You may (I hope) have noticed that I have been absent from the blogging/social media world for a couple days. Well, I had a little headache.
Migraine (from Wikipedia):
Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent moderate to severe headaches often in association with a number of autonomic nervous system symptoms. The word derives from the Greek ἡμικρανία (hemikrania), “pain on one side of the head”, from ἡμι- (hemi-), “half”, and κρανίον (kranion), “skull”.
Does the above dry description sound anywhere close to this picture?
Didn’t think so.
It’s hard to write a post about migraines because 1) so much has been written about them 2) it’s a long, complex topic, and 3) there still aren’t a whole lot of answers to give.
If you are one of those people who “never get headaches,” (by the way I hate you. Not really.
Yes I do) you can skip below for my personal migraine story, or even farther below for the recovery day run photos. If you do get migraines you probably know it. Signified by severe throbbing pain, frequently on one side of your head (kind of like a vise being tightened down on your head), a migraine can last from two to 72 hours. It is frequently accompanied by nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, and occasionally for some people, an aura or flashes of light that precedes the actual headache. Yes, yes, yes, yes, everything but the aura.
There are many theories as to what causes or “triggers” a migraine. Genetics play a big role; up to 90 percent of people who get migraines have a family history of migraine attacks (don’t know about me, as I am adopted. I do know my poor sons both get migraines). Imbalances in brain chemicals, such as serotonin, may be involved. Triggers may include hormonal changes in women, food additives, reactions to such foods as aged cheeses or chocolate, alcohol, and processed foods. Other causes may include stress, stimuli such as bright lights or intense scents, change in sleep patterns, change in the weather, and medications. Again, yes to most of these at different times. Diesel fumes and strong perfumes kill me. Too much alcohol, stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, exercise induced (I almost always get a migraine after a hard effort in a race). And don’t get me started talking about hormones.
There are prescription medications that can relieve the severity of the migraines. Most of these are in the triptan family, and include such brand names as Imitrex, Relpax, and Zomig. Back when I first started getting migraines, when I was 10 years old, they had me on Darvon, an opioid which was banned in 2010.
Other more natural solutions for prevention and relief include:
- Vitamin B2, riboflavin, which when used in high doses (400 mg) a day for three months has been shown to reduce the incidence of migraines.
- Magnesium, which helps relax nerves and muscles, and transmits nerve impulses throughout the body.
- Coenzyme Q10, which increases blood flow to the brain, improves circulation, and protects cells from oxidative damage.
- Feverfew, which helps reduce the throbbing pain by reducing inflammation especially in the blood vessels in the brain.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which help to protect brain cells and reduce inflammation.
If you are prone to migraines it is helpful to keep a “headache journal,” which can help you find your triggers and make it easier to avoid them. Learn about and try some of the natural treatments to see if any of them help.
Remember, I am not a doctor, just an experienced migraineure. See your doctor for correct diagnosis and guidance in your treatment.
Okay, enough generalities. This is about me. Yes, when one is suffering a migraine one becomes very self-involved. Because it is All. About. The. Pain.
I woke up at 12:30 am on Thursday morning and I could feel it coming. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes a headache is just a headache, and a couple acetaminophen will take care of it. Sometimes I’m not sure at first, and with an insurance limited nine migraine pills a month, one wants to be sure. But no doubt this time around. I headed immediately to the kitchen and took my first dose of sumatriptan, the generic of Imitrex.
I also brought a pillow and a blanket, because when I have a migraine I prefer to lie down in a semi-upright position. Flat on my back seems to increase the pressure in my head. So I took my pill, grabbed an ice pack for the back of my neck, and lay down on the couch.
After about 15 minutes, I felt a kind of dizzy feeling coming over me. I hoped it was the medication kicking in, but instead it was the first wave of nausea that would hit me every 15 minutes all night long. I always give in to it, instead of fighting it because that is the only relief. Relief which lasted about 15 minutes that night.
