Saturday, April 19, 2014

Headache Management ala Christy

After the earlier post, I had several folks ask me what I do to prevent or treat the migraines.  I reiterate that I don't have them so chronically that I need daily prescription preventives. And I'm thankful for that! 

So here is the list.  It isn't complete. It isn't scientifically proven.  It isn't based in prescription meds.

Minimize triggers - if you know them.  Personally I shun chocolate, raw onions, nitrates, MSG, bright sunlight, caffeine withdrawal, low blood sugar, and dehydration.

Timing is everything - The curse of the pre-headache "aura" is really a blessing in my case.  True, I can't see 50% of my field of vision, but it gives me about a 20 minute notice that I need to get meds on board before the headache actually hits.

OTC meds - I use Advil or Tylenol almost exclusively.  Tylenol is my first choice, because I have other issues that don't blend well with ibuprofen.  But many times, ibuprofen is the only thing that helps.  Experiment.  Excedrin works great for other folks I know.

Coffee or Tea - Aura + OTC + HUGE intake of caffeine before the headache hits.  If I can put that combination together, I usually minimize pain, duration, and side effects. 

Pressure Points- Messaging pressure points in my forearms, legs, hands, the bridge of the nose, and temples can work occasionally. 

Go Dark - I turn lights out and lay down for as long as feasible.

Heating Pad - This is usually applied to forehead or shoulders.

Lavender Oil - Sometimes the scent of pure lavender oil will help.  I don't use the nasty chemically stuff they put in cosmetics to make you think you're using lavender.  It doesn't work.

Hot bath - It relaxes the muscles of the back and neck, which goes a long way towards easing the headache too.  This is most effective if it's a stress induced headache.

Wintergreen Mints - I have no idea why.

Prescription Meds - I own them.  I hate them.  I use them only when everything else fails and I can't manage anymore. 

Duck Dive - It's taken me years to master it, and I can't do it for long. Think of it as a surfing metaphor.    I go deep in my mind and let the pain wash over me, like a surfer swimming out through the oncoming waves.  This takes focus and complete isolation, but basically one can go somewhere else in one's mind, some place where the pain isn't.   Sometimes it's necessary.

(Oh, and I pet my dog.  Because he's my comfort. He understands, and that's enough to help me through.)

There's thousands of sites on the Internet with different suggestions.  These are just the ones I find work for me.  And after all, I should know after 37 years of practice.

Feel free to comment with your helpful hints too!  I'm always open to new ideas for fighting the migraine devil.

Peace!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

37 Years of Denial, My Life with Migraine

So far I've navigated 37 of my 44 years down the river migraine.  I can't say its been a successful journey, but I can say that I have it better than many other sufferers.  So, complaining is right out.  It's my trial, and everyone has trials.

Lately I've been reflecting on life, as is normal for the person on the cusp of midlife.  With a bit of shock I have realized that I've lived "around" this disease.  Meaning, I subconsciously compensate for the inevitable downtime that will be forced upon me.   This is how it works:

  • The barometric pressure drops...I get a migraine.
  • My hormones fluctuate... I get a migraine.
  • I eat chocolate, red wine, raw onions, or, GOD FORBID, MSG... I get a migraine.
  • I finish a big stressful project... I get a migraine.
  • I exercise too much... I get a migraine.
Now, if it was just a day of headache pain, that would be one thing.  But as any migraine patient will tell you, there's the aura before, the pain and side effects during, and the hangover afterward.  It's the hangover that has become more challenging for me as I age.  I get foggy, sore, and my personality temporarily changes.  My mental filter malfunctions, and there's no telling what I'll say. 

Before now, I never considered myself  hamstrung, or restricted by this devil.  But let's take a look at reality vs. my interpretation of it.  The way I see it, I just quarantine myself as soon as the aura hits, take medicine, and carry on after about an hour.  No big deal, it hurts, but I can live with it.  But, here's the part I wasn't owning.  I have lived my life subconsciously dancing around the unavoidable.
  • I'm reluctant to commit to being places at a specific time.
  • I've chosen employment (or lack there of) that doesn't require strict clock-in/ clock-out times.
  • I hide from the world after headaches, for fear of saying something I wouldn't ordinarily say.
  • When taking on a big project, I prolong the intense stress.  Because, I know as soon as it lets up, the "let down" migraine will knock me out for days.  I just can't afford that time.
  • I rarely see movies with friends.  (Some visual inputs, particularly 3D movies, trigger them.)
Basically, I tend not to sign on to activities where I could let anyone else down.  But know this.   If I do promise to be somewhere or do something, I will do it, pain or no pain.  And, I'll do it well.  That is just as much a part of who I am as the headaches are!

Seems so obvious, and yet I just didn't notice it before.

So, there it is.  If you have migraines, you'll understand. 

I realize that this compensation isn't unique to me, or even to migraine patients.  There are many chronic hidden conditions that alter the way we conduct our lives.  So, the next time you can't understand why Joe or Jane is doing what they are doing, consider that you just don't know the problem around which they are working.  Live, and let live.  Hey, we're all in denial about something.

Peace!