Friday, August 31, 2007


I have a 5-6 hour drive coming up tonight. My husband and I are visiting my father-in-law in the Georgia mountains over Labor Day weekend. A lot of times I don't get headaches when I'm on vacation, which is interesting. Maybe because I'm more relaxed, who knows. When I went to Vegas last year, I didn't have a headache the entire time except for the last day. Two years ago I was in Atlanta for a show at the Hard Rock Cafe on New Year's Eve and I had a migraine. My medicine wasn't working and I thought I was going to die. I went to the car to get away from the loud music, but my husband wouldn't let me stay there alone (it was in a parking deck a block away). I didn't want him to miss the last band (his cousin is the lead singer), so I ended up going back in the club and sitting against the wall holding my head. Great way to start a new year...

Anyways, MOST vacations I'm good...I hope this one will make the "good" list.

Stay safe and headache-free!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rollercoaster vs. Headache

(2007 Cedar Fair Entertainment Company)

Rollercoaster won! I hadn't been on rollercoasters since college when I went to Kings Dominion in Virginia and rode every single one. When I was little, I was deathly afraid of them, but my courage came from peer pressure on the college trip. I tried the scariest one first (one where you're strapped in standing up) and it was AWESOME.

Well last week, my husband and I took a day off work to go again, this time with my cousin who is in 7th grade, her parents - who don't ride coasters and wanted us to go to ride with her, and another cousin who is my husband's age. Because my neck was still sore from the chiropractor visits, I was terrified the coasters would kill my neck. Plus, during the college trip, I had a minute-long mini-migraine after each ride.

Fortunately, I was able to ride four rollercoasters, including my favorite the Anaconda (above), without too much pain. I stopped when my neck started bothering me and took some Aleve because I started getting a "glare headache" when the sun came out.

But I survived, and it was a blast!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I have cramps, therefore I have headache

In honor of my current headache which is more than likely related to my awful menstrual cramps, here is an article I stumbled upon from the National Pain Foundation. If you have had headaches for a while, it's nothing new, but if you're just now starting to get them, the article may help you. It's a good idea to try different things to see if you can get rid of your headaches, but just FYI - the chocolate thing is silly. Who can go without chocolate?

Just kidding - if it meant not having headaches, I'd drop it like it's hot.

Quick updates before I post the article: I'm now taking Desipramine, recommended by my neuro for headache prevention. It's for depression, and similar meds I've tried did not work, but he said I need to try it for a while and said it's the "most tolerable" one as far as side effects go. I'm also still seeing a chiropractor, but they were charging me toward my deductible even though I was only supposed to be paying copay, so I worked that out after several phone calls.

LESSON: Never trust anything related to insurance. Pay attention and make sure you are not being overcharged.

Now for the article. Here is the link:

And here are the highlights:

Non-medicinal Treatments for Menstrual Migraine
Women with migraine are generally more susceptible to dietary, physical, environmental and other triggers for migraine attacks during the week before and the first few days of their period. Following are some guidelines that can decrease the likelihood of having a migraine from these triggers.
1. Eat regularly scheduled, well-balanced meals. Avoid missing meals because low blood sugar and hunger are frequent triggers for migraine attacks. On the other hand, avoid eating sweets or meals the contain a lot of carbohydrates because doing so might lead to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels two to three hours after you have these foods (this is sometimes called a "sugar or carbohydrate crash").
2. Drink plenty of fluid. Avoid dehydration because this too is a frequent migraine trigger.
3. Get a good night's sleep. Follow a regular and consistent schedule of waking and sleeping. Avoid going to bed late, "sleeping in," becoming sleep deprived, or a haphazard sleep schedule.
4. Stay away from well-known migraine triggers such as wine, beer or other alcohol containing drinks; chocolate and other sweets; aged cheeses such as cheddar or Brie; and salty foods, especially during the week before your period.
5. Participate in a regular aerobic exercise program. If you have not been exercising regularly, discuss exercise plans with your doctor or a personal trainer and set up a physical conditioning plan that matches your needs. Start your exercise program slowly and gradually build up your level of activity as your physical condition improves. This type of treatment works best if you continue the exercise program on a regular basis, not just on weekends or only once in a while.
6. Learn and regularly practice biofeedback and other relaxation techniques. These types of treatment have demonstrated excellent benefit in clinical studies; and best of all, there are no potential side effects.

