When I began my chronic migraine journey 6 years ago, my tool belt was empty. The only thing I knew that would help me was sleep, so as soon as I got a migraine, I would take medicine and sleep. But over time I realized that was not going to work for the situation that I was in now. Being chronic means that I have 15 or more migraines a month. So having a well stocked tool belt of things I can do utilize to ease pain and help me to get rid of an attack is crucial. Over the past several months I have blogged on some items that I have in my tool belt, but I felt it would be advantageous to have them all listed neatly in one blog post. So, what may you ask is in my tool belt, well here you go:
- Headache Specialists- Finding and curating a doctor that you can trust is critical to managing migraines. When we moved from OR to NC two years ago, I was in a situation where I had to find a new doctor and fast. I went through several doctors before I found the right one for me. For one, he is a headache specialists. Not to say you HAVE to see a specialists, but in my experience, Neurologists don’t have the laser focus on just headaches and the most up to date headache research. So IF you can find a headache specialists that you like, then build a relationship with them. This website helped me to find my doctor: Headache Specialist
- Support System/Community- This has been critical for me as I have trudged through most of my 6 years of chronicness with only my family and close friends helping me to sort out all the emotions and ups and downs that come along with being a chronic migraineur. It hasn’t been until just recently that I have tapped into the social media aspect. And I have to tell you, IT HAS BEEN AMAZING. Knowing that there are other people out there JUST like ME has helped my mood/depression/anxiety, etc. In my last blog post “The Confidence Killer” . I go into some depth on this topic. In short, YOU need to find a community or support system. If you cant find one, send me an email or find me on social media, I will be yours! We are all in this together, and often I learn more about new treatments or new tools from other migraineurs than from doctors
- Alternative Treatments- Again, I spoke about some of my experiences with alternative treatments in my blog posts “Alternative Treatments for Pain Relief” and “CBD for Pain Management” . Over the years I have tried MANY different treatments to alleviate the pain. Some that have worked the best for me, might not be the best for you, so that is why it is critical that you try as many as you feel comfortable trying! I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding “medical marijuana”, but Ill be honest, I’ve tried it; and it helped me IMMENSLY during the times when I had lost 20 lbs from not being able to eat from nausea. I currently do not live in an area of the country that allows for medical marijuana, so I choose to use CBD derived from Hemp, which is helpful to alleviate the pain, and doesn’t get you “high”. But I’ve also tried other things like acupuncture, reiki, EFT-Tapping, Chinese herbs, special teas, specific vitamins and minerals. One particular regiment of vitamins that I am on per recommendations from my doctor and acupuncturist is: Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids, Fish Oil and Magnesium. If you do any research on these you will find that they can be helpful in the reduction of migraines. I have not noticed any HUGE reduction, but what can it hurt to take them!
- Exercise/movement- I hesitate to say exercise, because, sometimes exercise does nothing but exacerbate my already throbbing head. But some sort of movement throughout my week, can help, even if its some light stretching, yoga, or a walk around the block. For years, exercise (specifically running) was my stress relieve. After my 3 spinal surgeries, running is completely off the table for me, so I’ve had to find other ways that I can get my blood pumping. Yoga has been great for me because you can do it at home (which is nice with having the baby), and it doesn’t take much to set up your own personal yoga space! If you want to give yoga a try (which I would highly recommend if nothing more for the relaxation aspect)- check out my favorite you tuber yoga instructor – Yoga with Adrien
- Detox baths- Soaking in a tub with Epsom salt once or twice a week can do wonders on an aching back and shoulders. If you are like me and have headaches that will start at the base of your neck, an Epsom salt soak can help to relieve that tension and also is a great way for your body to absorb magnesium (which has been found to be depleted in individuals with migraines). If you don’t have time for a bath, a 20 min Epsom salt foot soak can also do the trick.
- Massage-A majority of my migraines begin at the base of my neck and are as a result of tension and stress in my back. I try my best to stretch daily, but lugging around a 20+ lbs. toddler its hard not to have some tension. So that is why I will treat myself to a 30 minute massage every few weeks that focuses specifically on my upper back and neck. If you can’t afford a massage, no worries, you can easily purchase a foam roller and give yourself a little massage that way. I foam roll daily to keep things loose. Another way to get a massage and not pay a huge price, is look into local community colleges that have massage therapy programs, they often are looking for individuals to practice on for a cheaper rate!
- Self- Care- Until having a baby at the ripe age of 38, I was HORRIBLE at providing self care. I would do the occasional face mask, but now that I have a child AND struggle with chronic migraines, I find that carving out a few minutes a day JUST for me is critical. Sometimes that can make or break a headache. Self-care is NOT SELFISH! Remember that. Self Care is needed to provide you with the support you need, and is yet another wonderful tool for your tool belt!
I could go on and on with my the tools in my belt, but I will save that for another day. Remember guys, BE KIND to yourself. If you are having a hard day, stay in bed and rest, but if you feel ok then go out and LIVE! We are only given this one life, lets try to make the best of it- Chronic Migraines and all!