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What Are YOUR 30 Things About Living With Migraine or a Headache Disorder?

Migraine and headache disorders 30 Things memeYour early response to the 30 Things meme is so exciting! I love learning about how you all cope with migraine, CDH, and NDPH and know that other readers will learn much from you (and hope people with other headache disorders will be represented, too). Some responses have even brought me to tears, like:

“My life is not defined by my migraine disorder. Though it is a daily part of my life, I refuse to give it the upper hand. I demand that, if it is going to take from me, and it does, it will also give to me – wisdom, strength, faith, and compassion to walk this life better than I was before it came along.”Take & Give

This reader’s insistence on gaining something from migraine is a wise approach to retaining the upper hand. So often, refusing to give the upper hand is synonymous with barging through life as if in perfect health, which often leads to worsening symptoms. Instead, this reader recognizes the loss and limitation of having migraine, but also what can be learned and gained from it. It is wisdom I try to live by, though I’ve never described it so eloquently.

Be sure to check the 30 Things Meme category and Twitter and Facebook for more insight from readers. To keep you from being overwhelmed by 10 times as many posts as usual, reader submissions are not going out by email, in RSS feeds, or on the homepage of The Daily Headache. I’ll be highlighting comments throughout Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, which starts June 1, but there’s no way I’ll be able to share them all with you.

Will you share your 30 things? Here are the instructions and links to questions: Migraine and Headache Disorders 30 Things Meme. You can tell your story and remain anonymous, if you choose. (You need to put your name and email in the form to post, but I’m the only person who will see them and I won’t send you spam.) It’s a great chance for a short reflection on your life with a headache disorder. And, each story has it’s own URL, so you can send the link to friends and family, if you wish.

P.S. I’m putting together a contest from Migraine and Headache Awareness Month and will draw winners from 30 Things submissions. I’ll share details next week.

 

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Dear Magnesium, Will You Be My Valentine?

My head pain is currently at a level 3. Yes, you read that correctly. Yesterday it was at a level 2 for six hours and level 3 for four hours. Level 2? Level 3? I haven’t had pain levels this low in all the years I’ve been rating it.

I’m kinda afraid that acknowledging the improvement will somehow negate it, but a friend pointed out that if I could have a mental or cosmic affect on the migraines, I would have done so by now. So, I’ll take a deep breath. . . and shout MAGNESIUM! Magnesium is the difference. Last Tuesday I increased my magnesium dose from 500 mg to 700 mg per day and I’ve noticed a change in how the headaches feel as well as their severity.

I’ve still had headaches, but they feel different. The pain is more of a tight band of pressure around my head and moving doesn’t worsen the pain. Stretching under a warm shower and massaging my neck often relieves the pain. These factors add up to tension-type headaches, which, considering how tight my neck and shoulders are (something I was only vaguely aware of when the migraines commanded all my attention), makes sense.

The migraines aren’t gone altogether. Last week I had a couple I’m convinced were triggered by muscle spasms (I was experimenting with pillows) and spent Thursday as a couch zombie. I’ve also aborted a couple migraines when I noticed prodrome symptoms of feeling overheated, trembling, or ice-cold hands and feet.

I haven’t been absent from the blog because of this newfound relief. January was a rough month for me with both migraines and depression. The depression got pretty scary and really pulled me down the last couple weeks, though the last few days have been better. There appears to be a strong connection between how severe the migraines are or how long they last and my degree of depression. I’m not saying I’m depressed because of the pain, but I think something happens in the brain during a migraine that kicks up the depression. I don’t know if there’s any scientific evidence to back this up; I intend to ask my headache specialist about it.

I’m thrilled that my head pain is better, though still not convinced it will last. I am trying to enjoy it in the moment without assuming I will continue on an upward trajectory. This is a new challenge in my mindfulness practice — a challenge I am grateful to pursue!

