The Daily Headache Isn’t Over!

Although the last couple months have been sporadic at best, I’m still here and blogging at The Daily Headache. Next week will feature favorite classic posts and* I’ll pick back up in the new year. Want to keep up on recent news on headaches, migraine and chronic pain in the meantime? Check out my shared items on Google reader.

As you know, my migraines have been terrible lately. Working on the computer has been particularly unappealing. Things aren’t great yet, but I do think I’m on an upswing. In fact, I’m working on some exciting blog additions and a redesign that will debut in the next few months.

Have a great week! I look forward to hearing from you in the new year.

*12/26/07: Don’t know what I was thinking! I’m taking the week off to spend time with my loved ones in Phoenix. I’ll be back January 2.

Posted in Coping. 5 Comments »

Migraine Reprieve Ends: Welcome Back, Nausea

Is it normal for a visit to the grocery store to make someone want to throw up? Namely, me. At the Whole Foods downtown. Granted, a huge hot food section, lots of stinky cheeses, and two kiosks of made-to-order Asian food makes it particularly smelly. But still.

My head may be in less pain, but the nausea has returned full force. Clearly the my migraines haven’t retreated, only the pain. I actually developed the aversion to eating a few days ago, but the over-the-top nausea just kicked in.

Being honest with myself, I know that my “good week” wasn’t as grand as it seemed. It meant an extra good hour each day with an awesome day and a half on Tuesday and Wednesday. After walking less than a mile yesterday, my body felt as if I’d run five. The gentle yoga practice I did upon returning home increased the exhaustion. All the signs of an impending migraine were there whether I wanted to pay attention to them or not.

Now my head is sore to the touch (allodynia) and tears are streaming from my eyes (a sure sign for me that a migraine is coming). I didn’t ever consider that the effects of reducing my neck and shoulder pain were longterm. Even so, I hate when the good times end.

As usually happens, Hart missed my low pain, high energy days. I’m going to try to eat some lunch and relax for a bit. Maybe the migraine will let up before I pick him returns from work.

Posted in Coping. Tags: . 4 Comments »

Less Neck & Shoulder Pain Equals a Happier Head: The Joys of Massage, Menthol Muscle Rub & Yoga

Neck_painMy neck and shoulders are finally loose enough to reduce my migraines and headaches. (Knock on wood.) After years of trying to treat them with no success, I assumed my neck and shoulders were destined to be tight.

After four months of intense, frequent massage and myofascial release, I feel like a new woman. The benefits have become so evident in the last week because I’m finally doing some regular yoga practices and am smearing my back with menthol muscle rub nightly.

No dibs and dabs for me — this is a heavy-duty layer of sticky, smelly menthol balm. I fight the chills for the first 30 minutes I’m in bed and the smell is migrating from our bedroom to the hall. No matter, I really do feel better.

I had some success with Woodlock Oil a year ago, but backed off when I learned that artificial menthol is made with turpentine. Since then I’ve searched in vain for a product with naturally occurring menthol — not that there’s any way to really tell. Clearly, I’ve given in. (I just realized that I could contact companies directly. I may not learn much, but it will be more than I know now.)

I try to do some chest, neck and shoulder focused yoga stretches each morning and before I go to bed. The stretches are so helpful that fitting them in my day is no longer a chore. The best part? The effects are immediate.

Now I’m looking for a good muscle balm. What do you recommend? I’ve tried:

  • Biofreeze: My favorite so far
  • Sombra: My massage therapist used this yesterday; not greasy or too stinky.
  • Jason Mineral Gel: Doesn’t smell to bad, but smeared like crazy
  • Safeway Generic: Smeared on the side of my face and irritated my eyes all night

Cinnamon muscle balm is a great option if you don’t want to smell like menthol. Just know that I may scream and run the other way if I smell you.

I only have a week of relief under my belt. Who knows if it will continue. Even if my migraines eventually thwart the benefits, my muscles no longer being bound up is at least a blessing to my back.

Many thanks to Linz who recommended myofascial release, my lovely yoga teacher Kelly, and the fabulous acupuncturist and massage therapist I’ve seen. If you’re in the Seattle area and interested in seeing any of my healthcare providers, send me an e-mail for contact information.

Posted in Treatment. Tags: . 9 Comments »

Chronic Pain’s Impact on Families

Not helping around the house, canceling plans, burdening loved ones. . . . Guilt may be the most frequently recurring topic on The Daily Headache. For both readers and me, the guilt nearly always revolves around letting other people down.

The impact of chronic pain — or any other chronic illness — on our family and friends is undeniable. Episodic migraines or other disabling headaches also affect relationships significantly.

