A Joyous Return to Yoga

Last week I went to my first yoga class in more than a year. It was amazing.

My body felt better. My mind felt better. My head even felt a little better. At home, my practice is always half-hearted and rushed. It is more about getting through what I need to do. What I’ve always loved about yoga is focusing on the good my body can do instead of how my health drags me down. I feel strong and whole. I haven’t found that in my home practice, but I felt it in class.

Maybe because I felt safe with the teacher walking me through everything I had to do. I pushed myself, but gently. My neck and shoulders, already loosened up after a massage on Monday, felt better than they have in a year. Seriously.

Having only a few good hours most days, usually in the morning, has kept me from class. If I devote that time to class, then I don’t get anything else done. Tuesday I went to class, then had a great rest of the day. More energy and strength followed. I got my good hours and then some.

Maybe it was a fluke, but Monday and Tuesday were great days. I felt good physically and mentally. I’d like to attribute it to massage and yoga. Or maybe it was the return to exercise, as not exercising contributes to headaches. (Although I doubt one day made much difference!)

In any case, I’ve planned a new routine. Such plans aren’t usually successful for me, but I think I can do this. Massage at 9:30 a.m. Monday and yoga in that time slot on Tuesday and Thursday.

Just like that I swung from despair to hopefulness. I’m trying to temper my excitement, but it is hard. Not only did I do something I love last week, I think it actually helped my head. *fingers crossed*

Classic Post: Assessing How Much Your Headaches or Migraines Affect Your Quality of Life

See a doctor for headaches and you’ll likely be asked to take the MIDAS or HIT tests to assess how your migraines or headaches affect your quality of life. You may find your results even more helpful than your doctor does.

Assessing Your Quality of Life
The Daily Headache
May 6, 2006

Whether you have them every day or every three months, headaches definitely affect your quality of life. MIDAS and HIT are two questionnaires to assess the extent of the impact.

Before I recognized how seriously I was affected, a doctor gave me the MIDAS test. The highest score on the test, which indicates severe disability, is 21+. My score was above 100. Needless to say, the results floored me.

This was what it took to see just how bad my headaches were. In the ensuing months, and years, I would recite MIDAS every time I questioned the realness of my illness. Every time I blamed myself, I repeated my mantra. This made a huge difference in how I perceived and dealt with my headaches.

If you question how real your headaches are, these tests are invaluable. They can also help you assess your pain from one time period to the next.

In addition, you can show the results to people who are close to you, but don’t really accept what you’re going through. As they remember the last one to three months, the pieces may slowly fall into place.

July Headache Blog Carnival – How Spirituality Helps Us Cope with Migraine Disease

July’s Headache Blog Carnival is now live.

Generally speaking, a blog carnival is a collection of links to a variety of a blogs on a central topic. The Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival has been created to provide both headache and migraine disease patients and people who blog about headache disorders with unique opportunities to share ideas on topics of particular interest and importance to us. Visit the link to this month’s carnival for a collection of informative entries on how spirituality helps us cope with migraines and headaches.

Migraine & Headache Blog Carnival for June

The June Migraine and Headache Blog Carnival is up at The Migraine Girl where host Janet Geddis treats us to a range of great posts on “How to have a Happy, Healthy Vacation” despite Migraine or headache disease. Some are practical tips with checklists on being prepared; some are personal experiences of vacations that worked, and vacations that didn’t. There are also a number of posts on controlling stress, triggers, and emphasizing relaxation, which will serve us well whether we’re on vacation or not. Janet has done a great job of cataloging and describing the posts, and I for one am looking forward to some great reading.

Debilitating Nausea Caused By High(ish) Magnesium Dose

white capsulesWoo hoo! I feel human again and it’s all because I stopped taking magnesium. Yep, magnesium, the wonder supplement that helps so many people with migraine and chronic daily headache. I don’t think magnesium itself is to blame, but that the dose was too high. Since I can’t even take a multivitamin without nausea, I was hyper-aware as I increased from my starting dose of 100 mg. Or so I thought.

At 333 mg per day, it was within the normal dose range for treating headaches of 200-500 mg per day. It was also within the recommended daily allowance of 350 mg. I’ve discovered that allowances and ranges are like speed limits: A guideline you’re not supposed to exceed, but that you don’t have to meet.

