead, the author tried a new treatment called gammaCore, which will be detailed later in the article.

What Migraine Medications Didn’t Work

Medications that did not work for the author in the past include meclizine, dramamine, and a long course of steroids. They also tried to avoid anti-nausea medications like zofran whenever possible, as these medications tended to trigger head pain, which was not a typical symptom of their migraine attacks. The author also experimented with valium but found even a quarter of the lowest dose made them feel disoriented and foggy. On the other hand, Ativan (lorazepam) did not induce as much brain fog or tiredness the following morning.

Migraine supplements like magnesium, ginger, and vitamin d on a white marble table

Supplements

The author began taking a combination of supplements that are well-researched for migraine prevention based on their doctor’s advice. It took approximately two to three months of combining these supplements with medications to notice any difference in their 24/7 symptoms. The author emphasizes that most supplements are not quick fixes and require time to yield results. It is crucial to consult with a physician before incorporating any supplements into one’s routine. The following supplements were included in the author’s treatment plan:

  • Magnesium: The author initially tried magnesium citrate and oxide but experienced digestive issues at the dosage of 600mg per day. After conducting extensive research, they switched to Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate, which proved to be more effective. Additionally, they added Magnesium Threonate to their morning routine as it is known to be effective for cognitive function, an area of concern for the author due to vestibular migraine. Magnesium has been the most effective supplement for the author, preventing attacks, and helping with anxiety and brain fog. They currently take 2 Cognimag in the morning and 4 glycinate pills after dinner. Previously, they spread out the glycinate intake, taking 2 in the afternoon with lunch and 2 in the evenings. During severe attacks, they would either take 2 more glycinate pills or use magnesium lotion on their feet before bed. Magnesium has been the most effective supplement for the author’s migraine management.
  • Riboflavin (B2): The author faithfully took 400mg of Riboflavin daily for three years as studies have shown its effectiveness in migraine prevention. However, they have since stopped taking it as they did not notice a significant difference in how it made them feel. Nevertheless, they recommend others give it a try as it may work for different individuals. The author used to take Riboflavin in the morning with a full meal.
  • Vitamin D: The author continues to take Vitamin D as it has been shown that individuals with migraines often have low levels of this vitamin. Additionally, it is beneficial for fertility. Their doctor prescribed 5,000IU of Vitamin D due to their low levels. The author takes it in the evenings before bed.
  • CoQ10/Ubiquinol: Initially, the author took CoQ10 as a migraine prevention tool but did not observe noticeable results, possibly due to not taking a high enough dosage. However, when they consulted a reproductive endocrinologist, they recommended taking 300mg of Ubiquinol specifically, which is the active form of CoQ10. This dosage resulted in improved energy levels, mental clarity, and fertility for both the author and their spouse. The author used to take this supplement in the mornings or around lunch with a full meal.
  • A Daily Multivitamin: The author initially took Pure Encapsulations ONE, but switched to different brands of prenatal vitamins while trying to conceive. MamaBird by Best Nest was their original choice, but the formula has since changed. Ritual prenatal vitamins had a strong lemon flavor and caused fishy burps. Many other brands contained unnecessary ingredients. Seeking Health was also effective but required taking six pills, which was inconvenient. Currently, the author takes Thorne prenatal vitamins.
  • Probiotics: The author does not take probiotics continuously but incorporates them when needed or when their diet lacks variety, such as during pregnancy. They initially stopped taking probiotics due to sensitivity to live active cultures and fermented products. To combat this, they found HistaminX by Seeking Health to be a suitable option. Align and BioKult also offer good probiotic options.

What Migraine Supplements Didn’t Work

The author tried supplements for vestibular migraine treatment that they did not continue with. Migrelief, a combination pill containing CoQ10, magnesium, and B2, did not provide the necessary amount of magnesium and caused digestive issues. Migrelief was replaced with Feverfew, but the author experienced terrible headaches, possibly due to the ragweed connection. Ginger worked better when incorporated into food rather than in supplement form, as it caused acid reflux and indigestion. Turmeric with black pepper was also incorporated into their diet but was not highly effective as a supplement.

