Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I’m convinced that migraine headache is a misnomer. The correct term should be “migraine attack”. As anyone who has had more than a couple of migraines can tell you, the attacks take over the entire body. What is interesting, though, is that headache and nausea seem to be the only two symptoms that everyone has. I’ve talked to lots of people with migraines, both in my role as physician and not, and found that there are lots of neurological and non-neurological symptoms that can be associated with these attacks. Here are some of mine:

  • One of my more recent ones has been to develop crying spells about 6 or 8 hours before the headache pain begins. And the crying isn’t actually about anything. I just cry. This happened at church this weekend. We started singing the last worship song and I started sobbing for no good reason. It took a good fifteen minutes for the crying to stop, and by then I could feel all the other emotional changes starting.
  • Irritability. This usually starts an hour or two before the headache. PWM sent me home from the yarn shop one day before the headache started because he could tell I was getting irritable and knew that things could only get worse. Not that I snap at customers, just that it’s hard to be “normal” when part of my brain is plotting how to get away from the rest of the world.
  • GI symptoms. I never get heartburn except during a migraine attack. Sometimes it starts before the headache, sometimes after. And, of course, there’s the nausea (and, hopefully not, vomiting).
  • Sleep disruption. Even after the headache pain is controlled, I have trouble sleeping during the attack. I think it’s all part of the crazy brain chemistry.
  • Myalgia or diffuse muscle pain. This usually happens late in a migraine attack. My migraines last from 12 to 36 hours, so the myalgias generally start somewhere after about 8 or 10 hours. Moving hurts, being touched hurts. It’s not good.

There are probably more diffuse symptoms that I don’t remember right now. The point is that migraines aren’t just headaches – they’re “everything hurts” attacks.

One of the things I like about my neurologist is that he understands this. He is treating the headache part most aggressively right now because that is what is most debilitating and because it appears that stopping the headache part can abort the attack, which is why I had the Botox treatment. He doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy when I tell him about my muscle pain or my sleep issues. He doesn’t think I’m crazy because I also have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. In fact, he said that recent fMRI (functional MRI) studies show changes in the brain that suggest that fibromyalgia is like a migraine all over the body. Which makes complete sense because the myalgias I get during the migraine attacks are like the worst fibromyalgia attack I’ve ever had.

I’m not going to get profound or anything like that tonight. Migraines suck. My treatment is not great right now, but I have a family doctor and neurologist who care that my treatment isn’t great and want to help me get better, if possible. But, they also haven’t guaranteed me anything. I’m thrilled to be listened to and to have a neurologist who is realistic. A cure would be great, but getting through 3 or 4 days without an attack would be a really good start. We’re not there yet, but it’s actually OK. God is still good, even when every part of my body hurts. (It’s easy to say that today since I had a pretty good day! I pray I can say that the next time I’m stuck with a big migraine!)

That’s all. Just some crazy migraine talk from my little part of the world. So, what’s up with you?


mercygraceword said...

back in spasm, can't get comfortable anywhere, but as you say God is good, all the time, in every situation and all circumstances. I don't know how I would cope if I had to deal with your level of chronic pain, but God gives grace.
Praying for your treatments to make a difference.

D in Canada

Catherine said...

Yes, God is gracious. And, even though we can't see it now, our pain has a purpose - developing our character, teaching us to hope, etc. Of course, it's much easier for me to say this today since I don't have a migraine at the moment - LOL! I prayed that your back will calm down very soon.

Staci Eastin said...

I have migraines also. I am reluctant to refer to them as migraines, because I can usually manage them with OTC meds like Exedrin, but I do have known triggers, prodrome, aura, postdrome, and GI stuff.

One thing I've noticed pre-migraine is that I'll have trouble reading aloud to the kids. I'll muddle the words and trip over my tongue and just not be able to spit the words out. The migraine usually comes a few hours later.

Catherine said...

Definitely sounds like migraine, Staci! But, lots of people with intermittent migraine will respond to OTC meds. What I find interesting is what symptoms people have as prodrome. Even though the symptoms are throughout the body, it appears that the whole syndrome is neurologically mediated, even the GI symptoms. So, this explains why I get irritable and start yawning and why you have trouble tripping over words. Some part of the brain is getting the early part of the migraine attack before it hits the part of the brain that causes pain.

I pray you have very rare migraines! And get to enjoy lots of reading to your kids!

Staci Eastin said...

Thanks, Catherine. I have a friend whose migraines are as severe as yours. It's affected every aspect of her life in major ways. Since I can take a couple of Exedrin and go on with my life, it hardly seems worthy of the same name!

My auras aren't visual, either. I just experience dizziness. I actually appreciate the aura, though, because it gives me a chance to prepare.