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.
A few years ago I 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:
- I am currently using Topamax as a preventative. Through the month it is quite effective and I don’t really get migraines. For my “monthly” hormonal migraine it does little to prevent it. I still get these migraines even though I don’t get a period due to having an Implanon rod in my arm.
- 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 Imigran FDT which is a sumatriptan in a fast dissolving form which works very quickly and effectively for me. Ordinary Imigran doesn’t work quickly enough and whilst Maxalt works fast, it wears off too quickly.
- I take 2.5mg of Valium (diazapam) alongside the Imigran to assist me to relax so the Imigran can work. This is particularly effective if I get to go to bed when I take the two tablets.
- 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 quite expensive, particularly in the wafer form which is much better to use because it’s hard to swallow a tablet when you are vomiting.
- Having said all this, with my “monthly” migraines I am finding more and more that nothing works, particularly if there are other stressors like having a head cold, or high work stress.
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.
NOTE: this post is regularly updated as my treatments change, however I also post each change as a blog post. You can see the history of those posts by clicking the following links.