A girl in a Dizzy Cook apron cooking meatloaf

Diet

The author found that incorporating a migraine diet, known as the “Heal Your Headache” diet, was the missing piece in their vestibular migraine treatment. The author started this diet around six months after beginning medications and supplements. Although they noticed a decrease in the severity of their vestibular symptoms, the daily dizziness persisted. Initially skeptical, as there was limited information at the time on how the diet could help with vestibular migraine, the author decided to give it a try.

In the first two months, they did not notice significant changes and questioned the effectiveness of the diet. However, one night they tested yogurt, which they had been consuming daily without noticing a major difference in symptoms. Within 30 minutes of consuming yogurt, they experienced a vertigo attack, which had been relatively well-controlled with medications and supplements. This incident convinced the author to continue with the diet. It took approximately six months for the author to experience breaks in their dizziness. This improvement occurred almost a year after starting medications and supplements, and nearly two years after the onset of symptoms. The author emphasizes that the diet is not a quick fix and often requires blind faith in its effectiveness.

After approximately eight months on the diet, the author had enough low-dizziness days to feel comfortable reintroducing foods. By testing foods when their symptoms were under control, they were able to identify specific food triggers more easily. Over the years, the author found that certain foods initially bothered them but became more tolerable as their condition improved.

The author believes that cooking at home played a significant role in their healing journey. Finding joy in new recipes, building new cooking skills, and sharing meals with loved ones brought light into their life during dark days.

What Diets Didn’t Work

Initially, the author attempted the Whole30 diet, believing it would help identify food sensitivities and promote overall health. However, they later discovered that nuts were a major trigger for them. This was not apparent while following the Whole30 or Paleo diets, as they consumed nuts and nut milks regularly, thinking it was beneficial. The author also tried going dairy and gluten-free for four to six months to see if it affected their migraine symptoms. Despite undergoing multiple tests for sensitivities and allergies, including for gluten and dairy, no significant findings were observed. The author acknowledges that these diets may work better for individuals with known sensitivities or allergies but emphasizes that improvement can be achieved without eliminating gluten and dairy. As proof, the author mentions their love for real cheese.

Vestibular Therapy (VRT)

The author initially attempted vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) while experiencing constant symptoms. However, it only worsened their condition. They realized that calming their brain with supplements, medications, and diet before starting VRT was essential. The author also highlights the importance of working with a therapist knowledgeable about vestibular migraine, such as the one they found through UT Southwestern and Dr. Beh. They attended VRT sessions once every two weeks, focusing on head movements and patterns that triggered their symptoms. The rule was to return to the same baseline within an hour after the session. If increased symptoms persisted longer, it indicated that too much had been done during the session.

The author describes various vestibular therapy exercises they undertook throughout their recovery journey. Initially, due to severe sickness, their exercise was limited to walking short distances. They gradually progressed to taking ballet classes, which helped with memory, cognitive function, and balance. The author also started mowing their lawn, gradually transitioning to high-intensity classes like cycling and weightlifting over the course of two to three years.

A girl in migraine glasses for vestibular migraine treatment

Alternative Migraine Treatments

The author found that every slight improvement in their vestibular migraine symptoms motivated them to explore different alternative treatments in search of complete relief. They experimented with the following treatments:

