Let’s talk about prodromes

When *all I suffered from was classic migraine, I didn’t do much research. I thought migraines were a regular part of life.

So prodromes remained a condrome, er, conundrum to me. It happens that one of my prodromes is irritability. I didn’t realize this for some time. I’d have a snappy day and everyone would assume I had a headache. The next day it would hit me hard. It was with some relief that I was able to blame my meanness on something other than myself! I also get periods of fatigue, increased yawning, and cravings when a severe headache is coming. Unfortunately, with a constant headache, I often have these symptoms anyways.

Prodromes are a typical part of migraines for many sufferers. Research shows that more than half of all migraine sufferers experience prodromes. They may show up more than a day before the pain itself hits. If you recognize it, it can act as an early warning system.

Irritability is only one of a long list of possible symptoms. (Further evidence that migraine is more than just a headache.) Other notable prodromes are:

  • Fatigue
  • Cravings or loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Excitability
  • Constipation or diarhea
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Yawning
  • Light or sound sensitivity
  • Restlessness

Some of these are symptoms migraineurs  experience during headaches as well. Learning to recognize your prodromes, if you get them, can help you in your headache treatment. As with so many migraine related things, keeping a journal can help you identify your prodromes. With some practice, you might even be able to pinpoint just when that massive headache is going to hit, giving you time to get to abortive meds and a nice soft bed.

With my current constant headache, I haven’t found any patterns with what might be prodrome symptoms. The irritability and fatigue that once warned me of an incoming headache are often present without worsening pain and throughout severe pain. Perhaps I should take my own advice and pick up paper and pen again.

*I say all here, not to take migraines lightly. It is not a disease I would wish upon anyone. I say all to highlight the fact that I would gladly trade my current situation for classic migraine.

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Chiropractor, or not

I had my consultation with the chiropractor yesterday.

His findings: two of the vertebrae in my neck, c2 and c3, are a little misaligned and the disk at c7 is somewhat compressed.

What does that mean? It means my neck hurts sometimes, and it is causing extra wear on the joints which could cause more problems over time.

Could treatment help my headaches? That is, as my neurologist said, “the million dollar question.”

The answer seems complicated. Some people respond well to chiropractic care, but not the majority. For headaches especially, there its no definitive answer. Nothing the chiropractor said made me feel the neck issues were contributing to the headache. Nothing he said made me think he felt confident treatment would help the headache. But he was hopeful.

He is certain treatment will help my neck. It is a problem worth resolving so it doesn’t worsen.

Timing is the question.

Chiropractic care isn’t cheap and it isn’t covered by my insurance. It isn’t impossibly expensive, but difficult. Right now all my resources, medically speaking, are devoted to treating my headache. Should I divert myself from other treatments to try this?

I’m undecided.

But alas, until I have the resources financially, it must wait, no matter what I decide.

What a week

I must say, I don’t believe I’ve had a week go so badly in many years.

Let’s start with Tuesday. I was supposed to write up a post detailing the chiropractor’s findings. Sorry I missed that, but I missed the chiropractor appointment. I hit a flat piece of metal on the interstate on the way. I made it to within 10 miles before my front tire went completely flat. I had gashed the tire badly and was lucky to make it off the highway. I rescheduled my appointment and limped over to the nearest tire store on my spare. Of course, had my tire not gone flat, I may not have realized how badly I need knew brake pads. So I consider it a blessing

Wednesday I woke up early with a serious migraine followed by 24 hours of fever and extreme nausea. I don’t know if I had a stomach bug that triggered a migraine or if the symptoms were just from the killer headache.

Thursday my husband had a tonsillectomy. The days since I’ve been caring for him.

On the bright side, I’m guest blogging for him while he’s out of commission. If you want to see the spiritual side of my writing, check out his blog: The Year of Prayer

My rescheduled chiropractor follow-up is in the morning. Hopefully I can get a post up shortly about that. I don't think my stiff neck is causing my head pain, but we'll see what he says. If treatment might help and isn't outrageously expensive I'll consider it.

Good night! Hopefully you’ll hear from me tomorrow.

And now for something completely different

I’ve finally gotten around to trying some of those alternative treatments the media is always going on about. Of course, they wouldn’t have to be so alternative if insurance would just pay for them. And why shouldn’t they be covered. There’s ample evidence of their benefits alone or in conjunction with medical treatments.

