Saturday, July 9, 2011

Headache vs. Migraine

My migraines have been bad lately. Migraines, not headaches (although headaches have been bad too). I had to switch my work days last week and today I didn't make it into work until 11 a.m. Luckily I only work 20 hours a week. If you have migraines, you know what they're like. They get in the way of life. But for those of you who read or stumbled upon this blog who have never had one, I thought I'd share a taste of how they differ from typical headaches, in timeline format based on my current migraine.

 Photo credits: Tibo (headache car); Icarus Kuwait (migraine car)

My nearly every-day headache: I start to feel head pain. I begin to assess the pain and decide whether or not I should take drugs.
My current migraine: Yesterday I have general headache pain and take GelStat earlier in the evening (I ordered a bunch of this online to give it another try). Last night I'm watching TV. I get up from the couch and my head goes BOOM BOOM. I say, "oh SHIT." I've been good about cursing lately, so this is a bad sign. I make some ginger tea to help my nausea, put an ice bag on my head, and then decide to try and sleep it off. I wonder what could have triggered it - storms, running, yoga, chewing tough steak, hormone issues from the cramping I've been having, a combination...

Headache: I sleep like a log.
Migraine: I wake up on and off due to the pain, sometimes moaning. The pain pulses with my heartbeat. Every time my husband moves in bed, even slightly, my head throbs. My soft pillow hurts.

Headache: I take 2 Aleve and go about my day.
Migraine: I wake up early and get some applesauce so I can take meds. It's an unopened jar and normally I'm a machine when it comes to opening jars, but when I strain my head throbs so I wait for my husband to get out of the shower so he can open it for me. I try eating a rice cake in the meantime but the chewing motion hurts my head too bad. I take 2 Butalbital, wait for it to kick in (which means the dizziness begins), take a a quick nap, and start getting ready for work. I make appointments for next week with my gyno and neuro (shocking that she could get me in so soon) because this is getting ridiculous. Then I tell my boss I'll be late. I'm lucky - he's always been understanding about my health.

Headache: Generally the Aleve works. If not I'll suffer through work and nap when I get home.
Migraine: My head starts to throb again every time I get up at work so I have to take 2 more Butalbital and drink a cup of caffeinated coffee. I have a meeting with my boss and stumble through the agenda, pausing and using the wrong words a lot - gotta love migraine brain. I work until the dizziness wears off so I can drive home. I'm still a little dizzy though.

Headache: I take a short nap and usually it eliminates the pain.
Migraine: I nap about 4 hours and wake up with a throbbing head again. I take two more Butalbital with dinner, along with ginger tea and my ice bag. This the the first time I've taken the maximum daily dose, and that makes me nervous.

Right now, I'm at the dizzy stage again. It's pretty much a guarantee that the head pain will start again soon, but by that time I plan to be in bed asleep for the night. I'm praying that the migraine doesn't last long and I wake up with a pain-free head, but my migraines usually last at least two days.

I'm hoping my doctors can help next week. My Ketolorac has expired (and I'm supposed to limit it to twice a month anyway), so for now my Butalbital is my strongest med and it's failing me. I'm starting to feel desperate, and that's never a good feeling. But I know a lot of you can relate, sadly.

Note: I'm not trying to belittle headaches in any way. They suck, too; especially the chronic ones, which wear you down over time.


desikitteh said...

just wanted to thank you for this graphic and post. well described!

Jessica said...

Ugh! Sorry! My weeks has sucked too with this summer storm thing we got going on every afternoon.

I explain my head like this....I have chronic daily headache...which in actuality never goes away. It's one looping headache that waxes and wanes in severity. Then I get Basilar migraines sprinkled in every so often. Thank goodness the basilar migraine is less often since I pretty much look and act like a stroke victim in the throes of one. But for me, the daily headache is worse...because the migraines subside after 2 or 3 days...but THE headache is ALWAYS there. And yes, can exhaust and we are you done day after day of pushing through pain. plus the occi
Ital neuralgia on top of that pretty much makes almost everyday unbearable. I'm a hot mess!

Jessica said...

I meant one loooong headache!

Damn iPad spellcheck!

Jessica said...

Geez...exhaust and wear you down!

See..I am a hot mess! So is my iPad!

katia said...

