my struggle with migraine
In 1972, I fell from the top of a slide in a playground and suffered a severe concussion. My eyes never found alignment again, and my optometrist tells me that my right eye, jostled from its natural position all those years ago, has been slowly ossifying due to not properly closing at night (the eye sits forward in my skull) and is full of floaters as a result. Worse, though, I joined my mother and grandfather in getting regular migraines.
They stated when I was five, according to my mother, and have been going ever since. As I write this, I'm happy to report that I've had only two migraines in the past ten days; this is about 1/3 of my normal. And by migraine, I do mean the searing pain on one side of the head with: muscle cramping in the neck and shoulder; blurred and restricted vision; nausea; sensitivity to light, smells, and sounds; a runny nose; tingling in scalp and gums; etc. I don't mean a "bad" headache suitable for off-the-shelf Tylenol.
I've had two MRI's done. I've done the test for a perforation in the wall between the halves of my heart. I've done allergy testing – wheat and dairy turned out to be triggers. I've been to specialists in neurology and chronic pain. I've tried at least five prophylactic medications (all failed to treat the pain, but they introduced a raft of side effects) and two daily supplements. I've cut out caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and 'aged foods'. I'll probably wind up doing a sleep test, when I see the pain specialist again in 3-4 months. There's no demonstrable physiological sources of my headaches, I'm just one of those millions of lifelong sufferers.
My triggers are: changes in the weather, especially the establishment of a steady SW wind (Chinooks were a sure thing when I lived in Calgary); disruptions in sleep (why, oh why did I become a parent); champagne; changes in stress load; overheated rooms; sustained dehydration; the onset of a cold, especially a sinus infection; garlic, especially baked; caffeine. The weather factor is one that the medical community likes to downplay (it's always something) but it's a certainty. I'm on the same schedule, with minor deviations, as one man and one woman at the office, my mother, and one of my mother's acquaintances. My aunt also sometimes joins the fun.
Here's the routine I'm currently on to deal with the bloody migraines:
- I take magnesium citrate every night at bed time. This was a suggestion from my mother, who found it effective.
- I take vitamin B complex every morning. This was something I tried on my own, after reading that our modern diet robs us of vitamin B. It's also something tied to extensive alcohol use, and while I'm not a chronic alcoholic, I've noticed that I can start to feel a headache coming on having had a single serving. The way that seemed to come with a certain "body chemistry feeling" made me wonder if ol' vitamin B was a factor. I am convinced that for me it makes a substantial difference.
- I switched to decaf coffee and now have one serving of caffeine (45mg) on most days.
- I've been trying to stick to a 11PM—6AM regime of sleep. Not too much, not too little.
- I've been avoiding wheat and dairy for many years.
- I use lightly shaded sunglasses in the hour before going to bed, and at the office if I feel eye strain creeping in from light exposure.
- I avoid upper body exercise, which is a hassle because I've always had pretty good upper body strength. But the connection between tightness in the muscles of my neck and shoulder and the bloody headaches is inescapable.
At the same time, I'm now keeping a log of the migraines. Specifically, I'm tracking:
- left or right side
- strength of pain
- contributing factors
- the medications I use
I use a software tool and database that I built. We'll see what patterns emerge, if any.