  • Massage Therapy: The author continues to schedule regular massage therapy appointments, aiming for at least twice a month. Their therapist is experienced in reflexology, cupping, acupressure, cranial sacral therapy, and gua sha. A combination of these treatments, with a focus on the head and neck, has proven beneficial. Massage therapy helps alleviate tension and inflammation often associated with vestibular migraine.
  • Acupuncture: The author tried acupuncture for six months but found that the cost-benefit ratio was not favorable. They experienced better results with massage therapy and acupressure, finding them more relaxing than acupuncture sessions.
  • Migraine Glasses: The author tried different types of migraine glasses for various situations. They found Axon lenses useful in their previous office environment, TheraSpecs effective during grocery shopping and severe attacks, and Migraine Shields and Avulux beneficial for computer work. The author appreciates that these glasses do not significantly distort colors, making photo editing easier. They recommend using the discount code THEDIZZYCOOK when purchasing these glasses.
  • Allay Lamp: This lamp helps with light sensitivity, nausea, and anxiety. Although it did not reduce the author’s dizziness or vestibular symptoms, it provided relief from light-related discomfort. Managing screen time and avoiding bright lights can significantly help individuals with constant symptoms.
  • Chiropractic Care: The author found chiropractic care beneficial even before experiencing vestibular symptoms. Although it did not play a major role in their vestibular migraine recovery, it was a valuable addition to their treatment plan.
  • Stress Management: Leaving a stressful work environment had an immediate positive impact on the author’s well-being. They noticed improvements in their gut issues within a month of leaving the job. The author highlights the significant impact of stress on our overall health and recommends apps like Headspace and Calm, as well as restorative yoga classes, for meditation and mindfulness. Finding activities that bring joy, such as volunteering or cooking, can also help during difficult times.
  • Therapy: The author highly recommends therapy for individuals with chronic migraines. They emphasize the importance of finding a therapist who can help work through the emotional burden and anxiety that often accompany chronic illness. The author learned Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, visualization, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy from their therapist. These techniques helped shift their mindset from negative to positive and set small goals to make each day more manageable. Therapy also helped the author find joy in cooking.
  • Hydration: The author committed to consuming at least 70 ounces of water daily, which made a noticeable difference in their symptoms. They recommend using water bottles with schedules or setting reminders on phones to ensure adequate hydration.
  • Sleep Schedule: Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial for individuals with migraines. The author acknowledges the difficulty of adhering to a sleep schedule due to visual symptoms causing fatigue and the desire to rest. However, they gradually eliminated daytime naps, which resulted in improved sleep quality. The author also emphasizes the importance of getting the appropriate amount of sleep based on individual needs.

What Didn’t Work

The author highlights alternative treatments that did not provide significant relief:

  • Essential Oils: While essential oils are beneficial for relaxation, the author did not find them to be essential treatments. Although they found peppermint helpful for head pain, diffusing frankincense 24/7, as suggested by some sources, did not provide any noticeable benefit.
  • Acupuncture: The author mentioned earlier that they found greater benefits from massage therapy and acupressure than from acupuncture sessions.
  • The Epley Maneuver: Before receiving an official diagnosis, the author had various doctors attempt different maneuvers on them, assuming they might have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). However, the Epley Maneuver is not effective for vestibular migraine without BPPV.

Neuromodulation Devices

In June 2022, the author updated their treatment plan to reflect their current approach. Following a challenging postpartum period, they decided to manage their symptoms without resuming daily preventative medication. Instead, they tried gammaCore, which had become more affordable in recent years. Their neurologist had recommended both gammaCore and Cefaly as options, but considering their postpartum symptoms of anxiety, dizziness, and lack of sleep, they believed vagus nerve stimulation could offer greater benefits. The author used gammaCore as both a preventative and acute treatment, allowing them to avoid resuming daily preventative medication and reduce their reliance on Ativan as an acute medication. The author considers gammaCore a valuable addition to their treatment plan.

Vestibular Migraine Remission is Possible

The author emphasizes that vestibular migraine remission is achievable and occurs in many patients. Remission can be defined differently for each individual, whether it means not experiencing an attack for over a year or going several months with minimal or very mild symptoms. The author’s personal journey was lengthy and required significant effort, consistency, and hope. However, achieving complete relief from daily dizziness and brain fog is a remarkable accomplishment. The author acknowledges that their vestibular migraine treatment plan may not be universally effective but hopes that sharing their experience will provide insight into the time required for medications, supplements, and lifestyle changes to yield results. They urge readers to remain determined and not give up on their journey to find relief.

Vestibular Migraine Posts

The author has written various blog posts on different aspects of vestibular migraine. These posts cover topics such as acute treatments, natural treatments, triggers, common symptoms, techniques to calm vertigo attacks, dietary considerations, the impact of migraine on employment, and insights into living with vestibular migraine.