Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Things I've Learned About Migraines

I have suffered from horrendous headaches off and on since my 19th birthday, when my brakes failed and I rear ended another car at the bottom of a hill. For the most part, Chiropractic care kept the pain under control. About 18 months ago or so, my headaches changed...dramatically. Chiropractic care was no longer effective. Acupuncture only made me more nauseous.

Looking back, I think I had my first official migraine the Monday after returning from my honeymoon. I found it completely ironic that the hospital and urgent care wouldn't provide migraine medication due to my lack of history of migraines. Well, you have to have your first one at some point, right?

Anyway, in the last 18 months I have missed out on activities with my family and missed days at work because of the unbearable pain, which often came with its buddies: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, etc.

The healthcare system where we live now requires new headache patients to attend a headache class prior to scheduling an appointment with the neurologist. Here are some things I learned at the class last week:

Why they have these classes:
They found they were telling new patients the exact same thing over and over again. Getting us together all in one room to tell us stuff before our first appointment “improves outcomes.” I’m all for that!

What I learned:
·         Migraines are not about not coping with stress well. At the same time, coping skills can help reduce frequency and intensity of migraines.
·         Migraine Patients (MPs) have genetically hyper-sensitive brains. All brains have a sort of “filter” of stimulation that directs traffic of all the signals. Ours gets clogged and stops working properly, kind of like an air conditioner filter getting super clogged.
·         MPs brains need to be maintained like a Ferrari instead of treating it like a beat up Pinto. No skipping oil changes, no cheap gasoline allowed. Hand wax it. That translates to getting plenty of sleep, but not too much (7 hours min. no more than 9), eating regularly (most of us had not had 2 actual meals by the time of class, which was 3:00-5:00, which follows statistics of MPs).
·         We have to take responsibility for our care by following some rules such as the eating and sleeping stuff. We are also expected to do 10 minutes of “Thermal Biofeedback*” each day, do something fun or relaxing at least once/week, read up on migraines, etc. between appointments, maintain the headache journal they gave us in between appointments.
·         The number 1 side effect of most of the drugs prescribed for migraine is headaches. They are not meant to be taken more than periodically.  This explains why so many people’s headaches increase in frequency and intensity over time. It’s the ()#&)@#*)@ #@ DRUGS!
·         She even showed a graph of a study that was done:
o   One group was taken off their meds cold turkey, with no preventive or “rescue” measures in place.
o   Another group got to keep their meds.
o   The last group was taken off their meds, with preventive measures in place.
o   ALL groups increased frequency of headaches in the beginning of the 12 week study.  The last group had the best outcome: lowest frequency and intensity of headaches.
·         They do not treat the headaches here…they treat the person who has a migraine condition. Much like a diabetic patient isn’t simply given rescue medication, but instead the condition is managed with a combo of meds and lifestyle changes. Same applies here. We are MPs, we will always be MPs, whether it’s a pain day or not. I thought that was interesting.
·         *Thermal biofeedback: they gave us a thermometer to hold between thumb and forefinger. Deep breathing exercises while holding the thermometer. We will be able, with practice, to increase our temp by as much as 4 degrees. The warmer the hands, the more relaxed we are.

I'm sharing this because I know there are so many people who suffer from migraines. Odds are, you or someone you know has this condition. Please share this information with them. 

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