I've had migraines for years now. I got my first migraine between the first and second trimester of my first pregnancy, and I asked my husband to take me to the ER. I had no idea what was happening. I've struggled with migraines ever since.
For years, I tried medications, ice packs, dark rooms and managing my triggers to stop the migraines from coming on at all.
Some of this worked; some of it didn't. It was always random, though. What worked one day wouldn't work the next. There were nights of nothing but a black room, not even a sliver of light from under the door was manageable for my aching head. I felt nauseous and weak.
My migraines have patterns, like many women I know. They come on during my period more often than not. They're triggered by fluorescent lights, rendering shopping malls all but impossible for me. They can be brought on by certain foods or smells, but even that seems to shift with the winds. Red wine was a no-go for a few years but now doesn't bother me at all.
I have been prescribed many medications and tried over-the-counter drugs. The only drug that ever worked was three Motrin at the first glimmer of a migraine. That worked 50% of the time, but when it didn't work, I was stuck. Nothing but sleep would help. Sometimes even that wouldn't do the trick, and I once had a migraine for an entire week.
Then, when I moved here to NC, my new PA offered to prescribe me what she uses. I shrugged, said I'd try it and had zero hope it would work.
Readers: it works.
Since I've been using this medication, if I take the pill before the migraine is full-blown, it stops it. An hour after taking the pill, the pain is gone.
If I wait until the migraine is in full-swing, the medication doesn't work.
I'll take it. I feel like my life isn't constantly about to be derailed by a migraine, like I have a little tool in my toolbox that really does work rather than just an empty box full of pipe dreams.
The medication is Rizatriptan.
My point isn't to send anyone rushing out for Rizatriptan or any other medication, per se, but to say that if you've tried several options and nothing has worked, keep trying. I don't care whether it's natural, herbal, pharmacological....keep trying. It's worth it.
Other tips I've picked up along the way from dealing with my own migraines and asking everyone I know how she deals with her migraines:
1. Sleep - if I don't get enough sleep for more than 2 nights, I'll get a migraine. Lack of sleep is probably the biggest health hazard in my life because it leads to all sorts of other symptoms, which turn into all sorts of other issues. Sleep, sleep, sleep.
2. Coffee Ice Cream - a pharmacist told me about this once, and I tried it out of sheer desperation. It works. It doesn't work every single time, but if I feel that shimmering of a migraine and I eat a few bites of coffee ice cream, it often helps ward it off. Coffee alone doesn't do it, which is probably placebo effect and my desire to eat ice cream any way I can get it.
3. Ice Pack - for years I ignored the advice of putting an ice pack to my head. I'd try it once the migraine was already in full-swing, and no, that didn't work. But an ice pack in the beginning, with some Motrin and a few bites of coffee ice cream often works to keep a migraine at bay.
4. Nap - a little sleep, sometimes just a half-hour, often resets my head. I don't nap normally, but if I can get a nap in when a migraine starts, it will often relax my muscles enough to break through.
5. Lighting - I avoid fluorescent light like the plague. Cheap shopping malls with flickering overhead lights and a low hum of energy are a no-go. My husband once took me to an outlet mall, and it was curtains for me. Never again.
6. Music - I notice with migraines a song will often get stuck in my head (ear worm), so if I'm feeling tight in my head, I'll listen to music without lyrics or shut the music off. I have no idea why this happens, but a looping song can often be a sign a migraine is hovering.
7. Eat - I can often go for a while without food if I'm busy, running errands or engaged in some fascinating activity. Then, when 2:00 hits and I'm beyond hungry (I literally don't feel hungry anymore), I can feel the shimmering of a migraine. If I eat immediately, it can help. Mostly, though, I'm sunk. I now eat at much more regular intervals and try to get protein and a lot of fat into my diet. That seems to help.
I feel for every person who's ever had a migraine and who might be struggling with them now. I think, based on no evidence or data at all, that they're mostly hormone driven. I also think doctors have absolutely no idea what to do about hormones. Until someone figures that out, I'll take the Rizatriptan when I need it and use the tips above to avoid migraines as best I can. I'm not a huge fan of medication, but I'm grateful in these instances that it's available, that I have health insurance to cover it and that I don't have to worry that my entire afternoon will be derailed by a monster headache.
Anyone with other migraine-avoiding tips on hand...send them this way!