Believe it or not, I actually doze in between bouts, so I’m not totally sleepless through the night. I am exhausted though, by the time the alarm clock goes off at 4:00 am, because I was scheduled to open at work on Thursday. Not only that, I had two classes to teach. Not easy to find substitutes in the middle of the night, and since I’m the boss, I have certain responsibilities.
When Alan got up at 4:00, he saw immediately what was going on. I told him, get me up at 4:45, and headed back to the bedroom for a few more minutes of sleep. By that time I was getting up again to vomit anyway, so I just washed my face, threw on my work clothes, and drove to work.
Not an easy drive by any means. It probably would have been smarter to have Alan drive me to work, but I’m stubborn and
stupid self-sufficient that way. I actually had to pull over to get sick about halfway there. Lovely.
Once at work, I did the minimum possible to open the gym. Set up the water, turn on the lights and televisions, open the blinds. I then unlocked the doors and found my spot, in the kitchen which is near the front door, seated so I could lean my head against the wall. I could hear if anyone came in, but fortunately, we are still in our slow time at work, so that door didn’t open often.
I was also freezing, so I turned on the ladies sauna (aren’t I lucky?), and spent some time in there too. The nausea continued.
I had emailed a couple of my group exercise instructors to see if they could sub for me. When they said they were busy, I was desperate, so I even sent the email to my personal trainers. I teach a strength class and stretch class, so a trainer could have handled it just fine. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from any of them in time. I did text my assistant, and she was able to come in an hour early, at 8:00.
I muddled along until 8:00. I even had a member, who saw how sick I looked, offer to send me home, saying she’d take over. So nice.
When my assistant arrived, I murmured a few instructions about who to call to let know the class was cancelled. She has been through this before, fortunately not too often (this severely and on a work day is probably a once a year thing). I was in no state to drive home at that point, so I headed back to a massage room to lie down (a sauna and a massage room at work, not a real big deal until you’re freezing with a migraine).
There I spent the next three hours, up and down occasionally to vomit (which had finally tapered off to about every 45 minutes). I tried to keep drinking water, because otherwise my stomach was totally empty. At 10:00 I tried a few bites of banana, but, no, I wasn’t ready. At 11:00 I’d had enough. I just wanted to be home in my own bed, so I timed it so my nausea had subsided, then carefully drove home. This time I made it. I went straight to bed.
At that point it was close to 12:00. The nausea seemed to be easing, so I tried another banana. I ate it all and it stayed down. Hurray! I spent the rest of the afternoon mostly sleeping, getting up once for another banana (it was still the only thing that sounded appealing). The headache was still there, but not quite as severe. By 7:30, I was able to eat some real food, stay up for about an hour, before heading back to bed. I woke up next at about 1:45 am, still with a slight headache, so I took one more pill and went back to bed.
All told I took four halves of a 100 mg sumatriptan tablet, so 200 mg total. Basically if that doesn’t do it, it is not worth it (and medically contraindicated) to take any more. Usually they work. This time they didn’t. Except that last one.
Amazingly, in spite of sleeping most of the day, I slept well, and when I woke up on Friday morning (a day I was scheduled off), I felt great. Seriously, the lack of pain gives me a euphoric feeling. We took the dogs for a walk and I just breathed in the fresh air and felt wonderful.
Okay, here’s the picture. Being the vain woman that I am, I hate posting the picture. But this is what a migraine looks like.
I’m not sure you can see (because I kept the picture pretty small), but along both sides of my face I have a bright red flush of broken blood vessels from all the vomiting. This was in the evening when I was actually feeling better.
But the next morning I felt so good that I decided to try a run. I wasn’t sure how it would go, being dehydrated and undernourished and all, but I actually felt pretty good. I first took Penny for three miles, and for a change her slow pace was perfect for me.
I felt so good, I went out and ran two more miles on my own. After a day of re-hydrating and refueling, recovery is just about complete. Thank goodness.
Do you get migraines? Do you have any solutions that I didn’t mention?