I like the way you compare the two, I find it very true for me, too. I'm sorry you have been suffering so and I hope that some relief comes for you soon, through your doctor visit or whatever form it comes!

Alice Pearse said...

I am sitting here with an ice pack on my head and I feel your pain. You did an excellent job of describing this terrible place. Hope you feel better by now.

Heather said...

Thanks, Desi, Katia & Alice! After a LOOONG weekend, my migraine is finally gone, and I don't even have a headache today. Amazing! There's always light at the end of the tunnel. :)

Jessica - I love the term "hot mess" because my former preacher (who is a tiny but spunky young woman) used to say it all the time! :) I agree that the daily headache is absolutely exhausting. Hope you're feeling better!

armouris said...

more info on headache here - Types of Headaches

girasoli said...

I have been reading your blog for quite a while now but have never commented before (or at least I don't think I have).

I have suffered with severe migraines for over 30 years. I have gone through many neurologists. My last visit with my latest neurologist was in December. I left his office in tears. This has happened in the psat, but that visit was the last straw. I swore I would never go to a neurologist again for help. I do believe there are some good ones out there but here in Hawaii it is a pretty sad scene. Thankfully my medical insurance changed in January and currently I can get Zomig prescribed by my family doctor. I have been keeping a headache diary for years and have had an average of 15 migraine days per month with some months of even more migraine days.

I have also tried many other things to reduce my migraines, including vitamins, herbs, and even acupuncture twice specifically for migraines.

My fear in January was what will happen if my insurance changes again and I can't get my Zomig without seeing a neurologist (insurance ridiculous rules). I decided to give acupuncture another try.

I was fortunate to find a community clinic this time so the cost is not that much. They have a sliding scale and you can pay what you feel you can afford. The two acupuncturists are wonderful. I found no relief after 10 visits. I went twice a week. Quite depressing. It even seemed that my migraines were becoming more severe. Even though they told me that they might not be able to help me with my migraines since I was not seeing any progress, I kept on having acupuncture treatments. I did not want to give up. It seemed like if this did not work this time there would never be anything that worked. I was tired of the dizziness and the difficulty speaking and thinking when taking my Zomig meds as well as all the other crappy side effects, not to mention the pain of the migraines. After treatment #13, something changed! I went 21 days without a migraine! I am not migraine free and may never be but I continue to have weekly acupuncture treatments and now deal with 2-5 migraine days per month, with only one possible day being a bad migraine. I am still hopeful that my migraine days will reduce to 1-2 a month.

OH and I did try cupping once. I actually liked the feeling but hated the marks and probably will not let them do that again.

I still have to avoid chocolate, wine, fragrances, and the weather will sometimes screw me up. I also have to drink a lot of water, but for the first time in years, I feel like I have my life back and I am not being controlled my my migraines, the meds, the medical community. etc. My dream is to one day be able to eat chocolate and drink wine again. My dream is to go 2 months without a migraine. For the first time in 30 years, I believe that day may come.

I keep reading your blog hoping that you will find something that will work for you. I know what you are going through. I wish you the very best and am happy for ever day that you are migraine free.

I go by girasoli on my blog to stay annonymous. Hawaii is a small island. My real name is Susan.

girasoli said...

p.s. I forgot to add that I also cannot eat anything with MSG (which means almost everything at a regular grocery store) and two years ago, I stopped eating foods with fake sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. Hard to do! I believe that some of my recent migraines are from foods I ate when eating out at a restaurant, something I rarely do because of the unknown in the ingredients.

Heather said...

Girasoli (Susan),

Sounds like we have a lot in common! Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your story. I can't imagine 15 or more migraines a month!! Thank goodness the acupuncture and healthy eating are working for you. I've thought about trying acupuncture again in the future to see if it works if I do it longer and with someone different. Acupuncture is relaxing and I didn't have any side effects from it, so it's one of the more pleasant migraine treatments!

By the way, I checked out your blog and I'm SO jealous that you live in Hawaii! My husband and I have been planning on vacationing there for a while, but things keep coming up (like me going back to school) and we haven't had the chance yet. We also want to visit Italy, where my distant relatives are from (as are yours I noticed!). Seeing all your beautiful pictures makes me want to go even more! :)