BLOOMINGTON -- Elle Baharmand was a 15-year-old girl living in California when she began getting chronic migraine headaches.
About once a month, around the time of her period, she'd get a headache that would last three days.
Baharmand, now 41, moved to Bloomington with her husband, Saed Hemmasi, 15 years ago. Both are technical analysts for State Farm Insurance Cos. Over the years, her migraines got worse.
By 2009, she was declining party invitations because the noise and cigarette smoke would prompt a migraine.
"It was hard," Baharmand admitted in an interview in her Bloomington home. "I'm very social."
By 2010, she was waking up two days a week with a throbbing headache that would begin behind her left ear and then take over her entire head.
"I'd wake up and couldn't go back to sleep. Up to 10 ibuprofen wouldn't touch it."
She would take medicine, then wait an hour before going into work to give the medicine time to take effect.
"Any pain medicine that you can think of, I've been on."
For example, she was prescribed anti-seizure medicine and a muscle relaxant to help her to sleep. But she'd wake up with a headache anyway. Even pain-fighting injections didn't help. She became concerned about possible side effects of all the medicines.
By early last year, her painful migraines were lasting for three to four days each, she was low on sleep and was experiencing anxiety.
Not only were her treatments not working but she was using a lot of sick days and became concerned that she would lose her job.
"I couldn't exercise," she recalled. "I couldn't take him (her dog, Fendi) for a walk."
In May, she saw Dr. Ben Taimoorazy at his new pain management clinic in Bloomington. He went through her medical history and began by telling her that her years as an occasional smoker were at an end and she could no longer drink alcohol or eat chocolate or cheese because those things are migraine triggers.
In June, Taimoorazy performed a procedure in which a miniature cotton swab soaked in local anesthetic was introduced through her nose to deliver medicine to the central nervous system, reducing the pain.
"It seemed weird to put it up my nose but I was willing to do anything at that point to get rid of the headaches and drop the medicines," she said.
She had seven procedures that month and has had maintenance treatments about every 20 days since then. She also resumed exercise.
"The combination of the life changes and the treatments made a difference."
Gradually, the migraines lessened in frequency and severity. Her sleep improved, she hasn't missed work in a long time and is traveling more.
"Now, I'm almost back to normal," Baharmand said. "I get a little bit of a headache about once every two weeks but it's nothing like I used to get and ibuprofen can take care of it. I'm off all other medicines and injections."