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Migraine Hangover & Recovery Day

The five-day migraine let up! I’d like to be celebrating by cleaning the bathroom, but am instead still idle, waiting for the migraine hangover to pass. I’m sluggish, vaguely headachey and spacey while my body sorts itself after the “extreme neurologic disruption” (I just love that phrase) of a migraine episode. Though the symptoms vary from person to person, anyone who has had a migraine know exactly what I’m talking about (as evidenced by the 120+ comments on an earlier post). What are your migraine hangover symptoms?

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Migraine Hangover (aka Postdrome)

The migraines that have been visiting the last couple weeks finally gave way to a 40-hour affair that’s tapering off. I’m now in what’s considered migraine hangover (or postdrome). I was reassured when I first learned that this is a normal event at the end of a migraine:

“The postdrome is a constellation of symptoms that persist beyond the resolution of headache. Many of these symptoms appear initially during the prodrome or with the headache phase. Commonly, patients report anorexia [loss of appetite], nausea, muscle tension, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. This phase has been termed the migraine hangover and can last and produce disability up to 1 to 2 days beyond the headache phase. The pathophysiology of the postdrome is unknown, but likely represents a gradual recovery phase from the extreme neurologic disruption that occurs during migraine.” — Clinical and Pathophysiological Anatomy of a Migraine Attack, Medscape

I particularly like the phrase “extreme neurologic disruption.”

The clinical explanation is helpful, but I’ve been trying to describe what it actually feels like to have a migraine hangover. Here’s my attempt to put it into words:

I’m still shrouded by a bad headache. The pounding doesn’t seem to cover as much of my head as it did, but it hasn’t changed location at all. In a sense its like an echo of what it was, but it feels different while feeling the same.

Instead of having trouble thinking, finding words or making decisions, like I do in the rest of a migraine, I’m lightheaded. Not in an unsteady on my feet kind of way, but that my thoughts are so airy and inconsequential they could just float away.

It’s a weak description, but I have no idea how to truly explain how I feel. Can you help me out? How do you feel when you have a migraine hangover?

To read the Medscape article, use one of the user names and passwords from BugMeNot. The World Headache Alliance summarizes a study that found that the “majority of migraineurs experience disabling post-migraine symptoms.”