Coping, Symptoms

Postdrome (Migraine Hangover) into Prodrome and Repeat

Part 1
“Did anyone get the license plate of the truck that ran over me?,” the mom of my best friend in junior high used to ask when she was sick. That’s what I’m wondering today as I’m in a migraine hangover that has me feeling completely wrung out. Magnesium hasn’t brought me out of having chronic migraine, but it is no longer nearly constant. The experience of discrete migraine attacks and migraine hangovers instead of having one continually run into another is interesting.

Saturday brought the worst migraine I’ve had in awhile. It was a level 8 when it woke me up at 4:30 am and still an 8 when I awoke at 10. It remained at that intensity until 3 pm, then slowly tapered down to a 5 by 10 pm. Sunday, I was tired, dizzy, woozy and headachey. I wasn’t sure if I was experiencing the prodrome of another migraine or the postdrome of the previous day. I was pleased to discover that it was the latter, as we had people coming over in the afternoon for a barbecue. I felt decent and social from 3 pm to midnight, at one point even wondering if my pain was at a level 1! Then another migraine in the night and now, at 3 pm the next day, I am groggy, exhausted, nauseated, anti-social, and semi-brain dead and my head hurts.

I want to do some work — either respond to comments, input health expenses into a spreadsheet for taxes, or make chicken broth — but sitting on the couch, staring into space seems like my greatest capacity at the moment. Postdrome/hangover is so frustrating. I think I should feel fine because I’m not actively in a migraine, but I still feel like crap. Though technically I am still in migraine, it is just the post-raging headache phase of migraine. It is one of those times where I’m blown away by how complicated this illness is and frustrated that so few people have any idea that a migraine is not just a bad headache.

Part 2
The need to be productive overcame me, so I forced myself off the couch to start laundry and fill the dishwasher. After 30 minutes of being upright, I am shaky and dizzy in addition to my other complaints from earlier. I’m now wondering if this postdrome is turning into prodrome for another migraine or if I simply did too much too soon.

This constant wondering is frustrating, but also fascinating. I’m so interested in better understanding the process of this illness that regularly overtakes my body. Now that the migraine attacks aren’t constant, I’m experiencing what an individual migraine episode is like for most people. I’m also getting a better grasp on how incredibly debilitating my degree of chronic migraine has been.

I spoke with someone last week who has chronic migraine, too. She mentioned The Day-to-Day Life of a Chronic Migraineur, a post in which I chronicled my life over several days. Though she has five migraines a week, she also has a lot of pain-free time. We are both diagnosed with chronic migraine, which is defined as 15 or more headache days a month, at least eight of which are migraine, but the reality for each of us is vastly different.

Part 3
It is now Tuesday afternoon. I was indeed in prodrome for another migraine, then spent this morning in postdrome. Another migraine came on just after noon, but I was able to abort it with Amerge, so I’m out of the migraine-rinse-repeat cycle for now.

I feel a bit sorry for myself at the moment: I tell everyone that I’m doing so much better — and I am much improved from four weeks ago — but I also have to acknowledge that I’m still in some stage of migraine all but a handful of hours each week. I am thrilled to be doing as well as I am, just as long as I don’t pay too much attention to the fact that I still have chronic migraine that’s on the severe end of the spectrum.


The Postdrome: Migraine’s Silent Sister is an interesting article I came across while writing this post.

12 thoughts on “Postdrome (Migraine Hangover) into Prodrome and Repeat”

  1. I too have severe migraines. They come in cycles that I can’t seem to stop sometimes. I’m on Topomax as a preventative. The hangover after having these headaches is something that “brain fog” doesn’t do justice. My brain doesn’t function. It’s like there is some sort of damage done by the migraine and it takes a while for the brain to repair itself. My motor skills are impaired, I cannot focus on anything. I cannot form sentences. I cannot drive well and SHOULDN”T drive at all. I am dizzy, nauseated and ache all over. But the worst is the brain disfunction. It is down right scary. A friend compared me to her husband after his seizures. I think it’s accurate. The only thing that I can do to help it is rest but, unfortunately I have a full time job and cannot. It’s very hard to deal with. It’s a miserable existence during these cycles. Many prayers go out to all of you that deal with this daily.

  2. For those that say you have tried everything, have you considered psilocybin mushrooms? For me they don’t necessarily instantly abort the migraine I am currently going though, but if I am in a “migraine phase” that is like non stop heaches for weeks at a time, Mushroom will end the episode.

