Coping with migraine

With the sheer volume of migraines I’ve been suffering from lately, it seemed timely to write a short piece on how to cope with them.  Anyone who’s had a migraine will understand just how unpleasant they can be.  For anyone who has never had one, but who has someone in their life who is a sufferer I think perhaps a short explanation is in order.

Migraine are a curse.  They can alter how you see, for example when I have a full-blown migraine I usually go almost completely blind in one eye.  They can make you incredibly sensitive to light and noise.  In short they can make doing anything normal, completely  impossible for as long as they last.  I think the best way to explain how it is to have one is to describe one of the nastier ones I’ve suffered.

I felt like a red-hot, knitting needle had been shoved through my left eye.  Then someone had attached a vibrating massager to the needle.  Finally, to add more insult to more injury, a metal wedge had been hammered into the base of my skull, right where the spine comes into contact with it.  Every movement, no matter how small, made me want to vomit.  Even the movement from breathing was enough to make my gorge rise.  The slightest change in light intensity made me want to scream, the slightest noise made me want to cry.  Basically it was one of the most miserable days of my entire life.

So how do you go about coping with one of these?

I won’t be talking about medications here, I’m not qualified to.  But there are a lot of other ways to help get yourself through one of these days from hell.

The single best piece of advice I can give is if you don’t have one, buy a hot water bottle.  They can be used as either a cold or hot pack and depending on which way works best for you, they can be a sanity saver.

I personally lie with a very warm, but not quite hot, water bottle in the hollow of my neck, on the side which is in most pain.  It definitely helps, I presume this is due to relaxing muscles which are locked up from the pain.

The next thing I would advise anyone to get is a loose black hair band.  Not for your hair, but to use as a blindfold.   They take virtually no space in a bag or pocket, so can be carried anywhere, but will allow you to hide from bright light for a while.

Ear plugs can be a god-send as well.  Most pharmacies will carry an inexpensive pair. They won’t block all noise, but will help you to escape from the loudest sounds.

Sometimes a migraine will be accompanied by a blocked nose.  Most people would suggest some Tea Tree oil or a decongestant spray.  Personally I would suggest a menthol chewing gum, like Airwaves.  Not only will it free up your sinuses, but I also sometimes find the chewing action can make it a lot easier to cope with the pain.

Weird as it sounds, washing your hair can sometimes help a migraine to end quicker. Use loads of shampoo, again a Tea Tree one is a bonus because of the cooling sensation it causes on the scalp, and massage the hell out of your head.  Having hot water running over your neck can be a big help as well.

If all else fails and your migraine forces you into bed, assuming you aren’t allergic, have a feather pillow to hand.  Feather pillows can be moulded to support your neck and head perfectly, and anything that takes strain off of your neck is only a good thing.  For me a feather pillow combined with a hot water bottle and a darkened room, ends most of my migraines in very short order.

Finally, if like most people your bedroom curtains don’t really do a lot to block out light, you might find it useful to buy a really heavy, dark coloured blanket. Make sure it’s large enough to cover bedroom window and using a few metal hooks to hang it over your curtain rail.  I suggest this because nothing, absolutely nothing, helps nearly as much as a really dark room to lie in.  It also has the bonus of helping to deaden any noise coming from outside.

There are probably hundreds of other simple tricks that other people use to help cope with migraines, which I simply don’t know about.  But these few have been genuine lifesavers for me over the years.  But I will say that if you suffer from frequent or recurring migraines, talk to your doctor about them.  There are medications out there that can help end migraine very quickly, or even sometimes prevent your having them in the first place.  So talk to your doctor and save yourself some suffering.

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