Symptoms, Warning Signs and Triggers

Another challenge in the treatment of migraines is recognizing the symptoms/warning signs that lead to the pain so you can better manage, and where possible, avoid, or at least minimize the triggers. My migraines would range from tolerable, to where I could function and hide the pain, to unbearable to where I was confined to a dark room in bed, and everything in between. Generally speaking, I didn’t have much warning that a severe migraine was about to take control of my body. It was often a VERY rapid onset that I can only describe as feeling like I was instantly hit by a freight train; instant pain and extreme nausea.

Migraine symptoms that I experienced include: light, sound and smell sensitivity and nausea/vomiting, throbbing in my temples and other locations around my head, and disorientation. I very rarely experienced aura. These symptoms have reduced in severity with the Neurostimulator implant, but they are still present when I experience a severe migraine. I also had visible signs, where I would either become very flushed, or extremely pale. At times, it was my husband, friends or family that would point this out to me as I wasn’t aware of the physical change in my body. These visible signals were helpful in that I would know to take medication at that moment, before the severe pain set in.

I have very few triggers that are in my control. Things that affect me the most include: my cycle and fluctuations with hormones, barometric pressure changes, extreme climate changes, and seasonal changes.

After 16+ years, I can name on one hand the number of triggers that I know for certain will cause a migraine, or for the pain to increase. Things like, too much sugar, too much or not enough caffeine, inconsistent sleep and stress. There are ways to test your body and try to determine food triggers, but a migraine may not be immediate after drinking red wine, or eating cheese, for example. You can try food and trigger elimination and chart your pain, but it is still very difficult to find a pattern and pin point the exact cause of the migraine for that pain episode. I found this to be very exhausting, and futile. But for some migraine sufferers, this is a helpful tool.

Some of the most frustrating migraines that I experienced were on the weekends, when I would experience the most painful migraines. I didn’t understand this for many years, but learned that these are referred to as “stress let-down” headaches.  After an exhausting week at work, I would be lying on the couch (or most likely in bed), and when I finally let my body relax, the pain would hit or escalate, and I would often times find myself in bed for the better part of the weekend. This is very common, and can be controlled to an extent by keeping your sleep, caffeine intake, and meal times consistent.

Another personal “favorite” of mine was on the off-chance that I was having a pain free day, I found myself scrambling to catch up on life; running errands, cleaning the house, and making time for family and friends. And more times than not, I found that I had over-extended myself, and wound up sick again. It is a delicate balance to know your limits and to stay within them so you don’t do more harm than good. While it may feel really good to finally cross something off your list, ensure that you are not scrambling to do everything at once. This is MUCH easier said than done, but will save you in the long run.


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