Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Migraine-Busting Routine

I know. Where did this come from? It has nothing to do with anything. I was tempted to throw an OT up there in the subject line, as though that were a thing people still did. Do people still do that? The only listservs I'm still on have no T or a T so rigid that no one would ever dare go OT. Okay, well, it does have a little to do with my recent absence from the blog. I got a migraine while recovering from the flu. Lose a smidgeon of productivity and everything snowballs. Suddenly things that were once important, like telling you about Doctor Who baby room art, are on the back burner, and the whole world's in turmoil. Not that bad, but kind of that bad, guys!

Anyway, I am an extremely lucky migraine-sufferer in that I only get a few a year, usually while I'm sick with something else, and I have them under pretty strict control. For a while as a teenager, I would get them every day. It was horrible. Fortunately, I came under the care of a wonderful neurologist, and with a combination of preventative and maintenance drugs, I became a mostly migraine-free person. My doctor even weaned me off my meds in time for college! But there was and is the issue of what to do when the odd migraine does rear its excruciatingly painful head. I am not a doctor and this is not intended as advice! Seriously!

I start treating as soon as I sense an aura. Most people experience a visual disturbance. I have seen small pinpricks of bright light, sort of like you'd see on a movie screen just as celluloid starts to burn. Usually, mine are sensory and more difficult to describe. A common one I experience is a slight momentary feeling somewhere between weakness and an urge to sneeze. Other times, I'm not sure what is tipping me off, but I just kind of know. For a long time, because these indicators were vague and not painful, I would second-guess myself and not start treating until I was in unbearable pain. How do I treat, you ask? Yes, you absolutely did ask. I heard you!

1. I take Ibuprofen in a dosage approved by my doctor.
2. I drink a strong cup of coffee. Not in a leisurely manner. I pound it.
3. I drink a lot of Gatorade or heavily-diluted Emergen-C. I don't use more than one packet. The electrolytes seem to help, and flavored beverages are a lot easier to keep down than water (at least for me).  It is sometimes hard to stomach drinking anything at all while in this kind of pain. A neurology nurse once advised me to visualize drowning the migraine. That works like whatever the real equivalent of magic is for me.
4. If possible, I lie down someplace dark and try to relax. If the pain has started, I press lightly on it or lie on the side that hurts, with a fist under the pillow, which applies a little extra pressure.
5. When I get a migraine, my neck and shoulders tense. Rubbing these (or having someone else do it... Whoa, sexy migraine! What just happened?) can relieve some of the pain. It helps me (and I've heard this helps other people, too) to pinch the back of the neck at the bottom of the head, and pull slowly away until fingers meet thumb. (And it's "Fingers, meet Thumb," not the other way around, because Thumb is an important figure, and as such is always introduced first in social situations.)
6. I release extra tension in my jaw by opening my mouth as wide as I can. Yes, this looks as stupid as it sounds. If it doesn't feel like a good enough stretch, one could add resistance by pushing the lower jaw up with one hand while doing this. I don't remember where I picked up this tip, but it helps with regular old tension headaches, as well.
7. I meditate. It can be hard to seize enough focus to do so in severe pain, but it's worth the practice it takes. On occasion, I've been able to eliminate migraine pain by visualizing vomiting. Sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities (You guys are like a bunch of Victorians! Jeez!), but it occurred to me to do this because...
8. Sometimes I just have to vomit. I let it happen (preferably not all over the place). I don't fight it as I used to. It usually takes away a lot of the pain.
9. I try to fall asleep. It seems counterintuitive, considering the coffee, but it usually works out okay, possibly because my brain is already doing too many wonky things to hassle me over a little caffeine? I don't know. It won't say. The point is, I don't pressure myself to be productive. I'll get a lot more done if I carve out time to get rid of the headache first.

Okay, look away, children and relatives.

10. Sex (and all things falling into this general category, but not the internet tag "Sex!" [syn. delectable, an exclamation occasionally used in reference to beautiful shoes]). I know, it seems illogical, especially because a lot of migraine-sufferers (myself included) experience painful skin hypersensitivity, but for some reason, this can work. (Because painfully hypersensitive skin leads to removal of clothing? Then, already nude, you invite some random person off the street to pinch the back of your neck and hold your vom pail? One thing leads to another, as they say?) Of course, this only works if the pain isn't immobilizing.

Okay, you can look again.

I'm glad we were able to have that private chat about boring adult income tax minutia, grown-ups with whom I have no DNA in common. It took me a long time to figure out what worked for me, and I hope this list can provide some food for thought to other migrainites out there. (Seriously, there should be a word for migraine friends. Ostomates have a word. We could be migramigos?) But again, none of this was intended as advice. I don't want you suing me when you pinch a nerve, or, you know, "get audited."

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

So glad you found something that works! Only ,not sure I approve of strangers pinching your naked neck!;)