Practically every health care provider I’ve seen has recommended magnesium to me. I’ve taken it on and off over the last five years, although this is the first time I’ve taken it consistently for more than a few weeks. Because I’ve read so much about it and had it prescribed before, I thought I could adjust the dose myself just fine. I figured I’d be fine if I stayed at or under the RDA. I unwittingly fell for the myth that medications, vitamins and supplements sold over-the-counter are harmless.

The good and frustrating news: My overall head pain was less and I had fewer migraines during the time I was horribly nauseated. I’m guessing that means the magnesium helped some. I think once my system flushes the current round of magnesium, I’ll have my different vitamin and mineral levels tested. I’ll also make myself keep a diary of my symptoms and doses. I wouldn’t want to go through these last six weeks again. I felt horrible and was so scared of what might be wrong with me.

I haven’t had any blood tests, so I’m not positive the nausea was caused by excessive magnesium. But when debilitating nausea that began about the time I increased my dose goes away when I stop taking the pills, the evidence is strong enough for me.

What is your experience been with magnesium? Please leave a comment below or chime in on the online support group and forum.

Your Five Minutes Could Increase NIH Funding for Headache Research

Urge your US House of Representatives member to support increasing the National Institutes of Health’s headache research funding by sending this pre-written e-mail no later than Monday, March 17. That’s all that’s required, though you are encouraged to include a personal note on how headache disorders affect you.

According to the National Headache Foundation, “NIH grants for migraine total approximately $13M per year, representing less than .05% of the total NIH budget. Very little headache research apart from migraine is funded and the NIH has no institute, center, or study section wholly devoted to pain, let alone headache disorders.”

This letter from the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy has details on the initiative:

AHDA Congressional Action Alert: Increase NIH funding for Headache Research

Dear AHDA advocates –

Well, the key moment has arrived for you to contact your Member of the US House of Representatives to take action for increasing NIH research for headache disorders.

A Dear Colleague letter was sent Monday, March 10, by Representatives Peter Welch and James Moran to all House offices, urging all Members of the House to co-sign a letter to Representatives David Obey and James Walsh. The Obey/Walsh letter requests inclusion of language that supports headache research to be appended to the FY09 appropriations bill for NIH. (For details, see the AHDA homepage.)

The more Representatives that co-sign the Obey/Walsh letter, the greater are the chances that the language will be included. The Obey/Walsh letter must be submitted with signatures by 3/19. This unfortunate deadline was a late-breaking surprise for us, so we have little more than a week to get as many signatures as possible. Please use the space below to compose your message to your Representative and urge her/him to co-sign the Obey/Walsh letter now.

We are also working on a Senate Dear Colleague letter right now and we will let you know when the time is right for you to contact your Senators too.

Through collective advocacy we will improve the care for individuals with headache disorders. Thanks very much for your help.

Best regards to you all,

Bob

Robert Shapiro, MD, PhD; Burlington, Vermont
William Young, MD; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Brad Klein, MD, MBA; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Teri Robert, PhD; Washington, West Virginia

A Reader’s Story: Living With New Daily Persistent Headache

Andy recently “celebrated” his third year anniversary of having a constant headache. He’s determined to keep it from defining who he is, which we all know is a constant struggle.

I woke up with a headache on January 22, 2005 and it’s been there ever since. I also determined through my own research that it is New Daily Persistent Headache — it has the symptoms of chronic daily headache without the traditional migraine elements.

Most days it’s pretty mild, allowing me to live my life fairly normally as long as I’m distracted by my job, family, baseball game, etc. But it never goes away. It’s always there, and it’s really devastating to think I’ll be spending the next 50 years of my life in pain. 50 years! See how terrible that sounds? I just came across this blog for the first time and it’s somewhat comforting to know there are other people out there who can relate to that. Depressing, yet comforting.

I sometimes wish I would have been in a car accident or suffered some specific traumatic experience so I could at least pinpoint an occurrence and say, “It’s awful, but these things happen.” In my case, all I did was wake up. It’s maddening, but I try not to let it define who I am.

Like others, I’ve spent the past several years seeing many specialists and trying dozens of medications — all to no avail. I’m currently taking an extended-release form of Tramadol (and Vicodin every few days) but aside from offering a few hours of slight relief, they just make me fatigued like most of the other meds I’ve tried.

We’re all in this together, which is why it’s so important to hear stories from many different people. If you’d like to share your story with readers and me, please e-mail me or leave a comment.

For more information, see the National Headache Foundation on new daily persistent headache and Her Life in a Nutshell, a blog about the disorder.