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Terrible Migraines: Is it birth control pills? Allergies? A bad spell?

My brain has had a rough month. I’ve had brief reprieves, but most of my time has been occupied by terrible migraines. I feel better this morning and am taking full advantage of it.

I’m in my fourth week of birth control pills. I’ve been spotting for the last 10 days, which I assume has contributed to the migraines. I plan to give the experiment a couple more months, but am not sure if I can make it that long.

I’m increasingly certain that allergies trigger at least some of my migraines. You may remember last spring was also horrible for me. Magnesium certainly was a factor. I wonder if allergies were also involved. Taking a Zyrtec yesterday appears to have reduced my agony tremendously. I had to reschedule yesterday’s appointment for allergy tests (for the third time) for later this month. (Please note that although allergies don’t cause migraines, they can be a trigger.)

My outlook is surprisingly good. Especially considering a bad appointment with my headache specialist Monday. The gist of the appointment: I have headaches and migraines that haven’t responded to treatment. With time, headache research will uncover more clues. Until then, why not try some more things in case they help? And I should think about medication to “make life bearable,” like morphine. (That’s a can o’ worms I can’t open right now.)

Back to the good outlook: If I have to live with migraines and headaches, at least I can do it the best way possible. I have a comfortable home; supportive, patient friends and family; and an understanding husband. My insurance covers a variety of treatments. I can stream NPR and audiobooks from the library. I eat good food that I don’t have to make. My life is as good as it can be right now.

I’m sad to not post more on the blog. I want to write about news and research. I want to share resources. I want to write about myself less. I want the blog to be like it was two years ago. Change is inevitable, so I’m trying to not worry about it much. Maybe I’ll get there again, maybe not.

17 Responses to Terrible Migraines: Is it birth control pills? Allergies? A bad spell?

  1. WTaylor says:

    I’m sorry, you sound as upbeat as possible despite a desperate situation. I went to my headache specialist yesterday after months of waiting for an appt and it was a disaster. I am done with UW, I think it is awful what happened and the jist of the appt was to buy a book she recommended, eat more fruit and take Aleve, she never asked me a single question about my history and just wanted to say her little bit and draw pictures. I was really and truly amazed at the lack of attempt to understand my situation. I am very frustrated as you seem to be too. I wish you the best.

  2. Dusty says:

    Kerrie,

    I get classic migraine with aura. I tried Nuvaring in an effort to control the migraines but I got depressed, anxious and the migraines got much worse. I’m not as tough as you, I pulled that damned thing out and felt better within a week.

    All the other hormones I replace are bioidentical. I think if I chose to increase my estrogen again, I’d get it compounded so that I could control it better and so it’s assimilated into my body without having to go through the liver.

    I enjoy reading your blog no matter what your write, keep up the good work (when you feel up to it)!

    🙂 Dusty

  3. christina says:

    i am truely understand what you are having to deal with. has the magnesium helped you at all. i stared about a week ago of increasing my dosage to 1600 mg a day and what a difference i have seen. i was able to leave my house. have not done that in about three weeks. but i did upset my stomach alot. i am just getting really tired of seeing other people live a life when i have to watch mine pass me by. i can’t go to the movies, can’t go to the beach, can’t eat chocolate, but hey, their is nothing to see anyway and i don’t think anyone wants to see me in a bathing suit. well, i had to create my own humor. ha ha

  4. Mary Kay says:

    Oohh Kerrie so sorry about the month being bad. I can’t believe your headache doc said morphine! In ten years of doing headache work I have never used it..ever.

    Have you considered going to an inpatient clinic like Michigan or Jefferson? Your ins may cover it if similar services are not available in your area and your doc writes a letter of necessity..just a thought.

    Good luck..

  5. K1Frog2 says:

    Don’t write off morphine. Without it I could never have what little life I do have. It keeps the pain down to a dull roar about half the time. And it doesn’t have the ups and downs of codeine, the rebound headaches of tylenol, or the stomach upset of other treatments. I could take more and be in less pain, but it makes me too sleepy when I do. I want to do more than doze on the couch with my life.

  6. Karen says:

    So sorry to hear about your bad spell. Really glad to hear you liked Relpax. I tried it once but it did nothing for me. Amerge is what I use and it works, although it works best if taken at the first sign of trouble, which is hard for me as I try not to take it more than twice a week. It can take 2 hours to abort the headache, but then I have 24 hours of pain-free life.

    I tried birth control off an on when I was younger and I would be fine for a year and then suddenly start getting more headaches and I would go off it. I am now doing some HRT but only bioidenticals. Personally, I wouldn’t use anything else. I agree with the idea of getting a compounding pharmacy to make an individual dose for you. One size fits all is not a good idea, in my opinion.

    I have heard that once people turn to morphine, they never find anything else that works, so I would avoid it.

    I also live in the Seattle area, so I can tell you the weather lately has been challenging. The high pressure today has been good, but every time a storm comes in, my headache follows. Maybe things will get better when the storms are gone.

    Hang in there!

    Karen

  7. Carrie says:

    I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad month. I’ve had chronic migraines since I was 8 years old, and this past month has been HORRENDOUS for me, too. I’ve had a migraine for about 80% of this month. It goes away briefly with Imitrex, then comes back. today i had a 9/10 (scale of pain), imitrex did nothing for me. i took a tylenol with codeine (doctor rx) and it brought it down to a 4/10. it just wont go away though.

    been tested for everything. they just cant explain why i live with migraines. i am so jealous of people who go weeks, months, and years without a headache. i can’t even imagine.