Enough about me. Could magnesium help you? In addition to headache specialist Christina Peterson’s article Should You Be Taking Magnesium?, look into The Magnesium Solution for Migraine Headachesby Jay Cohen. This short, inexpensive book is my preferred resource on magnesium and migraine. I’m working on a summary of the information I’ve gleaned from it, though don’t know when it will be ready to post. If you decide to try magnesium, it is important note to note that different types of magnesium supplements have different absorption rates and side effects. I am using Bluebonnet’s buffered magnesium glycinate chelate with no problem. It is more expensive than other kinds, but doesn’t make me nauseated.

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American Council for Headache Education’s New Website

Wondering how migraine and tension-type headache differ? Or what the common migraine treatments are? The American Council for Headache Education (aka ACHE) has a new website that will answer these questions and more.

Particularly good stuff:

All headache organization and educational sites have similar information. How it’s presented is the difference. ACHE’s articles are brief, but don’t skimp on details. The vast amount of information is narrowed to key topics, so you’re not overwhelmed. Articles aren’t bogged down with confusing jargon and are well-written.

I was shocked that ACHE links to Wikipedia’s migraine page. Wikipedia is a wonderful pop culture and travel reference, but am I’m wary of it for serious topics. The migraine page used to be full of errors and misleading information. At 1:03 pm PST on July 22, the page is quite good. Just know it is ever-changing and that being wrong doesn’t preclude someone from editing it.

ACHE’s site is primarily focused on migraine, which is the case
with a lot of headache sites (including mine). Perhaps it’s because
migraine is so prevalent and underdiagnosed. The articles are helpful even if you aren’t a migraineur. You might find — like I did — that your headaches that aren’t migraines actually are.

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Study on Headache & Migraine Prognosis

Long-term Prognosis of Migraine Favorable is the headline on a Reuters story from yesterday. Before you rejoice, know that the outlook is good for people with episodic headache or migraine, but far from rosy for chronics (like me and like many of you).

The 549 patients that participated in the study had an initial evaluation in 1989 and a follow-up evaluation in 2001. At the start of the study, 64 participants had migraines, 146 had frequent episodic tension-type headaches, and 15 had chronic tension-type headache.

In 2001, 42% of those with migraine had experienced remission, 38% had 1-14 migraines a year, and the remainder had at least 15 migraines per year. In participants with tension-type headache, 45% had 0-14 headache days per year, 40% had 15-179 headache days per year, and 16% had at least 180 headache days each year.

According to the Reuters article, “predictors of a poor outcome included chronic tension-type headache at the first evaluation, coexisting migraine, not being married and sleep problems.” (I’m quite curious about how marriage fits into the equation.)

It’s great to have some longitudinal research of headache. Gathering long-term data is extraordinarily difficult, especially in a field that’s ever-changing and has patients with experiences that are readily quantifiable. So I do appreciate the work of the study, but I’d like to know how the current understanding of migraine as a neurological disease fits into the findings. I’m also curious about why the groups were broken down in this manner and some data points that weren’t reported by Reuters. Here are some of the questions racing through my mind.

  • Were migraine patients who were in remission simply without headache or were they migraine-free because they used effective abortives that weren’t available in 1989? (Imitrex, the first triptan, came on the market in 1993.)
  • Is headache the only migraine symptom that was studied?
  • Are any of the patients taking preventives? If so, which ones? Do patients on preventives have fewer, more or the same frequency of headache before?
  • How many headache days per year did patients have in the initial evaluation? Were patients with a high number of headache days in 1989 more likely to still have frequent headache days?
  • How are participants in the 15-179 headache days category distributed? Are most at the low end or in the middle? And how can the span be so wide? As a patient, there seems a significant difference between 15, 85 and 179 headache days per year.
  • Self-reports from people with headache are notoriously unreliable. Sure, we can all use a 1-10 scale, but that’s subjective. A headache that I’d call a 6 today may have been an 9 last year, or one that was a 4 may now be a 2.
  • Headache classifications have changed significantly in the years between 1989 and 2001. Were the same classifications used? If not, how were they modified?

Visiting the local med school library would probably answer some these questions, but I haven’t the energy for that. I’ll stay in the dark for now. If you’d like to do the honors, PubMed has two citations of journal articles with the study’s data.