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"At last, I got my life back!"

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For Carmella Engels, 51, of Phoenix, headaches appeared like a bolt out of the blue nine years ago. She saw a doctor and was diagnosed with chronic migraine. Although Carmella tried various treatments, she often found herself snapping at co-workers and family members. "A migraine feels like there's a monster inside my head," she says. "The pain would make me irritable, and I would have to apologize for my behavior once the migraine subsided."

About four years ago, Carmella's healthcare provider suggested she try a preventive medication. She saw a benefit almost immediately and continues to use it. She also tries to avoid her triggers, which include extreme stress and insufficient sleep. "My headaches dropped from more than 15 days a month to half that, then a quarter," she says. "It was life-changing." Now that she has tamed "the monster in her head," Carmella has to dole out fewer apologies. "If I see two migraines a month, that's a lot," she says. "I can go to work and be happy around my children. I got my life back." Here, her tips for coping:

" Try a holistic approach. Carmella regularly gets a massage called myofascial release, which helps loosen painful connective tissue. "My migraines can be related to stress, and this helps release tension in my head and shoulders," she explains.
" Don't ditch your treatment plan. When Carmella tried to go off her medication, her headaches came back with a vengeance. "My doctor helped me to see that chronic migraine is no different from any other chronic disease," she says.
" Learn how to manage your headaches at work. "Even if you make it out of the house, you're not functioning to your full potential," says Carmella. Your healthcare provider can help you find a treatment that will minimize disruptions to your schedule.
Headache Irritability Pain Stress Migraine

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