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Migraines are Not Just Bad Headaches

June 11, 2009

Migraines are awful and many people seem to complain of migraines when it’s just a bad headache. I had a migraine yesterday, a very mild one. It wasn’t all that painful really. Most times mine are quite painful, but yesterday, it wasn’t. I noticed light sensitivity prior to getting it by about a half hour. If I take advil (usually four will do) right when I first notice these signs, a migraine can usually for me be avoided. If it’s already started, sometimes the pain will not get much worse, but often it’s ineffective if I don’t take them right away. \

After I noticed the light sensitivity, there was no advil with me so I was out of luck. I figured it’d be a bad night. I brought my daughter to her sleepover (we were in transit) and the migraine was already starting. The pain was mild- on a scale of 1-10 it’d have been about a two, maybe three. But, communicating was pretty difficult. I had to talk to the mom of the girl who’s party it was and I’m suprised I was able to hold a conversation.

Many times for me with migraines I get the typical light sensitivity. I often feel nauseous and occacsionally have vomited. Very fun. But I never really attributed my difficulty communicating with my migraines. After doing a tad of research, I’m pretty sure my migraines do make it difficult for me to communicate. I’ve been “struck” my migraines while on the phone with my sister (we talk every day). I can hear her, but sometimes it’s very difficult to understand what she’s saying. Not the words themselves, I hear the words, it’s putting them together in my head that is hard.

Yesterday’s migraine was quite unusual, all the regular symptoms without the debilitating pain. Of course, being unable to comprehend conversation is pretty debilitating itself.

Apparently with migraines the blood flow to the brain can increase by 300%. I don’t know if that’s really a lot or not. Maybe it increases that much with exercise, maybe it increases that much with other activities. I didn’t look into it that much.

There are phases that I never knew about. Prodrome is before the migraine by a couple days and some syptoms can go with that. I have never noticed any, but they’re pretty unnoticeable overall. Then the aural phase is right before, this phase I’ve noticed quite often and can often lead to me taking enough advil to kill the migrane before it starts- the only way for me to really have “relief”. Then their is of course the actual migraine- often for me with a decreased ability to carry on with my daily life when I have them. Then the postdrome phase- I’ve noticed this one before. For me, I’ll often have a regular headache for a day or two after having a migraine and feel generally crappy.

Before, migraines were thought to be caused by blood flow problems. Now, they think it’s some sort of brain dysnfunction. Before reading any of this, I thought the problem was inflamation because advil is an anti-inflamatory. If advil helped, I figured it was decreasing whatever inflamation was causing the problem. There is one theory that goes with my guess. It’s the depolarization theory. Basically, the neurological function is decreased in a part of the brain leading to a release of chemicals that cause inflamation.

Then there is the trigger theory which to me also applies. Maybe it’s connected somehow, the trigger possibly causing some sort of cortical depolarization. The smell of vanilla is horrid- because it triggers migraines for me. So does the strong smell of coffee, particularly if it’s fresh ground.

Whatever the cause, migraines are not fun. And possibly bad for my brain. I’m not the kind of person who likes medications but with my migraines I’ve always taken a double dose of advil (one dose doesn’t work so four right off the bat and acetominophin is just plain ineffective). If early enough in the migraine- during the aura phase, I can avoid the actual pain phase and have a somewhat normal day. I think now, after my limited research, that it’s possible that gastropareisis is causing the medication to not get through to my system once the migraine has started or if I take it too close to the actual migraine/too late in the aura phase. People with migraines, their stomaches may be affected leading to things staying in the stomach longer than typical. Which might mean the medication isn’t going anywhere. This might also be why many of us feel like we’re going to puke (and some of us do- sometimes repeatedly- throw up).

It’s possible that migranes even cause changes in the brain in the somatosensory cortex. People with migranes have a thicker somatosensory cortex. People with alzheimers also have a thicker cortex- so I hope that doesn’t mean I’m more likely to get alzheimers. MRI has also displayed brain lesions in people with migraines. That would lead me to think the depolorization theory was at least partially on track. There’s some research that says people with migraines are more likely to have a stroke. That doesn’t particularly make me all that excited to be having migraines.

Some researchers think it’s the pain of the migraine that leads to structurally changes (the thickening of the cortex) in the brain. Some think the thickening of the cortex leads to the migraines. All I want is to not have migraines.

Now, headaches aren’t associated with cortical thickness, aura’s, difficulty communicating, muscle weakness, or any number of other things that migraines are associated with. Cluster headaches are the type of headache most commonly misinterpreted for a migraine because of the intense pain associated with this type of headache.

So anyway, migraines are not just bad headaches.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. RobFitness permalink
    June 17, 2009 6:05 AM

    I can honestly say that I don’t ever recall having or getting any migraines. I guess I am a lucky one. I’ve had minor headaches and mainly from caffeine withdrawal. For me those are the worse it gets.
    I hope that all is well and that you’re getting back on track a bit. I can see why summer can be a bad time. For me it’s beacuse the weather is so HOT here and I don’t get out and walk as much. That’s why I always use the track and treadmill at the gym. Just a cooler place to be. 🙂
    Still cheering you on and I know you can get back at it and stronger than ever!

  2. June 17, 2009 10:51 AM

    I’m sorry you have such terrible headaches, they really are the worst things in the world. I have been getting awful headaches and migraines my whole life. There are certain medications that work better for me than others depending on the type of headache. If it’s a tension headache, Advil is sometimes very helpful in allowing me to feel relief so I can atleast go about my day. When it’s worse than a tension headache, I usually take Maxalt which was perscribed to me by my doctor. Hopefully you’ll find something that works just right for you, good luck!

  3. June 20, 2009 3:11 AM

    Boy, that’s right on target with me. I don’t get migraines that often, but mine are usually triggered by something. I have weather induced migraines. I had a really bad one yesterday. Both my sister and I (who are identical twins) get migraines triggered by the rain. It was awful. A lot of times if I catch them early enough Excedrin Migraine will do the trick, but yesterday just had to crawl in bed. I can still feel it lingering today. Anyhow, I feel your pain.

  4. RobFitness permalink
    June 27, 2009 11:43 AM

    I sure hope that your’re OK. I know I sure do miss having you around here 😦 Know that I am thinking of you and wishing you well and the best….

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