You know that feeling wrung out, spent feeling that follows the pain phase of a migraine attack? It’s technical term is “postdrome,” though “migraine hangover” is far more resonant. Read about common symptoms of the migraine hangover in my latest post on Migraine.com.
“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.
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.
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.
Horrible migraine last night. Can’t tell if it has let up temporarily and is going to resurge or if I’m in an ugly postdrome. Not up to writing much, but I’m excited about the posts I’m working through in my mind. A preview: My additions to Ellen’s excellent list of The Migraine Dirty Dozen – Things Not to Say to a Chronic Migraineur on Migraine.com and a summary of Head Agony, Science News’ fantastic article on current understandings of the physiology of migraine, which reader Timothy sent me.
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?
Do you ever feel like you can predict a migraine is coming on because you just feel “off”? You’re not crazy. This is the first phase of a migraine attack, called prodrome, which occurs before the pain — and often visual aura — set in. It can start a day or two before a headache or visual aura.
The long, long list of possible prodrome symptoms:
Visual (aka aura)
- a bright shape that spreads across the visual field of one eye
and appears to block some or all of the vision; can be seen whether the
eye is open or closed
- flashes of light and color
- wavy lines
- geometric patterns
- blurred vision
- partial loss of sight
- numbness or tingling on the face or upper extremities
- a sense that limbs are a distorted shape or size
- smelling odors that aren’t actually present (like natural gas or something burning)
- partial paralysis
- weakness or heaviness in the limbs on one side of the body
- difficulty finding words
- problems understanding spoken or written language
- mental confusion
- transient global amnesia (similar to amnesia that follows a concussion)
- food cravings (particularly for carbohydrates, candy and chocolate)
- stomach rumblings
- increased thirst
- bloating/fluid retention
- frequent urination
- mood changes
- high energy
These are only part of little-known migraine symptoms. The Many Symptoms of Migraine describes symptom in the active migraine phase and the letdown, or postdrome.
Migraine: The Complete Guide is the source of these lists. It is my very favorite headache book, but is outrageously outdated. Perhaps if we mention it enough, the American Headache Society will consider updating the 14-year-old book.