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The pain that is a migraine

For anyone who has ever been asked, “but isn’t a migraine just a bad headache?” while questioning you clutching your head in agony, you have my every sympathy. For anybody who has never suffered with a migraine I am here to tell you it is so much more than a bad headache.

Up to a third of sufferers are able to predict the onset of a migraine, during a stage called the prodrome stage. The symptoms can begin with muscle weakness, irrational irritability, food cravings, depression and even an aura which can cause flashing lights and temporary blind spots in one or both eyes. At this stage, some medications can help  in the prevention of the onset or, at the least, reduce the pain of the migraine when it arrives.

While I am not denying that headaches can be debilitating, painful and disruptive, a migraine is a different pain altogether. The migraine attack brings a virtually indescribable, severe pain, on one or both sides of the head, accompanied by other symptoms which can include, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light , sound and smell as well as disturbances in vision.  The disabling pain can last for hours or, in the worst cases, up to four or five days, and I can personally only liken it to giving birth through the side of the head. I doubt that non-sufferers would understand but I would rather give birth to my twins again before suffering another migraine.

Often, along with medication, the only way to relieve a migraine is to rest, most sufferers reporting the need for a darkened room, and sleep. Sleep, however, can be difficult to achieve due to the extreme pain, but some medications bring welcome relief with the side effect of drowsiness.

When a migraine begins to subside, the sufferer can feel listless, moody, dizzy and weak and a state of confusion reigns, along with a bruised feeling on the side of the head which has experienced the worst of the pain. This is partly due to the swelling of the blood vessels during a migraine and their subsequent subsidence.

There are a number of factors which are triggers for migraine sufferers but the most commonly reported culprits are certain foods (including, but not exclusive to, processed foods and aged cheeses), food additives (including sweeteners such as aspartame), stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, sensory changes to light, noise and smell, and hormonal changes.

My own experience of migraine is a weekly, or sometimes more frequent , attack and I am working through possible triggers and sensitivities, although two highly likely factors at are stress at work and lack of sleep with my usual sleep routine being two hours asleep and one hour awake during the night of late. Not only do I wake up thinking about work and trying to formulate solutions to ongoing issues, but I also suffer from age-related hot flushes which leave me burning up inside and using a fan in an attempt to lower the temperature, while trying not to cool my husband. I am lucky if I am asleep more than four hours a night which means, as well as being cranky during the day, the lack of sleep is high on the list of possible triggers for my migraines.

I find that Tiger Balm helps during the early and later stages but, unfortunately, has no effect during a full blown attack. Rest in a darkened room is the top tip and medication which combines pain relief with nausea-busting relief is a must. Sometimes a cold compress helps, I often use Kool ‘n’ Soothe patches but there are times when the affected side of my head is so much cooler than the rest of me, and then a comforting hot water bottle helps a little.

Although it is often suggested, I am not keen on HRT, having been highly sensitive to Estrogen in my younger years, so I have headed for A. Vogel’s Menoforce Sage tablets for the self-heating warmer nights, and A. Vogel’s Stress Relief Daytime Valerian-Hops oral drops. Hopefully, managing these difficult triggers will result in fewer migraines, fewer headaches and normal service will resume. I might even get back to regular dancing soon, and for those who know me well, you know how much I miss that!

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6 thoughts on “The pain that is a migraine”

  1. This is interesting and helpful! I’ve been having migraines lately and I think it might be due to stress and lack of sleep. Glad to have read your article.

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