I have suffered from migraines for a quarter of a century now.  So, not only do I have an almost 24-year-old daughter to make me feel old, I have a 24 year-old migraine to add to my age.  I thought I would take a moment to write about my headache experience, and provide some tidbits of information for those who suffer themselves or know someone who does.

Mine began as typical “menstrual migraines”.  For whatever reason, fluctuating levels of hormones can cause migraines in many women – I am assuming that since many migraines are “menstrual,” this is why more women than men suffer from migraines.  Through the years, I have been on every kind of birth control PILL available (I steered clear of the fad insertion or patches – ew, no thank you!)  Many pills offered some semblance of relief, but most of them actually made that ONE WEEK a living hell.  I actually felt best when I did not take any kind of hormones at all, but…there’s always a catch.  Suffering from cysts and fibroids as well, meant I “needed” to be on birth control.  Sigh.  Most women never share these bits of information with the men they know – maybe their husbands, but of course, the husband doesn’t go share that with other men.  And thus, the “headache” becomes such a negative thing.

Let me digress for a moment about this headache thing where medical practitioners are concerned.  I have been to literally a dozen doctors (at least) over the years.  I was fortunate when my migraines began, because this doctor in little old Newport, Arkansas was actually very helpful and gave me some decent NSAID’s to help.  Then…the traitor MOVED!  Then it was misery for a few years – headaches are such a “female” complaint (more on that in a minute) that most male doctors did not do much more than pat me on the head and tell me to ride them out. Enter Air Force docs.  Anyone know what their favorite remedy is?  Anyone?  Anyone?  800 milligrams of Motrin.  EVERY time.  Sigh.  Oh, and the pat on the head.  I finally found my doctor who did the smartest thing ever:  sent me to a neurologist.

So, now back to the migraines.  If you (or someone you know) is suffering, have the doctor check your vitamin and mineral levels.  Many vitamin deficiencies can cause migraines – Vitamin D being one of these.  And, since many of us are deficient in Vitamin D for several months a year, this is a big factor.  B12 is also an issue – which is ironic, because some recommend limiting red meats, which are high in B12.  Aged cheeses, EGGS, colored liquor, red wines…all culprits which can lead to migraines.  There’s a substance called tyramine in many of these foods – the more “aged” a food is, the higher the tyramine.  There are other foods – many, many other foods – including chocolate, peanuts, aspartame, and so on.  I do not think foods trigger mine, per se, except caffeine withdrawal, although I do tend to shy away from foods loaded with nitrites.

I have tried so many home remedies over the year – and will continue to do so in the future.  Ice packs, pressure points, heating pads, lavender, St John’s Wort, and so many others, I forget.  Some of these offer a small bit of relief, whether it is “real” or psychosomatic, I am not sure.  One of my favorites was a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks with an Extra-Strength Tylenol chaser.  I also used to listen to really loud music and seriously, it helped.  I think more or less, because it took my mind off it.

I have also tried MANY forms of migraine medicines through the years:  Fioricet, Midrin, Maxalt, Rexalt, Imitrex, Trexemet, plain ole Naproxen, and others.  I am almost to the end of the regular spectrum of migraine meds and so, if they do not improve in the future, I might consider biofeedback.  My neurologist retired last year, so I need to find a new one, though, before I try biofeedback.  I am currently taking straight sumatriptan (the generic) with a Naproxen chaser, but the sumatriptans make me feel as if I cannot breath – a “lead blanket” is how one fellow sufferer describes it.

Headaches are just painful, in so many ways.  The basis for many excuses:  “Not tonight dear, I have a headache” (although seriously, “that” is a good cure for headaches).  They are used to get out of work, play, etc., because really, you can’t see a headache unless you are having an expensive procedure (mRI, CAT, or PET) done, and then you have to be in the throes of a headache for your brain to light up enough to be read on a scan of some sort.  Its people who fake headaches who make them bad for those of us who truly suffer from them.

I have had some terrible headaches over the years, and I have a running “Top Three worst migraines”.  I know it’s crazy, but I actually use it to determine if I am going to tough it out at work or stay in bed all day.  The worst one ever was, hmm, they were going to Wake Island, so 2005 or 2006.  I remember in this manner, because I had travel orders to process but my head was hurting so bad, it hurt to lie on it.  When I get one like this, tears will run down my cheeks, because there’s not much I can do for it.  I know other sufferers will understand.

I have made it through these migraines the last ten years because I have great daughters, great friends, and great bosses.  Livvy will take care of me when I get stricken by “one of the bad ones” and will bring me water or washclothes as I huddle in bed, miserable, wishing my mom were around to rub the bottoms of my feet.  Yes it worked.

One last little tidbit before I sign off of this incredibly boring, yet informative post.  Most people do not realize that “sinus headaches” are actually migraines.  Usually a sinus headache will present with inflammation of the paranasal sinuses and other sinus symptoms.

Yawn….that was…boring.