THE MADNESS OF MIGRAINES
A million years ago when I was in middle school, I began getting searing headaches that had me getting sent home and missing school. My parents took me to the pediatrician who diagnosed me with migraines. It was right around the same time that my hormones started changing, which is what he chalked it up to. They gave me medication, and eventually they started going away. After that brief episode, I only dealt with the occasional killer headache in my adult life – until recently.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with epilepsy after suffering a major seizure followed by a few smaller ones. Just before this happened, I had been dealing with some pretty serious migraine headaches and had been seeing a neurologist about them. After the seizures, my neurologist and I had to work to find a balance of medications and homeopathic remedies to keep both at bay. Up until recently, we had done that, but the migraines are back with a vengeance, and I’m on a quest to find a more natural remedy to fight back.
So the first thing I wanted to know is, what exactly IS a migraine? I think we all know in general broad terms it is a whopper of a headache, but I wanted to dig a little deeper than that. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic defines a migraine headache with more in-depth information:
Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Imbalances in brain chemicals — including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved. Researchers continue to study the role of serotonin in migraines. Serotonin(*) levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal system to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain’s outer covering (meninges). The result is headache pain.
There’s also hormonal changes in women. Fluctuations in estrogen seem to trigger headaches in many women with known migraines. Women with a history of migraines often report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major drop in estrogen.Others have an increased tendency to develop migraines during pregnancy or menopause.
There were other triggers indicated as well: foods, drinks, stress, sensory stimuli, physical factors, changes in the environment, and medications.
(*)As a gastric bypass post-op, there’s always a malabsorption concern, particularly with seratonin, and in my case I happen to also be an insomniac, so that makes things even trickier. Add to that I am 44 and in perimenopause, and I’m like a walking petri-dish for a migraine, the perfect storm just waiting to be unleashed – and in fact, it has!
The past two weeks have been almost unbearable, keeping me from rehearsals and needing to stay in my room with the door closed, lights off, and battling tears. I went to Facebook and the internet to ask for suggestions. I got many suggestions for medications, but also some more homeopathic and – interesting – ones that I thought I would share:
I know in this day and age it’s silly to be weirded out by the thought of the little needles, but I am. Still, this was by far one of the MOST suggested relief tactics. Even a quick search on Google shows the NY Times and Huffington Post listing it as a tried and true migraine relief answer.
Some people believe that migraine pain originates in the spine, and that getting a proper alignment can help. There are days that I will try ANYTHING that will help. If you tell me lining up my spine will do the trick, fine, let’s do it.
This one was new to me. I’ll be honest: I’m not so sure about this one, but I heard about it, so I’m putting it out there for you to decide on your own. The folks who told me about it SWEAR BY IT, and there were quite a few of them. Essentially it works a bit like acupuncture: it’s a small ear piercing in the innermost cartilage fold of the ear. Apparently it helps with migraines by targeting pressure points on the body’s surface to ease discomfort. And if it doesn’t? You can just take the piercing out and let the hole close up, just like any other ear piercing. Still, I checked snopes.com and found it’s not confirmed either way, so I’d suggest doing some reading first.
This is a supplement that’s a medicinal herb that’s used to treat migraines and digestive problems (but it should not be taken by pregnant women). Some people take it as a preventative treatment as well.
The first thing my neurologist recommended and the go-to on the internet. Most people who suffer from migraines and constant headaches are magnesium deficient and it’s generally recommended to boost your intake by 200 mg per day.
Many people wrote in and talked about the benefits of peppermint tea, peppermint essential oils, and peppermint candies. I haven’t personally tried this, but it was suggested so often that it definitely needed to make the list.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2):
Another one my neurologist suggested. I saw no difference once adding this, but it’s often suggested as some people are deficient.
The older I get, the less medication I want to put in my body and the more “real” alternative I want. If you’re like me and you’re also dealing with migraines, hopefully you’ve found something in this list that you can talk to your doctor about and work with. Here’s to a pain-free head for us both!
Taunia Soderquist is a professional musician, music educator, and radio host located in the Greater Los Angeles area. She’s also a seven and a half year gastric bypass post-op living a healthy lifestyle after losing and maintaining 150 lbs. Now a passionate cook, but not-so-passionate about exercise (eh, she’s trying). Check her website for live shows and more info: www.divataunia.com.