Despite inquiries and requests over the last few years, I've dodged the topic of marijuana and migraines - Well, just the topic of cannabis altogether. After last night's results in Washington state and Colorado, I decided it's worth bringing up the topic. Sorry Mom and Dad, but this one's about the Devil's Weed. For the rest of you, try to stay focused and read on.
If you're serious about reducing the number of migraines you suffer, then you might want to pay close attention to your sleep pattern.
Migraines are thought to be related to your over- or hyperactive nerve cells, and these nerves tell your blood vessels to either expand or constrict. During this process, your blood flows and so do all the other chemicals involved, many of which lead to your brain.
While you might think more sleep results in less migraines, studies suggest the opposite. There are around 6 sleep cycles the average human journeys through, the most well-known and most powerful being REM.
During deep sleep and the latter stages, dopamines and several important "euphoric" neurotransmitters flood your brain, which results in waking up rested and "feeling good".
However, certain types of sleeping disorders can cause the release of serotonin as opposed to dopamines. This, of course, can result in the opposite, "feel like crap" sensations.
Also, REM is thought to provoke migraines. In essence, the more your eyes flutter or move, the more likely you will develop a migraine. More commonly, think about the nights you might have spent on the Internet because you couldn't sleep. If you stared at the screen too long, you might have developed a headache. In the case of REM migraines, imagine the same situation but tenfold.
The good news is there are certain medications that help reduce the amount of serotonin seeping in. They are antidepressants that are sometimes used to treat migraines. Medication affects people in different ways, so the best way to seek treatment is to keep track of your migraines and the surrounding situations, and then speak with a doctor or neurologist.
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At dinner the other night, I was introduced to a young Ball State University student who suffers from similar chronic migraine attacks. Whereas my migraines tend to last up to 4 days and occur in this pattern around twice a month, hers start with one several-month-long series, in which her migraines seem to accumulate into one longer-lasting attack.
Unlike many migraine sufferers, however, she found a way to "cure" her attacks for 6 months at a time.
She traveled to Michigan Head-Pain Neurological Institute (MHNI) where neurologists and doctors performed a Radio Frequency Denervation (RFG). There's some information out there about RFG, but there seems to be more about Radio Frequency Ablation, which I believe is the same - or a similar - treatment. Here's how it works:
RFG is typically used for arthritis and back pain, but now is being used in some areas as a treatment for migraines.
There are many sufferers who say this treatment definitely works for a short period of a time, but is far superior to regular medicinal treatments. Many sufferers who seek treatment over painkillers try this approach.
Of course, there are naysayers. It's important to remember some treatments may work for some and not for others.
Links on RFG/Ablation
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Perhaps the title of this entry is a bit misleading, but studies over the years have shown a connection between auras during the onset of a migraine attack and premature stroke.
What's interesting about these studies, is that I am a sufferer of auras. I never understood what I was experiencing until I spoke with my neurologist and Jacki Ochs. Out of ignorance, I described them as dizzy spots but more immense.
In lay terms, aura is a sort of blindness related to migraine attacks. Before or even during the attack, the sufferer sees little colorful spots, which manifest into larger splotches. In my experience,they have been small colorful blindspots, which grow slightly larger, and often have a "strobing" effect between color and blackness.
I don't experience the full effect as many people do; mine are mild at best. What becomes difficult, however, is walking or driving long distances, as these little blindspots tend to throw off depth perception, and of course, block out areas of view.
Interesting is the fact they are most common with women. One study suggests high levels of estrogen in animals contributed to auras and premature stroke or stroke symptoms.
It's hard to say what this means in a definite sense, as migraine research is behind due to a severe lack of funds. Overseas, many countries are begining to use the phrase "Chronic Migraine Disease", while in the United States migraines are listed as a low-level disorder, which is often taken lightly.
Aura + Women SOURCE.
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Migraines happen. It's a real downer, but it's definitely not the end of the world.
For me, the worst part of a migraine is that it never ends. Sometimes you wish you could just drill a hole in your head to release the pressure, or maybe have a root-canal performed on you to redirect the pain.
You can't really control when migraines attack either. Whether at work or play, migraines do not care, and sometimes they come on at the most inopportune moments, such as an important meeting, a rare social outing, or while taking a test.
There are "medicines" out there, but there's only one sure thing you can do to take on a migraine:
Have a Plan
You can't prevent all migraines, but here are some ways to plan for them to either a) know how you can get through the day with them or b) live around them. The latter is unfortunate, since no one wants to be controlled by pain.
1. Keep a Journal
This is rather difficult to maintain sometimes, but it's important to jot down the times and days you tend to experience a migraine. This way you can figure out if there are any patterns in your behavior. For instance, where were you when a migraine came on, what were you doing, and did you notice any sort of trigger? (A trigger is something that induces a migraine or something you notice right before a migraine strikes, such as a smells or a nervous twitch.)
