Pain in My Migraine

Do you get migraines? No, not “headaches”. Migraines? I do. I have had them for more than 30 years. The first set in while I was babysitting at the ripe age of twelve. I remember calling my grandmother to express my absolute paralyzation. I also remember being sensitive to light, to noise. Feeling nauseous. They’re pretty much the same these days. They have lasted more than two weeks on occasion.

The definition of a migraine is a full paragraph. There’s lots of “and”s, and “if this then that”. Merriam-Webster says:

“a condition marked by recurring moderate to severe headache with throbbing pain that usually lasts from four hours to three days, typically begins on one side of the head but may spread to both sides, is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound, and is sometimes preceded by an aura and is often followed by fatigue”

And, it is all of those things. My pain is generally present only on my left side. It is usually preceded by the nagging perpetual need to rub my neck, twist it, or bend it in some way that I can get relief. This is called an “aura”. As well, my left eye will sometimes twitch. If perceived and treated with medication, I have been able to ward off one or two incidences.

But  let me tell you about the miracle that is magnesium. After years of being seen by general practitioners, and absolutely denying the length and depth of my migraines, I was referred to Neurology. At my consultation, my doctor went over my entire migraine history. From the first migraine to the most recent. He wanted to know details about all of it. The appointment was more than an hour long, and though it seemed unnecessary to me at first, it turned out to be absolutely everything I needed.

I was prescribed over the counter magnesium tablets. “No more than 1,200mg per day” he said. I continued with a prescription preventative medication; to be taken prior to the onset of pain. I did not take a prescription to eliminate a migraine once it set in. I regret that decision right now, but more on that later. The magnesium has definitely helped to stave off the onset of the aura; which would lead to the pain. I can tell when I haven’t taken it, and I now have them in my medicine cabinet, purse, and my desk at work.

I also use an app called “Migraine Buddy” to monitor the specifics: frequency, length, strength, precursors, symptoms, and relief measures. I’ve been using it for years and have always been pleased with it. It assists when I have an appointment and have to recount my most recent aches and pains. They’ve added some new features over the years which make it indispensable.

Since then, I’ve had Botox injections in the base nerves of my neck that gives me such relief. As well, my providing Nurse Practitioner prescribed that I go to physical therapy. I thought it was a waste of time, prior to going. But on the very first visit, my physical therapist showed me the MANY ways that he could and would improve my migraine health. And he came through, by 1,000 percent.

The base of my neck feels that it is at constant odds with my entire skull. I am often twisting, turning, and tweaking my head and neck in the hopes of some relief. A small crack, creak, or popping that will signal that pressure has been released and I can claim six minutes of peace and comfort. I look for it constantly. It happens far less frequently. and for this reason, I was referred to Physical Therapy.

Physical therapy gave me the resources to heal myself. I was taught to stretch and strengthen the muscles along my neck, upper spine, and shoulders– and I eventually gained more mobility, ability, and less pain. Yes! Less. Pain. Less migraines. Less headaches. Less nausea. Less– just less. And I couldn’t be more pleased. But also, my part was to follow through with my homework. I needed a “foam roller”, TheraBands, and four-pound hand weights. I had to actually commit to doing MY PART, and promise to have my workstation ergonomically assessed and adjusted.

I’ve discovered a different brand and dosage of magnesium that is stellar to my preventative care routine. Followed by the blood pressure medication that has a “side effect” of lowering the strength and frequency of migraines. After that, the physical therapy and the focus on the muscles and tenseness that leads to migraines is more than enough to help me help myself.

If you suffer from migraines, I suggest these things (after you consult your medical professional): 1) take magnesium (500mg capsules, 1 each morning, and night), 2) use a preventative medication consistently(whether it’s an actual migraine preventative, or a medication that treats other symptoms, but can assist with the onset and prevention of migraines); and lastly 3) request physical therapy aimed at loosening the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and spine.

Sometimes the best medicine is to realize that what you’ve been doing and what you’ve “done all along” is likely not what you need anymore. It is always ok to ask for help, especially if you’re in pain. After too many years of brushing it off and “dealing with it” I got the exact brand of help that I needed.