New approach to treating migraines focuses on neck

Migraines can be debilitating for many people, especially those who suffer from what are known as neck migraines. It turns out that in some cases, severe migraine pain may actually originate from nerves in the back of the neck.

Donna Fennikoh suffered with migraines for 5 years. "They can last anywhere from 5 or 6 hours to days," she told WCBS's Dr. Max Gomez. "Last year, there was a period for 3 or 4 months I barely went a day."

She tried avoiding foods that sometimes trigger migraines, such as caffeine, red wine and chocolate, but nothing helped. Doctors say Fennikoh falls into a group of migraine sufferers whose headaches are sparked by nerves in the neck.

Dr. Houman Danesh of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City explains, "Essentially the joints start rubbing against each other, and that irritates the nerve that goes from the back of your neck to the back of your head, and can offset and trigger a nightmare." That's been known for a while, he said, but more recently doctors have developed ways of blocking the pain at the root of the nerve for more effective relief.

Fennikoh underwent a procedure where Danesh used X-rays to guide the injection of a long-acting anesthetic around the facet joints in her neck, numbing the nerve, and it seemed to help.

"It's the first time I went 3 solid days without a headache," she said.

Since the anesthetic procedure gave her some relief, doctors now plan to use radio frequency on the nerve for longer-term pain relief that could last a year or more.