2. Have a Remedy Ready
Whether it's medicines, treatments, or just being home, have a plan of attack. Again, try different things to relieve your migraines and scribble down what works and what doesn't. This way you'll be able to know what to do in case of a migraine.
Example of Intense Stimuli
3. Avoid Stressors and Intense Stimuli
What makes a migraine difficult to deal with, is the fact it can be debilitating. That said, if you want to avoid the feeling of being useless (and trust me, others probably will not understand why you cannot perform at 100%), try to avoid stressful situations altogether.
Avoid Intense Stimuli: Meaning don't do anything that you would normally consider a brain-teaser. More accurately, don't strain your eyes. This will only make things much worse. And if something arouses high energy, I would avoid that too. You're not going to be able to run eight miles - and as for the sex myth, that's more for regular tension headaches.
With so much information out there, it's hard not to become overwhelmed with migraine recipies for disaster. For starters, everyone knows a pill you can take on-sight of an attack, before, or after. Let's face it, there has to be more than painkillers and triptans. I've worked for hours upon horror coming up with some of the most simple solutions to migraines. As we go, I will implement each idea myself and see where it leads, but for now I will give you the idea and its benefits.
Today we look at:
You Are What You Eat
Before anyone gets worked up over the use an old adage, let me say this one might be "truthy" when it comes to migraines.
One thing any ex-girlfriend of mine can tell you is, I love to cook. I'm pretty some people only spent the night for the breakfast - but that's neither here nor there.
Watered Down Idea: The more cooked foods you eat, the higher your potential toxin level is. Some toxins is quite normal, but high levels of toxins cause your nerves to react, and if you're like me, it's migraine time.
Here's What You Can Do: First off, take a look at this list of foods and their common reactions. Secondly, keep track of your migraines. If you get one, write it down somewhere, and when you can, try to retrace your steps (i.e., meals, environment, etc.)
I. Even though you may not need to keep a keen eye on your blood-sugar levels, watch how many refined carbs you take in. This can cause a sugar low and will more than likely provoke a migraine.
II. Watch out for vegetables like potatoes, meats like bacon, and soy products. Foods with high tyramine and nitrate levels are known to contribute to migraines. Unfortunately, this rules out most of the best foods ever, so just be cautious how many of them you eat as part of your diet.
III. Don't dehydrate yourself. This is the simplest thing you can change in your everyday life. Drink more water.
Near the end of last week - I think Thursday - a migraine attack came on strong and brought back a certain form of pain I'd gone without feeling for sometime near two years.
Racing to leave my house on time for work, I felt a sudden heat in my stomach and, without much more forewarning, vomited on the side of my car. No alcohol, no greasy food, no medication. Before I could ponder both why I felt this way and how I would clean my car off, a cluster of pain overwhelmed my head. My sides pulsated. The front and back throbbed. In a moment of déjà vu, however, I relived the worst pain.
When I first investigated the relationship between migraines and back pain, I figured somehow the same pain connected to the nerves in spine, which would cause the sensation of having a migraine in my back. Though a couple of neurologists suggested there's some truth in my hypothesis, they argue it is much more common to have cluster headaches generating such a painful effect.
The aforementioned brings me back to my original dilemma: Do I have migraines or cluster headaches? Most of my doctors said I have both. I prefer the University of Maryland Medical Center's opinion, which refers to headaches as the type of pain which derives from the typical chemical imbalance or from a migraine. That is, a migraine is a certain neurological activity that causes a head - ache.
In U of Maryland's article, migraine symptoms are listed as follows:
There are many "answers" to what exactly happened to me the other day - and it definitely wasn't the first experience - but there are many contradictory ones.
Links to Check Out
I experienced something new today. From the start of my day, which was around 7:00am, the migraine worsened. By midday, multiple sides of my head start to hurt, but each of them felt pain in a different way. One side felt like an ice-pick tapped at skull, my temples throbbed, and the back of my head to halfway down my spine were hot with a stinging sensation.
The intensity of the entire migraine was not too significant. Since I've experienced multitudes of migraines, I've felt everything from a simple pulsation to a crippling melee of pain.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most painful, this migraine ranked a 2.
The drive home, however, was a whole 'nother creature. About ten minutes into my journey home from work, lights blurred more than I've ever seen before. Some shadows around the fields were doubled, as were those surrounding moving vehicles. A strange stir of light and blackness alternated and hid the lines of the road.
I felt as though I stared at a dark water-colored painting. Aura isn't too rare during more painful migraines, but this was neither the worse sensation nor did the shadows seem like aura. I'll have to investigate more into this.
Episodes and Information Related to Migraines.