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Why I’m Doing Better, Part 1: Climate & Medication

After my recent glowing posts, many people have inquired why I’m feeling better. I’d like to give you a clear, definitive answer, but migraine is never that simple. There are a number of factors, from climate and medication to exercise, meditation and forgiving myself for being sick. I’ll talk about the first two today and the others, which have probably had a greater impact on my health and suffering than medication, later this week.

Climate
Moving to Phoenix, away from the clouds and rain of Seattle and the ever-changing weather of Boston, has had the biggest influence on my migraine frequency, duration and severity. Storms and clouds have been rolling through Phoenix the last week and I’m on migraine day six. Though migraines aren’t always present when there’s weather, particularly if I’m on vacation, the correlation holds about 90% of the time. I wonder if the issue is barometric pressure changes, though Seattle’s barometric pressure is relatively steady, so parts of my hypothesis fail there.

Indomethacin
I began taking this nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug in June because the sand-in-my-eye symptom pointed to the slight possibility that I had an abnormal presentation of hemicrania continua. This rare headache disorder is completely responsive to indomethacin. Though my headache pain lessened, it did not cease, which means my diagnosis is still migraine. My doctor kept me on a daily dose of 225 mg of the medication, though he warned that it is not recommended for long-term use as it is hard on the stomach. I’m sticking with it for now because it is the only medication on which I’ve noticed a decrease in the frequency and severity of my migraines.

Discontinuing Wellbutrin and Lamictal
In 2005, I was prescribed Cymbalta, Wellbutrin and Lamictal for depression. I stayed on them far longer than I intended, especially considering that I was still majorly depressed while taking them. I finally went off of them this summer after determining that my dizziness, tremor, hot flashes, fatigue, cold hands and feet, mental fogginess, nausea, and increased pulse were not migraine symptoms, but medication side effects. I believe Wellbutrin was the culprit, but I wanted to stay off all three if I could. When my depression symptoms returned, I went back on Cymbalta. I’m happy to say that the depression is at bay and I’m not experiencing any other side effects.

Namenda
I’m in love with this medication, which is an Alzheimer’s treatment that is used off-label for migraine. I don’t know if it has had an effect on the migraine severity or duration, but it has cleared the mental blah that has plagued me as the migraines worsened. I credit Namenda with returning the mental wherewithal necessary for me to resume blogging and restoring my sense of intelligence. The feeling dumb aspect of migraine, which is not addressed frequently enough, has been one of my most limiting symptoms and has caused the greatest loss of my sense of identity and purpose. Did I mention that I love this drug?

8 Responses to Why I’m Doing Better, Part 1: Climate & Medication

  1. Kate says:

    Awesome! So what percent overall reduction would you say if you had to? I know that can be very tough though… I’m disappointed my neuro won’t let me try Namenda or Indocin for my daily headache (among other things I listed that I haven’t tried that aren’t as typically used). He didn’t think there was evidence they would work and that the risks and side effects can be bad. I’ve done the research and agree they are worth a shot. Hope you can enjoy it and you get continued relief. Best wishes.

  2. D says:

    Hi,

    I suffer from regular migraines that started when I was 19 years old. For years I would suffer through them; sitting in the dark, wearing ear plugs to block out the noise and taking painkillers. I did this for years until I got a new job as an assistant to a Chiropractor. I had never seen a Chiropractor before, nor did I know anything about the profession (I’m still not sure why he hired me) but with the position I received complimentary adjustments. After discussing my health history which included migraines and tendonitis, I started Chiro care. Within a few months of regular adjustments, my symptoms of tendonitis started to disappear and my regular migraines weren’t so regular anymore. I am now in my early 30’s and I am happy to say that although I still suffer from the occasional migraine, they are no longer as intense or as frequent. Rather than my monthly migraine, I maybe get 3 per year. All of which quickly dissipate after an adjustment.

    This may not work for everyone, as everyone is unique, however it is a great alternative to medication and definitely worth looking into.

    All the best,
    D

  3. PamC says:

    I lived in Seattle with migraines… the barometric pressure is not steady there. That place was a roller coaster for my migraines. I find being at altitude (Denver) has really helped.

  4. Linda D says:

    I had the brain fog and terrible memory problems with the Indomethacin! Consider that if you still have problems with it! I refuse to take it again!

  5. Francesco says:

    D—-

    I’d read of Namenda or heard of it somewhere, but it is encouraging to hear your report of improvement of brain fog symptoms. Your writing is terrific, forgive me for not finding the exact right words to describe it—but in two words it is excellent AND terrific. Your comeback is to be highly praised, and I thank you and apologize for not returning to your site more often in the last several years. I’m afraid to do a search and find out how long it has been. So I’ll have to do more research on the Namenda—but it makes sense that an alzheimer’s drug would help and even offset many of the anti-cholingeric side effects of migraine meds, specifically the tricyclics and dopamine suppressing drugs. It must help raise the brain levels of acecylcholine, that is my guess.

    The other point I wanted to hit upon was the move to a dryer climate. I have lived in the MidWest virtually all my life and am ready to try a dryer a climate. I recall my mother telling me of how her mother (my grandmother) had no more headaches after moving to California from Upper Michigan many years ago. Not sure what type of headache she had, though.

    ~Best regards,

    Francesco

    God bless you for your continue work and helping so many of us out there in pain recovery land.

  6. Francesco says:

    PS. I don’t suffer with classic or periodic migraine. My diagnoses were hemicrania continua (Diamond Headache Clinic) vs. intractable migraine variant (MHNI). Those were the two diagnoses I got most often. So I’ll have to be honest and share that I don’t experience the nausea and vomiting, nor the dark room and no sound demands of a full blown migraine. It is a constant level 3-4 pain on the 1-10 pain but the constancy of it has taken much out of my life, to be sure.

  7. Francesco says:

    PSS. My diagnosis of hemicrania continua I would call into question by the fact that I’m one of those people who did not have a 100% to indomethacin (Indocin). I often wonder if I was wrongly diagnosed and that New Daily Persistent Headache isn’t what I’ve really been suffering with all these many years. I can pin the exact date, the day, month, and year when the left sided headache began and I’ve basically had it ever since—with some slight shifting and a couple major exacerbation over the years. Knowing the exact date that the headache began is classic amongst NDPH sufferers, so this coupled with the fact I wasn’t 100% responsive or significantly responsive to indomethacin makes me wonder about the diagnosis of “hemicrania continua”.

  8. Louise Edeiken says:

    Thanks so much for all of your detailed information. I have had Hemicrania Continua since 2000 and it totally disappears with Indomethacin. Unfortunately, I cannot tolerate the side effects I get with the medication – not that I would want to stay on that medicine for long. Acupuncture has been my only relief – and the daily headaches have gotten almost non-existent at this point – except when they are there and I have anywhere from 1-10 pain levels that can change all day long. My acupuncturist is not a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner – he has studied many techniques and works on paths of pain – I’m guessing like trigger points. I find it curious that a muscular-skeletal treatment can help my hemicrania AND an anti-inflammatory drug can help it. By the way, I also get migraines that last 3-4 days that sometimes respond to a Triptan med. I am just starting to approach my headaches with diet now – with an emphasis on reducing inflammation. Hope it works.

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