NOTE: This post is no longer up to date due to changes in my treatment since it was originally published (16/2/14). The “My Story” tab at the top of The Headache in the Room home page will always be the most current reflection of my condition.
I have suffered headaches and migraines my whole life. Over the years the following things have been considered when trying to determine causes:
- A bunch of otherwise healthy foods such as tomatos and mushrooms and spices
- Flavours and colours
- Spinal and skeletal problems
- Hormonal cycles and changes
- Sinus and hayfever flareups
- An ovarian cyst
- Sleep disorders or disturbances
All of these things have been tested and eliminated as the cause of my migraines. Some of these things certainly do trigger an attack, but they are NOT the sole cause of my migraines.
I recently saw an exceptional neurologist who said three simple things:
- They are almost all migraines. It is most likely rare that I ever get a headache in the normal sense of the word. Just because I have learned to function with them (on good days at least) and do not experience aura or spots on my vision does NOT mean they are not migraines. They are ALL migraines, even the milder ones.
- My condition is genetic. All the elimination diets, hormonal manipulations, neck adjustments, supplements and treatments in the world will not cure them, so I am better off expending my energy managing them as best I can.
- My biggest trigger is clearly stress, this includes both good stress AND bad stress. I need to manage stress as best I can through all the usual methods, and can supplement this with targeted medications.
It was a HUGE relief to have a doctor say these things. I have spent years having doctors say things like “What you are describing is a bad headache, not a migraine”, “Just relax more!”, “Have you tried the elimination diet?” etc etc etc. This neurologist KNOWS migraines and knows what a migraine sufferer has been through over many years. I shed tears in his clinic at the relief I felt merely being understood.
My current treatment plan is:
- Amitriptyline 10mg per night.This is a very low dose of a tricyclic antidepressant. It is taken at night to give me a relaxing, tension free sleep which in turn leads me to waking feeling fresher than I can ever recall feeling. Sleep and migraines had become a huge battle for me. I had started to fear sleep because I would wake up with a full blown migraine. I have only been on this medication for 2 weeks at the time of starting this blog (16/02/14) and I feel fantastic. I DO have concerns about weight gain. I currently have at least 15kg to lose due to the amount I put on when my migraines escalated to their worst ever over the last year. Some people GAIN weight on Amitripyline and I am in a position where I need to do the opposite. Luckily, my new found migraine reduced life is giving me an opportunity to exercise again. Further, the Doctor expects that when I am able to exercise again, there will be a natural improvement in my migraines and I may be able to cut back on the Amitriptyline, or even go off it all together, only returning to it if I escalate again.
- The second part of my treatment is around when I DO get an attack. When I am in the “mild headache” stage, I take a couple of Advil. Advil is an over-the-counter liquid capsule ibuprofen and it works really well for me if I catch a migraine early. If the migraine becomes worse I am now taking Maxalt, which is a rizatriptan in a dissolvable tablet form (you sit it on your tongue). I have also previously used Imigran (sumatriptan), in both tablet and nose spray form, but have found it just doesn’t work as well as it should.
- I also use Zofran (Ondansetron) if I get so bad I start vomiting. I have a ghastly intolerance to the usual anti-nausea drugs Maxolon and Stemetil. Zofran is my only choice and is RIDICULOUSLY expensive.
Some of the other things I rely on to ease my migraines are:
- My trusty heat pack
- Dencorub or voltarin gel
- Spicy food such as ginger, chilli, curry etc
- Hot cups of tea
- Massage and chiropractic manipulation
- Back cracking hugs from my boyfriend
- Deep breathing
- Seeing a therapist regularly to keep on top of stress
- An occasional Coca Cola after a really bad attack
Everyone who has migraine and headache conditions is unique and this is my unique story.