So you’d think there would be a wealth of information about helping families and loved ones cope with your illness. Not so much. Fortunately, New York Times columnist Jane Brody explores the topic in Chronic Pain: A Burden Often Shared. She writes:

Healthy family members are often overworked from assuming the duties
of the person in pain. They have little time and energy for friends and
other diversions, and they may fret over how to make ends meet when
expenses rise and family incomes shrink.

It is easy to see how
tempers can flare at the slightest provocation. The combination of
unrelieved suffering on the one hand and constant stress and fatigue on
the other can be highly volatile, even among the most loving couples —
whose burdens are often worsened by a decline of intimacy.

The American Chronic Pain Association‘s Family Manual, which Brody references in the article, is $25. I also recommend Chronic Pain and the Family. The websites for the Well Spouse Association and the National Family Caregivers Association are also helpful. I also provide resources in Friends, Family & Illness.

[via In Sickness In Health]

The Benefits of Getting Out and About

Going out this morning was an excellent idea. My body was tired, but I made myself go anyway. I was never further than 10 minutes from my house, so I knew driving back would be possible even if I felt awful. I did a lot in the three hours, but the most important part is that I went.

My two months of migraines coincided with the arrival of fall — which is when Seattleites begin to hibernate for the long wet winter. Add to that baseball playoffs in October (when all I want to do is watch the games) and I have to wonder if I haven’t pushed myself enough.

It isn’t that I’m worried that I’m lazy or faking it, more that I’m giving in to each migraine attack too easily. There’s a fine line between when it is OK to keep going and when it’s time to stop. Sometimes I negotiate it well, other times not so much.

Fear is partly to blame. I don’t want the migraine to come, so I don’t provoke it. The sad truth is that it’s arrival is inevitable. Does going out make it come sooner? Does lying on the couch keep it at bay? Maybe, maybe not.

Today the benefits exceeded the risks. It was nice to see more than the square footage of our house. It could have been a blip in the middle of my bad spell. It could just as well be an indication that I’m being too cautious. In any case, the 31 books I bought (for a total of $50!) will carry me through whatever is ahead.

Posted in Coping. Tags: . 5 Comments »

Good Morning! Common Morning Headaches Not So Common for Me (Lately)

It seems that if I don’t wake up with a migraine, I feel pretty good in the morning. The headaches aren’t too bad and other migraine symptoms are mild. I generally wake up with energy and high hopes for the day. Granted, this doesn’t happen frequently these days and I crash two or three hours later. But still. . . .

Is imploding at 11 a.m. inevitable or is morning truly better? Can I stretch out the low pain times by waking up earlier? There’s a complicating factor, though. I’ve had energy bursts the last two evenings and they’ve lasted until I go to bed. I’ve been up past midnight both nights, which precludes waking up early.

Do I go to bed earlier so I can try mornings or hope that evenings continue to be good? The second isn’t guaranteed, but so much more appealing.

I’m not sure why I’m dithering so much. Of course I have to at least try to extend my good mornings by waking up earlier. No reason to waste the potential gift.

Unfortunately, may people don’t have my luck — Many people wake up with a headache every day. Possible causes are numerous: Migraines, tension-type headaches, rebound headaches, dehydration, sleeping with your neck at a strange angle, sleeping too long, caffeine withdrawal, normal physiological fluctuations. . . .

In other words, figuring out what’s wrong isn’t simple. Seeing your doctor is the best way to get on the right treatment path. The good news is that morning headaches are rarely a sign of life-threatening headaches.

Posted in Biology, Coping. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Proving to Myself I’m Not a Faker

Everyone else will tell me that I couldn’t possibly be exaggerating my symptoms or being lazy. Too bad I tell myself the opposite. Pretty much constantly the last few days.

Last Tuesday, I ran errands, napped and saw my massage therapist. I was home by 3 p.m. and crashed — for the rest of the week. Beyond getting mail from the front porch, I literally didn’t leave my house until Saturday night.

Yet I’m convinced that I’m faking it. That my headaches and migraines haven’t been too bad; they’re an an excuse to read instead of attending to everything else in my life. So I have pushed myself to clean the contents of our basement (which flooded last Monday) out of the dining room and empty the dishwasher and check e-mail. And, and, and.

For once, I’m remembering that I’m not guiding this illness. I have been so sick the last two months that I can’t even keep appointments with doctors and massage therapists. As much as I berate myself for not actively seeking treatment, I know that I am honestly unable to right now.

I’m holding tight to the good hours I’ve had in the last week. Thursday and Saturday started well; Friday was good overall. Each day I was up and active until the pain, fogginess and nausea overwhelmed me. I was thrilled to be doing chores.

This isn’t the life of a faker. I’m not a faker. If only I were — I could be free of this misery and piece my life back together. I know all this deep down, but my mind stalls at self-criticism. Today I hear the faint murmurings of truth hiding under layers of doubt and judgment.