Short-term Prevention of Menstrual Migraine
Short-term migraine prevention, often called "mini-prophylaxis," can be used to preemptively manage predictable migraine attacks such as those related with menstruation or ovulation. Your physician may prescribe a medication that you begin taking a day or two before the expected onset of headache and continue taking on a regular daily schedule for five to seven days. There are several medications that have been used for mini-prophylaxis of migraine.
1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, in "prescription strength" dosages have been used successfully for the prevention of menstrual migraine. Women with stomach ulcers or certain kidney problems usually cannot use these medications. Consult with your physician before taking any over-the-counter medication.
2. Migraine-specific drugs such as triptans or ergot derivatives also have been successful for short-term prevention of menstrual migraine. Women with certain heart or circulation problems might not be able to use these medications.
a. Ergot derivatives, such as ergotamine tartrate, dihydroergotamine or methylergonovine, have all been used for mini-prophylaxis. Nausea and muscle cramps might occur in some women. Dihydroergotamine is available as a nasal spray while the other two are tablets.
b. A few triptans have been found effective for mini-prophylaxis of menstrual migraine in clinical drug studies. The medications that have been studied specifically for this purpose are frovatriptan, naratriptan and sumatriptan. These medications generally are better tolerated than the ergot derivatives.
3. NSAIDs can be used together triptans or ergot derivatives in cases of menstrual headaches that do not respond to any of these medications alone. Triptans and ergot derivatives should not be used together or within 24 hours of one another. Non-medicinal treatments can certainly be added to any of these medications, and this often is a way to get the best results.

Long-term Prevention of Menstrual Migraine
Long-term prevention, which means taking preventive medication(s) every day of the month, might be required if migraine attacks occur too frequently (ie, averaging more than four headache days in a month), migraine attacks cause too much disability, or medications used for mini-prophylaxis are not effective, too expensive, or unsafe to use because of other medical conditions. There are many different kinds of medications prescribed for long-term migraine prevention. The medications most often used for migraine prevention are blood pressure lowering drugs such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers, antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs. Each medication in these classes of medication has its own benefits and side effects. Your physician will determine which medication is best for you. Sometimes you may need more than one medication to control particularly resistant headaches. It is not unusual to try several medications or combinations of medications before the best treatment is found. It might take several weeks for a medication to demonstrate its benefit.

This article is written by David M. Biondi, DO.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The anti-meds

Although I am still trying out different medications, I wanted to try some alternative headache treatment. Acupuncture and Botox injections were out of the question due to insurance - again, no comment - so I went to see a chiropractor last week. He took x-rays and found out I was born with a condition called congenital fusion where two of my neck discs are fused together, and I also have a reverse curve in the neck. I'm not sure if this is causing my headaches since they seem to be affected by hormones more than anything, but I do get neck pains and some of my headaches are in the back of my head, so you never know. I'm just excited that the doc found something - now we can work on fixing it.

The treatment so far includes neck-popping (or "realignment") and a thing that shoots electric currents in my neck. I had these procedures done on Friday, and that night and the following day, I was HURTING. I actually woke up with a migraine Saturday too, but it went away when I took medicine. It didn't hurt at the time it was done though. I'm scheduled to go to the chiropractor three times a week for probably the rest of the year...$20 copay each time, plus I had to pay for the x-rays...let's just say my husband's not the happiest! He is skeptical, as I have discovered that a lot of people are skeptical of chiropractic care, but I told him it'll be worth every penny if it works. I don't think he gets why I can't just live with the headaches. People who don't get headaches tend to not understand how disruptive and painful they really are. In fact, I've never had a baby, but I might dare to say these headaches are preparing me for childbirth, and when I am in labor, it'll be a breeze. If you are a mother you're probably laughing at me right now.

I'll keep everyone posted on the progress!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My History with Headaches

Welcome to my blog! My goal is to share my struggle with chronic headaches with others so that together we can find a way to bash these painful life interruptions. I do not intend to complain and will try to write in a hopeful tone.

First, a little background info. I started getting headaches my senior year of high school, they got worse in college (probably due to my awful sleep schedule) and became migraines, and when I graduated college in 2004 they were back to bad headaches. I have seen four neurologists and have tried too many preventative medications to name, but none worked and I have had side effects including partial hair loss, dizziness, fainting, ringing in the ears, dry mouth, weight loss, weight gain and others from these drugs.

My current neuro said I have chronic daily headache. I usually have 15 headaches a month. Right now I take Aleve for some (which causes rebound headaches so I don't take it much) and Butalbital for the bad ones, which is a combination of Tylenol and caffeine and other things in one prescription pill (which can also cause rebounds). The traditional drugs - Imitrex, Frova, Rexpax, etc. - did not seem to help and actually made my headaches worse at times.

Birth control may or may not have affected my headaches; I've tried many forms of the pill, the patch, and currently have an IUD (Mirena) - I am married and have not had children, nor do I intend to have them until I get my money's worth out of the IUD, which insurance did not cover, but I will not even get started on insurance...

Legal stuff I should probably add - I am not a doctor and have not had any medical education (although my mom and sister are both nurses and I volunteered in a hospital for a few months). Please consult a doctor/neurologist before trying anything I might have tried. If something ends up working for me, which I pray to God it does, it will not necessarily work for you, and vice versa.

Thanks for reading, and please add your comments so we can have productive discussions. I now declare a war on headaches.