A really bad headache is not neccessarily a migraine
Thursday, Jan 28 2010
So, I’ve mentioned before that I was diagnosed with migraines, this occurred about a year ago last October. Migraines are different from really bad headaches, they can cause really bad headaches and worsen a headache that’s already in existence but they are not the same thing. The problem is in common language people associate migraines with a really bad headache and not the neurological syndrome that it is. But, us migraine sufferers know that there is a difference between a really bad headache and a migraine — you can actually feel the difference, although sometimes a really bad headache can turn into a migraine. Unfortunately, I’m a little slow socially sometimes and have made the mistake that everyone knows what a migraine is, then I’ve confused people by asking them what medication they use to treat it and how it’s worked for them. For those people who either haven’t been diagnosed with migraines by a doctor, or have used a migraine to describe a really bad headache, I usually get a confused look like “what you’ve never heard of tylenol?” Which makes me go on my rant like right now (although I’m usually more polite and a little more awkward).
There is a difference between the pain killers we use to aliviate the pain and the migraine medication. Migraine medication does not aliviate the pain of a migraine headache (there I said it!). Thus, most migraine sufferers take both a migraine medication and pain killers. I’m currently on rizatripan (better known as maxalt) and two tylenol one’s plus two ibprofens of about 400mg.
There are varying theories as to what causes a migraine or what happens in the brain. I prefer the vascular dilation theory, since it seems to be true for me, when I get a migraine I have a vein that sticks out of my head (very scary). Basically, the blood vessels in the brain dilate (or become really big), this causes your body to signal a treatment for inflammation and this area becomes sensitive. Now with every heart beat (or whenever blood passes through these blood vessels) the sufferer feels pain. But, there are many other theories which I’m sure you could find fit me too. I’m going to link the wikipedia article on migraines since it will go into further details than I am here — this also discusses some of the theories as to what is the root cause of migraines — all very interesting and I hope one day we figure out what precisely causes them and maybe cure them! (Glee –not the show, just me at the thought of a cure!)
Finally, I’m going to discuss the symptoms of a migraine, cause while I explained that there are drugs to treat the migraine there are also symptoms which helps doctors diagnose you with a migraine and properly treat you. For me a migraine usually starts behind my right eye, just a sharp pain. Sometimes, it also starts with my head feeling too heavy for my neck (this is a tension headache in which the muscles inappropriately contract, usually due to stress levels increasing, this leads to the sharp pain behind my eye which spreads). For most people a migraine starts with photophobia, and phonophobia (can’t have bright lights or loud noises — cool words eh?). There’s also dizzyness, nausea, difficulty concentrating, altered mood (I’m usually pissed off at everyone), cravings for unusual foods (this has happened to me), fatigue, stiff muscles. I also get what’s known as dyphasia, a temporary language disorder — this means that there are words in my head but for some reason my brain can’t tell my mouth to say them, which gets frustrating and my husband is left to guess what I want from grunts and waving of arms. I can’t even mime it out cause for some reason I just can’t think of how to express what my head wants to say — it is the worst kind of frustrating. I’m going to link a wikipedia article on aphasia (which is a more intense version of dyphasia), it also explains it a bit better, do I have dyphasia now?
While I use maxalt and pain killers to treat the headache there are a few more tricks I use to help me from going crazy when I am in this migraine state, if there is anyone out there who has been diagnosed this has helped me. One, I take ginger pills instead of gravol to treat the nausea, I prefer not to take so many drugs at once and I find that ginger is enough to calm my stomache. Another, is a take a warm bath, for some reason I think this draws the blood out of my head and down my body, but it may just relax me which helps me deal. I usually take the bath with sunglasses on and in the dark (there’s still light peeping out from under the door so the sunglasses aliviate that). I almost always wear sunglasses when I emerge from my dark bedroom to get a drink or food, I bought these wrap around glasses which help block out light from all angles. I use a lavendar aromatherapy spray on my pillow, I find that pleasant smells help me relax and lessen the pain. My Dad also gave me this head band (looks like an 80s fitness head band) it has velcro pucks which attach on the inside of the band (closest to your head) The band helps put pressure on your head while the pucks target a specific area. Sometimes when I have a migraine I feel like pushing on certain areas of my head but due to my fatigue and frustration I can’t do it for long, this headband helps me relax while doing the work of the pushing on those areas. I’m not sure where you would find a headband like this my guess would be a drug store or an alternative health store.
A final thought, if you’ve read this and/or the wikipedia articles on migraines and feel like you might actually have them, please go to your doctor, they can help you and at the very least you can have the migraine meds neccessary to help you recover — the first time you take them you’ll be surprised at the difference afterwards.
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