Saturday, May 9, 2015

Migraine Arsenal

It's been stormy on the front range, so I've had to pull out all the stops for migraine control. Whenever I meet a new pain doctor, I always ask for an extra long first appointment (they usually are longer, and I ask for more time still). This is so I can explain to the doctor all the things I do for pain control outside of the pills they give me, so they truly understand the lengths I go to to keep these things under control. I figured this might help someone else, and it shouldn't have to wait for Migraine Awareness month (June).

The first weapon in my arsenal is a steady schedule. I haven't used an alarm clock in years, because waking up suddenly makes me physically ill, so over the years I've learned when I need to sleep to wake up in time, and I keep to this schedule, unless the pain disrupts me (like last night).

When a migraine first starts signs of forming, if the weather is good, I'll try a brisk walk with the dog. If the weather isn't nice, I'll start cleaning. If I'm in too much pain to do either of those, it's on to the next one.

Red Bull & Water
This stuff is amazing for my migraines. For some people caffeine makes their migraines worse. Not me, and I was even prescribed caffeine as part of a migraine medication early on (Cafergot, look it up). The Red Bull has an added bonus of sugar (often a craving) and B Vitamins, which also help. (Suppliments like Magnesuim don't work for me and I already suppliment Potassium). I add the Water chaser to be kind to my kidneys, and for the sake of my stomach, I make it ice cold.

Ice Cream
I will bundle myself in blankets just to be able to eat ice cream to stop a migraine. I go with Ben & Jerry's too, since it's an ice cream that hold even more cold. (I strained my wrist on B&J's working in an ice cream parlor as a kid. It was almost a block of ice compared to the soft fluff of other ice creams. I eat it with a knife now.) It's magic on my migraines to have something that cold soothing the migraine from inside my head.

This one is a blessing/curse. I have begun to fall asleep ahead of some migraines, and sleep through a weather trigger, and I wake up on the other side without the migraine ever forming. But this is not something that easily fits with most employment, so it's only useful on weekends & vacation.

Ice Packs, Medication & Distraction
If all of the above doesn't work, next is ice packs and distraction. If I'm to this point, I'll also start with a few ibuprophen and an anti-nausea pill. Sometimes if I can keep my stomach calm, I can keep the migraine under control more and I don't have to go the big guns. I'll use distractions like composing a blog post or really good edutainment to try and keep the pain out of my awareness as much as possible.

Oxygen, Ice Packs, a Shower & Big Guns
If the migraine comes on so strong that I need the big guns, usually the big guns alone won't to it. I'm not just reaching for a narcotic at this point, I'm also using my oxygen machine (usually used only at night) and sitting in my tub with the shower un so that I can use the random sensations from the water act as a sort of static "noise" on the nerves that draws away from the pain sensations in my head. Lying agains the cold tub on one side and the bouncing warm water on the other can really throttle some horrendous levels of pain.

I rarely use my full supply of breakthrough medication. Mostly I like it there to know I have it there, just in case. I don't want to pull out the big guns, ever. But sometimes I need them because my head feels like it's being mauled by a bear. I will always reach for the little guns first, I mean, when they're little guns like ice cream and Red Bull, who's complaining? However, I like the security of the big guns around. This is bear country, and the rest of the arsenal is useful too.

Everyone's migraines are different, so not everything I do will work for everyone, and there's a great many number of methods that I've left out. For some people massage, yoga, Hemp CBD tea, and acupuncture work. I've been through many of these mathods for long periods of time through the years, so I know what works and what doesn't for me. if you get migraines, you will have to build your own personal arsenal, and this will take trial and error over time. Also, what works and what doesn't may change. I used to be able to use Botox, but as I've grown older, it's easier for the medicine to spread to places we don't want, like my eyelid. I regularly switch non-narcotics because my body over time starts showing unwanted side-effects. But we know the gaba-class of medications works well for me, cutting my pain by half, so we rotate through the medications in that class that I can tolerate.

You may have to go through the same. Always remember, though, that migraines is one of the oldest described medical conditions, and ancient cultures would pierce and remove part of the skull to help sufferers (it works, and there are reasons why...). Our culture, thankfully, is more sophisticated than that, and we have more options available. Discovering them is a process, however, one that's fully worth-while.

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