  3. I’ve been getting rather nasty headaches for a few years now – always preceded by stiffness down one side of my neck; the headaches and stiff nick more often than not being on the right side. Whilst I find the quick downing of some ibuprofen (as soon as I feel the stiff neck coming on) stops things going any further, this Friday I’d managed to get to work without any – of course, I only discovered this the hard way!
    My ‘headache’ duly ensued and was only placated at lunchtime when I had a chance to get to a petrol station and buy some ibuprofen. Within the hour, my head pain was gone, my neck was no longer stiff – but oh boy did I feel WEIRD!
    Light-headed, slightly giddy – you might say it felt like being pleasantly tipsy – and unable to recall one of the common computer commands that I need for work (it came to me eventually!), I may as well have been hungover from alcohol! I also felt tired (especially in my eyes)…
    This feeling of ‘weirdness’ stayed with me for the rest of the day and, going to bed at 20:30, I fell into a deep sleep…
    Yesterday, I still felt strange – like I was convalescing from an illness, and my partner suggested that my ‘headaches’ are in fact migraines – I looked up the symptoms on the internet and this is why I’m writing this now!
    I’ve just read that the postdrome has only been studied since 2004, which is strange considering how strong the effect is…

  4. I can’t write much right now as I am in early stages of postdrome. I have suffered from migraine since I was 11, I am now 44. It just goes on and on. I am certain the majority of my migraines are connected with my period, but are made worse by stress. Anyone who has any tips to help with hormonal migraines?

  5. I love your blog! I’ve commented on here when I’ve been in exceptional pain a few months ago. The past month or two I haven’t had level 9 pain. I actually can sometimes think away a headache, I just try to get busy and relax and it works 70% of the time I also find my pain is triggered by stress levels and environment. I also refuse to take medication other than aspirin and even that gives me rebound headache. So I just lay back and ride it when the pain gets bad. When I move out I’m investing in some Chinese herbs for headache and chronic inflammation. Hope I dont mess around and hurt myself. I’m sure you’ve tried, but I take cayenne pepper caplets and that has improved my circulation and Maybe helped with pain as I’ve only started taking it 2 months ago. There are also alot of of tinctures over seen online containing other inflammation reducing herbs etc. I’ll be in my first apartment in about 2 months. I’ll be eating fresh food for the first time. Who knows, maybe I’ll never have a migraine again as I’m accustomed to only a horrible enviroment and maybe this will be a total game changer.
    I’m also really scared. I’m 20 and going to be a middle school teacher and I dont think I could perform with chronic headache. Either way I have to cause I’m part of a program where if I teach in a critical needs area the school pays for my college. So I have to teach 2 years no matter what.
    I’m just scared of the fact that my new enviroment and diet won’t help and that I’ll be so young with chronic pain. I know my boyfriend needs an energetic healthy girl…I get really down and self concious when in headache such as noe. Did you have chronic migraine at my age? I think my headaches are different than yours..I dont her auras and I never hurts when I wake up. I do get brain fog and nausea though. Its gonna really suck ignition turns out Im in my twenties and have to here in out plan my life around chronic head pain…
    Sorry this comment is so long! Its hard to ‘meet’ someone who understands chronic head pain.
    best wishes, Kelly.

  6. Kerrie,

    I’m back from our trip. I don’t know if this is correct time/place to comment but the sunglasses that Hart designed are amazing!! šŸ™‚ I had really reasonable pain levels, as expected in a temperate climate like the Caribbean. I had two severe migraines that I treated with imitrex injections, zofran, and phenergan. I was able to make dinner each day on the cruise, except for one unfortunate evening that involved vomiting, despite my best efforts šŸ™

    I too have often experienced the run over of postdrome into prodrome. Once I became chronic, it’s just a matter of watching pain levels and trying to prevent vomiting. As we try to move from chronic back to episodic, I think we’ll be able to tease those subtleties out.

    Great to hear that you were able to socialize….so important to for husband and wife šŸ™‚

    Cheers – Julie

  7. Thanks so much for this article, I’ve always known the “fuzzy head” and complete fatigue I often feel are related to migraine, and it’s good to know that I’m not alone and that it’s acknowledged in the medical world. For me, too, migraine/postdrome/prodrome all meld together in one big melting pot at times!

    You’re definitely not alone! I hope you’re doing as well as possible!

    Take care,

  8. Hope you are feeling better when I write this Kerrie. Sometimes my postdromes after a less severe migraine attack feels worse than the migraine itself. Days with depression, brain fog, exhaution, headaches, nausea….

