Kristin Chenoweth Shares Her Migraine-Managing Secrets

Kristin Chenoweth first stole our hearts as Glinda in the Broadway mega-hit “Wicked.” At 47, she is an Emmy and Tony award winner who transitions effortlessly between stage, television and film. Behind the scenes, however, Kristin has had to overcome some incapacitating health issues.    

To start, Chenoweth has been plagued with debilitating migraines for years. “I thought I would have to retire because spotlights are everywhere in my business and being on stage can trigger a migraine,” she says. But a visit to Kristin’s dermatologist helped her dodge a professional bullet. “She said she wanted to give me five shots of Botox across my eyebrows and I said, no – I make my living through facial expressions. Ultimately, it came down to a choice: migraines or a moveable forehead. I leaned back and got them across my brow and it changed my life.” 

Can Botox really help these headaches go away? Yes, says Dr. Jody Neer, MD, neurologist at Indiana University Health. “Chronic muscle spasms involving the head and neck may predispose individuals to a migraine attack. Botox is an FDA approved treatment for chronic migraine sufferers; muscle relaxation seems to play a major role, but there appears to be some anti-inflammatory effects as well. Patients seem to respond well to Botox and experience few if any negative side effects.”

The actress also suffers from Meniere’s Disease, an inner ear disorder that affects balance and hearing. One way she’s learned to cope? “I follow a low sodium diet,” explains Kristin. This is a sound strategy, says Dr. Charles Yates, MD, otolaryngologist at IU Health. “Meniere’s Disease is an accumulation of fluid in the middle ear causing hearing fluctuations, vertigo and sometimes hearing loss,” he says. “And controlling sodium/salt intake can reduce its severity in 80% of patients.”

Another remedy Kristin relies on to control migraine flare-ups are baths. She pencils in regular tub time, sprinkling some eucalyptus oil in the water for stress reduction. “That’s my quiet time,” she says. “It gives me a chance to unwind.”

Stress can be a common migraine trigger, explains Dr. Neer. “Sufferers are believed to have sensitized brains so that typical every day stressors can induce a migraine. Due to this, relaxation and meditation, are extremely valuable resources for those suffering from migraines.”  

-- By Bonnie Siegler