You don’t have to tell chronic migraine sufferers that migraines SUCK — they live the experience on a daily basis. Migraines aren’t just a slightly upgraded headache that you just push through. Migraines affect your ability to function, and the triggers are innumerable. Shifts in weather, stress and strong smells are a few of the triggers that migraine sufferers wish they could avoid but often can’t.
Chemical cleaners, perfume or food scents set off the pounding in your head. With stress, physical tension becomes mental tension, and, sometimes, it’s your empathy picking up on someone else’s stress that stresses you out, triggering a migraine. Migraines, and their triggers, SUCK.
What Do Migraines Feel Like?
Migraine sufferers have all sorts of metaphors in their “Here we go: I have to explain this, again” toolkit to help others understand the pain they endure. One of the best comparisons has to be this question: “Ever had a brain freeze headache from eating ice cream?”
You watch your friend’s eyes go wide, as they physically cringe, and you say, “Yeah, that. Now imagine the feeling at least five times worse and persisting for hours or days.” Sometimes, it lasts weeks, but that’s more difficult to describe. Migraines are painful, to say the least.
During the course of some migraines, pain may not be a factor. The worst part of the migraine is being unable to see straight, unable to focus or witnessing images that aren’t really there. Your ears trick you, too, and you hear ringing or roaring. You taste and smell horrible things, feel like you’re going to puke and it’s hard to trust your senses.
When one sense dulls, another heightens, and it’s not like you can tell your friend “My hair hurts,” without getting a crazy look back. Yeah, that.
How Do You Prepare for and Deal With Migraines?
Sadly, many people do push through — there are bills to pay and people to whom you’re accountable. Many people learn to look for triggers and symptoms in advance to be as prepared as possible and find what works for them to alleviate or prevent migraines.
The Symptoms Suck
In one study of migraine sufferers, 86.9 percent noticed one symptom before their migraine onset, and 71 percent noticed two or more symptoms. The real symptoms of a migraine may appear as:
- You’ll see flickering lights, spots or lines for five minutes to an hour, and, an hour later, a migraine typically appears. Cue the lights!
- Excitement, irritability or depression. Some experience excitability or depression before the onset of a migraine. The body gets really excited when it’s about to have a migraine party.
- Poor sleep quality. It’s typical to suffer from one night or several nights of poor sleep before a migraine, such as trouble falling or staying asleep. Bad sleep patterns may contribute to migraine frequency.
- Congested nose or watery eyes. These symptoms may appear as a sinus headache, but they also accompany migraines.
- Typically, this symptom occurs behind your eyes or in your neck. However, the pain can migrate.
- Unlike when you’re tired, yawning will be nearly constant before a migraine. This migraine is going to be really boring — NOT — but it will tire you out.
- Vomiting or nausea. This may be a sign of an oncoming migraine because of surrounding triggers, such as strong smells.
- Physical weakness on one side. You may feel week on your right or left side of the body, feeling numb or pins and needles. Yay! Here’s to feeling like a voodoo doll before a migraine!
- Difficulty speaking. Migraines affect various brain functions before its onset, bringing about difficulty speaking and making you sound like you’ve had about six shots of espresso.
When You Don’t Want to Host a Migraine Party
Being aware of one’s migraine triggers and typical symptoms are helpful to know when the pain is coming, but how do you alleviate or prevent migraines? Here are the ways migraine sufferers are dealing:
- Not only for wrinkles, Botox has a protein that blocks local receptors that generate muscle activity, allaying further symptoms. It reduces the expression in particular pain pathways. Sufferers who are likely to be approved for Botox treatment typically have migraines for 15 days out of the month and have tried preventative pills or medicines.
Before you jab your forehead with needles, be aware that you could have worse neck pain as a side effect. Less frequent migraine sufferers won’t find relief with this treatment.
- Preventative drug therapy for migraines in the form of oral medicine may be prescribed by doctors, such as anti-depressants, blood pressure medicine, serotonin antagonists or anticonvulsants. Many patients with migraines may have an underlying condition. Low dosages are commonly used, and you should ask about drug interactions.
- When stress is your trigger for migraines, at least thirty minutes of aerobic exercise, three days a week, is your friend. There’s a direct link between fewer and less intense migraines with aerobic exercise, and you’ll get a fitness boost, too. Get a physical check out with your doctor first, and then take a few salsa lessons!
- Bed Time. Early bed times suck, but migraines suck more. Set a regular bed time and wake up time, even on the weekends. Keep it consistent, and keep the brightness filter on your smartphone low to get your vision ready for shut eye.
- Food Triggers. Some triggers are more obvious than others, and it’s valuable to see a nutritionist. If you suffer head pain after drinking wine, caffeine, chocolate or particular processed foods, look for your trigger there. Gluten and sugar sensitivities are commonly linked with headaches and migraines.
A nutritionist will help you create a dietary plan. Supplements may be suggested for help with chronic migraines, such as feverfew, fish oil, vitamin B12 and magnesium.
The verdict is: Migraines suck, but they may be alleviated or prevented when you take time to notice your triggers and reoccurring symptoms. Food sensitivities, strong smells and stress are all triggers for migraines, but these may be alleviated with consistent and quality diet, sleep and exercise. Other treatments include drug therapy, in pill form or Botox injection.
No one wants to host a migraine party, and the lights definitely aren’t a fun sight. Whoever the DJ is, too, can take a hike, because ringing and roaring sounds aren’t your beat. You’d rather move your feet in a salsa class and reclaim your senses to enjoy all life has to offer. Take that, migraines!