Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Coping with headaches and migraines

so i thought i would write a little bit about coping with migraines -- what i see as the major facets of coping with chronic migraines. my current situation is a bit different (for me) than it was when i was having episodic migraines, once every month or two. now i am in pain every day, all day. i wake up with a headache, and it's there all day till i go to sleep at night. hopefully some of this will apply to those of you reading here, i know my situation is somewhat (thank goodness!) unique.

to me, there are 4 different parts of coping with migraines. they are the pain, nausea, discouragement, and sleep difficulties that come with migraines. here are my ideas on each topic.


resting in a quiet, dark room -- kind of a given. but for those who haven't experienced migraines, i thought i'd give you the full scope, even things that seem obvious.

i like a cold pack on my forehead -- some people like heat. some people like the cold or heat on the back of their neck. some find a hot shower or bath helpful.

of course there are medications for treating the pain - i'm no expert by any means, so i will link to a few articles that are helpful. here is a list of preventative medications that can be used for migraines. usually preventatives are considered if you are having several migraines a month. i'm not sure what the actual # is -- i'm sure it varies from doctor to doctor anyway. and here is an article about the medications used for treating migraines. and while we're on the topic of using medication, we'd better mention medication overuse (rebound) headaches. don't use your abortive medication too often!

2. Nausea/vomiting

this can be a huge problem or a small part of your situation, depending. i have some nausea, but rarely does it progress to vomiting. i'm lucky. but nevertheless, who likes to be nauseated? so here's my tips and tricks for nausea, in the order i usually try them:
a) mint gum (could also be mint tea or mint candies)
b) 7up or club soda -- i'm leaning towards the club soda lately because i don't like the idea of drinking so much sugar
c) ginger tea
d) emetrol
e) reglan -- my prescription anti-nausea pill
f) from here it's just rinse and repeat -- i try to continue eating bland food, skipping meals will only make the nausea worse and the migraine pain much worse

3. Discouragement

like nausea, this can range from a small problem to full-on depression. i'm sure that having a good support system helps prevent a lot of discouragement, but i also think that even with the best, kindest, and most supportive family (which i believe i have), a person is bound to get discouraged and upset at times if she's in pain all the time.

one of the best things i've found to combat my emotional pain is this idea: This pain is bad, but i've been through pain like this before, and I can get through this too.
it helps keep me from catastrophizing the situation and making it seem harder than it is or like i'm somehow not going to make it through. there are also numerous scriptures that have helped me through difficult times -- i'll share one here "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philipians 4:13. i realize that not everyone is religious, but for me, religion is something i can lean on when things get hard, and has helped me make it through.

4. Sleep difficulties

sleep is hugely important for migraineurs. too little (or too much, they say) and you are bound to suffer the next day. but it can be difficult to get good sleep when you are having regular migraines. it helped me to make it a priority with my doctors to 'fix' my sleep -- if i wasn't regularly able to get to sleep and stay asleep, i let them know and made sure we found solutions. thankfully this problem was easily remedied for me. until i was getting reasonable amounts of sleep (when the migraines first began to be chronic), the entire situation was worse and more difficult to deal with because of the poor quality and lack of sleep i was getting. i guess i just want to point out the importance of a good night's sleep. it's worth the trouble of keeping regular hours and doing all you can to rest well.

hopefully this is helpful for someone -- or even just a reminder that you're not along in your migraine pain. :-)

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Blogger Diana had this to say:

You make such a good point by suggesting we treat the emotional effects of migraines just like the physical symptoms. I know that is the area where I am worst about taking care of myself, yet I feel so much better when I address those needs. Thanks for the reminder to do that.

10:27 PM 

Blogger Muum had this to say:

You are so smartickle! Good ideas, dear! love you.

7:24 AM 

Blogger Sue had this to say:

Hi Emily, I found my way over here via Kerrie at the Daily Headache. Your four points really resonate with me. I always have a few mints in my pocket for those waves of nausea and they seem to help.

I love the Philippians passage too. Thanks for this great post.

7:54 PM 

Blogger themigrainegirl had this to say:

Once obsessed with peppermint tea, I stopped drinking it regularly for a few years only to pick it up at the store last week. I forgot how much it calmed me down!

I agree with Diana--it is so important to focus on the emotional effects of chronic Migraine. I have found that starting a blog and communicating with Migraineurs all over the world has given me a sense of reassurance and community I didn't have before. It's a good feeling.

I'm glad I found your blog! I'll have to read it more often. ;)

8:28 AM 

Blogger Dr. Jared Hanson ND, LAc had this to say:

Have you ever considered acupuncture for your migraines? I have helped a lot of patients become migraine-free without the side effects of medication. You should look for a good acupuncturist in your area.

New York Acupuncturist

7:54 PM 

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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

I'm 25 - married, and recently graduated from Brigham Young University, studying music; I play piano. My husband is just starting his PhD program at the University of Utah in computer architecture.



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