More than a Migraine

For Heather Moury, DO, AQH, who practices with St. Clair Medical Group Neurology, one of the most important things is distinguishing that a migraine is much more than just a headache—and far more common than most people think.

“A migraine is severe unilateral, throbbing, debilitating pain with associated symptoms ranging from sensitivity to light and sound to nausea, vomiting, numbness, and dizziness,” she says. “Migraines are worsened with movement and make it difficult to keep up with everyday life.”

In the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, migraine registered as the third-highest cause worldwide of people living with disability.

One of Dr. Moury’s main goals is to help erase the stigma around migraines by showcasing not just how common and disabling they can be, but communicating a message of hope to those who are suffering.

“Historically, if you had back pain or joint pain there were simply more obvious causes, more readily-accepted understanding within respective peer groups, and commensurate treatment plans,” she says. “Now we’ve gotten to that same realm with migraines—there are so many more proven treatment options available today.”

The first step? Seeking treatment.

Medications. Injections. Botox. Neuromodulatory devices. And more.

Prior to receiving new treatment options at St. Clair, Amy Plitt of Moon Township was a textbook example of the wide-reaching havoc migraines can level over every element of life.

“I was a gymnast growing up all the way through high school, and suffered my first migraine when I was 18,” she says. “I didn’t know what it was—but it lasted 74 days! No one could pinpoint what was happening to me, so I went through a battery of tests including a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. Eventually—mercifully—what I now know was my first migraine went away.”

Amy earned a writing degree from Geneva College in Beaver Falls and began her career as a copy editor and proofreader. She got married and started a family. And with her life taking full shape, the migraines returned in full force.

“It wasn’t the frequency that increased at first, but the severity,” she says. “I might only get one or two a year, but they would be so bad that I would suffer a nose bleed.”

As her family flourished, Amy’s migraines did become more frequent.

“And the hardest part was that they went from putting me out of commission for a day or two to completely knocking me down for a week or two—sometimes longer,” she says.

Amy’s children entered their teenage years to sometimes find out that their mother needed to be hospitalized for treatment. Battling the recurring bouts, the former gymnast was able to serve as an assistant dance coach for her daughter.

“That’s what I tried to do to get out of the house—but I couldn’t always handle the live music,” she says. “We’re a very closeknit family and I’m so thankful for my husband’s efforts and the compassion from my children, because I was never able to make it to one of my son’s rugby games.”

Looking back, Amy delivers a harrowing assessment of this challenging time.

“I’m 52 now, and my 40s feel like they were nonexistent,” she says.

In 2018, Amy found Dr. Moury, who got to work on making things personal.

“We build your care around you at St. Clair,” Dr. Moury says. “And that starts with your overall health and lifestyle—the combination of factors from family history through exercise, sleep, and hydration that all play a critical role in how you feel and how your body reacts to stress. That gives us a baseline to come back to and evaluate further based on how you respond to personalized treatment protocols.”

Because migraines have a high likelihood of being genetic and can be heightened by overuse of over-the-counter medication, Dr. Moury works diligently to diagnose the correct headache type, discover potential root causes, and find the best treatment with the least amount of side effects.

“For example, is this a migraine, a cluster headache, or a tension headache?” she asks. “Then we explore comorbidities that may be running parallel to your headache type. For example, Amy has anxiety, and some anti-anxiety medication can help treat migraine, and we can choose one medication to treat both diagnoses.”

Through years of trial and error with other neurologists, Amy had seen multiple specialists and received various workups including lumbar punctures and brain imaging. Though no underlying causes were found and no treatments appeared beneficial, Dr. Moury remained undeterred.

“Migraines are challenging, and for someone like Amy who struggled for so many years, frustration can easily set in,” she says. “I love the mystery of diagnosing migraines and understanding patients as a whole,  because no two people are alike. It is rewarding to find a treatment plan for a patient that can make a huge difference in their quality of life.”

Gradually, Amy found growing levels of success through infusions, nerve blocks, and Botox. But as her body built up a tolerance to treatment, the migraines returned intermittently.

In 2022, a breakthrough. Dr. Moury introduced Amy to Eptinezumab, an intravenous (IV) infusion treatment for migraine prevention.

“We started that in November, and I told Dr. Moury it was like liquid gold,” Amy says. “I haven’t had a migraine since.”

The proud mom has been able to consistently work and play, getting back to her favorite hobbies like reading and crocheting that once caused her too much pain to concentrate.

The Plitt family, too, has come full circle.

“Our son got married last October and now we’re all set for our daughter’s wedding this Summer,” she says. “And I’m just overjoyed to be out in the sun again.”

Expert care from people who care.

Amy is adamant about sharing her story so that others suffering from the same fear and regret of what they’ve been missing out can see light at the end of the tunnel—and not immediately squint at the onset of a migraine.

“Because of St. Clair, I no longer have to accept living in pain,” she says.