Massage, for example, has long been practiced alongside western medicine. Hippocrates wrote “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing.”

It was massage I tried today. Thanks to a local deal, I received an hour long massage and a chiropractic exam at an excellent price. (I’ll let you know about the chiropractic bit tomorrow, after my follow up.)

This was my first professional massage. I really didn’t know what to expect so I was nervous and tense. The massage therapist was very kind and reassuring. She kept the pressure relatively low. My neck and shoulders were a bit tender, but everywhere else it just felt nice. If you’ve never had a full body massage, there are a few sensations that might surprise you. Massage on my hands and feet felt surprisingly good and of course, I enjoyed the back and shoulders. Conversely, having my scalp rubbed and face massaged just felt strange. I’m sure the experience is different for everyone.

All in all, while the experience was generally pleasant enough, I didn’t really enjoy it. Part of that is due to my own modesty and nervousness. I had difficulty just relaxing. Instead I kept wondering if her hands hurt having to massage for a full hour. Or I was wondering what she was thinking and if I should be giving feedback. Perhaps if I tried it a few more times I would get over my discomfort.

I’m not sure that I will though.

And as for my headache, no improvement. Yet.

I’m thinking muscle tension plays some part in my issues. I’m wondering if it is the reason my headache has been worse this past year. Dealing with constant pain is stressful, after all.

The truth about today

This being my blog, you read about my experiences, my thoughts and reactions. All told, of course, from my point of view.

But, I’m not as nice as I’ve led you to believe.

I can give great report of my patience and love for my family and friends. I can offer my advice to pray, meditate, be kind.

But I’m not always able to live up to it.

Sometimes I feel downright dis-compassionate. Often I lack the patience a situation deserves. I frequently don’t pay attention to the people around me. And I get snappy when my head hurts too much.

Today someone was venting to me about her migraines. She’s missed some work and doesn’t want to be reprimanded for it.

Understandable.

But her attitude seemed like so much drama, and her problems seemed over exaggerated. I wanted to vent right back at her about my issues. Mercifully I was able to hold my tongue.  I told her work policy and that’s it. When I should have been able to be supportive or at least share some advice, I was unable to do so. I felt no compassion for her. Just frustration.

I can’t really know how migraine has affected her life. It’s not a contest of who has suffered more. But there’s this attitude in my workplace that if you want the freedom to miss work whenever you like, just say you have migraines. People don’t treat it like it’s an illness, but rather an excuse.

I feel badly about it now. I hope another opportunity will present itself and I can make up for my failings.

I just wanted you to know, I don’t really have it all together…

I just act like it.

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Long Day

We spent the day celebrating my daughter’s thirteenth birthday. It was a great day, filled from beginning to end with family time.

So how does one cope with a day that starts early and ends late; a day that is non-stop?

  • First, eat well and stay hydrated. Meeting your body’s basic needs is step one in avoiding a massive headache.
  • Second, Ask for help. I’m usually the kind who sees what needs to be done and gets to work on it, at least when it comes to planning a family picnic. Even without headaches, in a family of 8 one person can’t handle everything. I’m always having to remind myself to delegate. Else wise,  my excellent husband comes to the rescue and tells me to stop and let him and the girls take care of it.
  • When it gets to be too much, take a short break. How do you do this in a van full of people? Close your eyes, lean back on the headrest, and try not to look miserable. Two reasons: briefly taking yourself out of the action quiets you down from the inside out; trying to stay positive and smile actually helps you feel better. Stress makes headaches worse. Take a moment to de-stress.
  • When you get back home, but it’s too early for bed, take a 30 minute nap. Or, if getting up after 30 minutes of sleep is impossible, take 30 minutes to sit quietly in the dark. Listen to calm music, pet a cat, whatever relaxes you.
  • Repeat God’s name, or a memorized prayer. Or if you are non-religious a self-affirming mantra.
  • Keep pushing through.
  • You can always rest tomorrow!

That being said, I don’t suffer as badly as some others I know of. I don’t usually have nausea or dizziness. I can manage my light and sound sensitivity with sunglasses and frequent pleas for calm. There are days when this list just can’t be accomplished. On those days: Pray for sleep and to wake with less pain and more wisdom.