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Health Beat: Migraine relief: Stopping pain, relieving pressure

Published On: Apr 28 2014 12:12:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 28 2014 04:59:21 PM CDT

Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.

DALLAS -

Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.

“Just walking, I could hear my steps, they would hurt my head. I would just lay in a dark room all day and not really talk to anyone,” Messerli said.

Messerli saw 30 doctors and tried nearly 50 different medications, but her mom said nothing worked. She even withdrew from high school.

"It was horrible. It was a nightmare for the whole entire family," her mom, Shelly Messerli, said.

Dr. Bardia Amirlak, assistant professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said patients like Messerli often experience pain because nerves in the head and neck become irritated.

"These nerves get compressed," Amirlak said.

To relieve the pressure, Amirlak makes small incisions around trigger points. He then decompresses nerves in the problem area by cutting the muscle and small vessels.

"What we do is essentially cut that pathway that sends the signal to the brain and that stops that migraine process," Amirlak said.

Most patients experience some relief, and about 60 percent have complete relief.

After two decompression surgeries, Messerli's headaches are gone. Now she can focus more on schoolwork and less on pain.

"I have a life now!" she said.

"It was a miracle. It really was," her mom said.

Amirlak said between 80 and 90 percent of insurance companies cover the decompression procedure.

The technique was accidentally discovered by a plastic surgeon in Cleveland who performed a forehead lift for cosmetic reasons. He started to notice that his forehead-lift patients also reported relief from migraine symptoms.

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