    Last fall was a very bad period for me. I had daily migraines and took around 35 triptans a month(Imigran Radis), when I knew that I should use max 10 a month.

    I had a back surgery and was on a 8 week sickleave because of that.
    My specialist and I decided it was a good opportunity to try a much needed 6 weeks period without any forms of painkillers or triptans.
    I was able to continue with Albyl-E(Antiplatelet agent) and Candesartan, and I’ve just had Botox injections( as I have every third month). The first 10 days I used corticosteroids.
    I never thought I could manage these six weeks, but I did!!

    I’m not going to pretend it was easy, and I had migraines almost every day for 4 weeks, and daily headaches everyday. I spent more hours in bed than ever before. The major migraine attacks which kept me in bed for three days were bad, but only happens 3-4 times over 6 weeks.
    Suddenly in week 5 I had a completely pain free week.

    I’m back at work again, and is working 60%. I’m can use 2 triptans a week. No more. I manage fairly well, and the change is profound!

    I think there are a lot more of you migraine sufferers out there that have a triptan-induced migraine/triptan overuse-migraine.

    My migraines are fewer, 1-3 times a week, and I don’t have them at the very same time in the morning. It’s clear that there was a difference between my “real” migraines and the triptan-overuse ones.


    Thanks for sharing your experience, Vibi. I’m so glad you’re doing better. You’re the third person I’ve heard from in the last couple weeks who has had remarkable improvement by stopping triptans. I take them rarely, so I really don’t think I’m at risk, but it is definitely on my mind. I’m planning a post on the very subject because I think many people could find relief by stopping triptans for awhile.

    I hope you continue to do well!

    Take care,

  9. Thank you for this post Kerrie. If I had to name one thing that Botox has done for me it is that there is now a point at which I can identify a beginning and end to a migraine. For the first 6 years, it was just all one big hurt.

    Thank you for describing so well that “hangover” feeling – unfortunate but so very true.

    I really hope this cycle “behaves” (for lack of a better term) for you.

  10. Hi Kerrie, I am soooo glad to hear you are doing a bit better. I have followed you for years throughout my own battle with daily migraine. I too am in the tried everything category. I just wanted to know, are you still the diet? Did you start any new meds besides the magnesium? I know you were seeing your doc a few weeks ago and had a new script called in. I’ve been on Buchholz’s diet for seven weeks and am pushing myself to stick with it despite the extreme amount of work it requires. My results are pretty weak but I have had a few days where I felt only low level headache and that was amazing. I hear you on boiling the chicken broth! A girl’s got to have some delicious hot soup in the winter right?!! I go through shallots like nobody’s business! Best of luck to you and thank you for writing what I would never have the chops to write šŸ™‚ You are so inspiring.

  11. THANK YOU for writing this post. You are able to put into words what I have been living with for a couple of months now. Thankfully my preventative meds have gotten me to a point where I don’t have a headache all day, every day. Part of me thinks that this is great! The other part of me realizes that even though the headaches have lessened I am still dealing with the rest of the migraine attacks. Major mood swings, cold/hot chills, brain fog, inability to concentrate or comprehend, auras, etc.

    The sad but true bit is that until you get to the point where you can finally see where one migraine stops and the other one stops it puts into perspective how bad you were, and how bad you are still doing. I find it very surreal when I am sitting at my desk at work and having to figure out what pain level my head is at. Is it at a 1? The pain is hardly there so I almost don’t even recognize it, but it’s still there. How do I put in my migraine journal that I don’t have headaches for certain periods of time, but they kind of wash over me like waves, thankfully little ones now, but still, waves of headaches, there one minute, gone the next. Such an odd existence!

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been living. Thank you for breaking it into comprehendible sentences that I can steal and use to help others understand what I’m going through each day.


  12. Kerrie,

    i, too, had my worst migraine in years a few days ago, and can’t really define what’s been happening since then – postdrome, prodrome, new episode, etc… you describe it all so well, which i find comforting.

    your statement: “…I also have to acknowledge that Iā€™m still in some stage of migraine all but a handful of hours each week.”, gives me a clear & concise way to explain things to people, and i’m going to use it. someone asks how the migraines have been, and i start hemming and hawwing (sp?) and straining to describe a condition that changes by the hour, by the minute sometimes. but i think your statement will be very helpful. depressing to acknowledge, yes, but validating and helpful.

    thanks again for your insights, -kate

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