  8. apple says:

    Hi Kerrie,
    I’m sorry you are having such a hard time and had a bad appointment. We have the same headache specialist and it sounds like he has us in the same category, although morphine is not the drug he offered me. Accepting pain control has made a huge difference in my quality of life and ability to care for my family, but you know what is best for you.

    Even having said what a difference it has made, I second-guess myself sometimes, because I feel that his methods would be frowned upon in the headache community. Not your issue, I know, I’m just saying I understand your reluctance to jump into taking morphine.

  9. apple says:

    I’m sorry, I realized I was hasty in lumping us into the same boat. My dx is NDPH, and he is doing his own research in that area (CSF steroid injection), which makes me feel more like he actually cares about my comfort and less like I am being given up on and swept under the rug. I don’t know if the offer of morphine makes you feel that way or not.

    I was also thinking about your decision last night, and I was wondering if it feels like accepting pain control (don’t know if there’s a better term for it) feels like you are done fighting? Like when a patient is terminal and all their doctor has left to offer them are “comfort measures.”

  10. Kathi says:

    I actually take time release morphine for my back daily, it’s a low dose two times a day and I have seen some improvement in my headaches lately…it’s not a cure but it does help and I will take any headache free days I can get.

  11. Kelly in DC says:

    The only kind of magnesium that works for me (that I can keep down anyway) is water soluble. I take the Peter Gillham’s Natural Calm. You mix it into hot water. A girl I know who works for Whole Foods recommended it to me. I can’t say I’ve had much relief from migraine pain (I’ve had a non-stop migraine since 3/20/2006) However, it does help with digesting my other meds/vitamins.

    K

    *******
    Thanks for the recommendation! I hope you find some relief soon.

    Kerrie

  12. Kim O' Roark says:

    Does anyone take Topamax as a preventative and Trimexit for pain? These have helped me some. My doctor explained to me that my migraines would increase through my forties as my estrogen raged up and down. They started in my twenties and have gotten worse. Supposedly, I have menapause to look forward to for relief.

    I could not take the pill or use the Novasure iud.
    I have had morphine in the emergency room only a couple of times. These meds have kept them manageable.
    Kim

  13. gina says:

    I am reading these entries and realize I don’t acknowledge myself as someone that needs support and is part of a greater population that may have daily migraine. I always beat up on myself for being “lazy” or “depressed”, when I have migraines many days of the month. I mean sometimes I can go a total of 7 days in a month without them, and those are not consecutive. so I take Relpax, get rebound, then I go on the propranalol SR which makes me more depressed, but does break the cycle of rebound for a few days. Then back to the Relpax. My insurance will give me 10 in a month with a 40.00 copay, outside of that I have to pay for them and sometimes the Neuro won’t approve them. He treats me like a Pariah…like he sees me coming. I know alot about my headaches because I am 50 years old and have had them since I was a teen. I have been on hormone therapy, didn’t work…chiropratic didn’t work and injured my back. Haven’t tried morphine but I am a nurse so that would prevent me from going to work. I think I needed to type this out and see it on paper! I have a reason for being down, I am not just a weak person with poor character. Does anyone RELATE??

  14. Debra says:

    I was diagnosed with NDPH and the only thing that helped me was high dose birth control pills. I have extremely low estrogen and after trying a whole bunch of treatments including nerve blocks, accupuncure, IV’s…it came down the increasing my estrogen in my birth control.

  15. Kathy says:

    I’m always surprised at not finding this on more migraine sites: Vitamin A in oil (the little gel caps). I had migraines for years – serious ones, until someone suggested getting Vit A. I carry a bottle with me and as soon as I feel it coming on, I take 1, possibly 2 and it goes away. Vit A is toxic at 50,000 units (that would be 5 caps at once). It doesn’t work to take water soluble vitamin A, like in regular vitamin pills. Only A in oil – and it can’t be rancid. Overcooked oils (like in potato chips), rancid oils – old food, or hydrogenated oils which is in pretty much everything, as well as looking into light, TV, computers or snow for extended periods can cause vitamin A to be destroyed in the body. Not all migraines are from Vit A issues, but just knowing people who have been helped by it – I’d say 80% of migraines are caused by Vit A deficiencies. Vit A also helps if you get really painful periods. Apparently the lack of A causes all surface cells to die off and causes clumping, or clogged pores as well.

  16. dumemama says:

    Don’t give up on magnesium. My migraines were getting worse and worse despite complete avoidance of my triggers. I’ve been migraine free since I started a regular mineral supplement which ensures a good mineral balance including magnesium.

    Of course I still mostly avoid my known triggers: aspartame, caffeine, nitrates, alcohol, lack of sleep, skipping meals. But at least now I can enjoy an occasional glass of wine or two, cup of tea, or a piece of bacon and not wind up in bed for three days.

  17. Tinkermellie says:

    I have been getting migraines for about 12 years. I’ve seen every Dr. you can think of and have just been told it’s life, to deal with it. About 3 years ago a Dr. suggested Imitrex Injections. I was very skeptical about giving myself an injection but you’d be surprised what you’ll do when you’ve had a migraine long enough. The first time I tried the imitrex injection the migraine I was experiencing was making me vomit and I was dizzy; but within 2-5 minutes the pain was gone. I’ve been doing the injections (as needed) for about 3 years now and have found that I don’t have to take an injection at the first sight of pain, I can have a migraine for a few hours and still get relief from the injection. I’ve also tried the nasal spray by imitrex and it does give me some relief but do need to take it at the onset of pain. Just thought maybe this piece of information might help somebody.
    Good Luck!

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