In part one and two of this series I have discussed my journey with migraines as well as causes and symptoms that I experience. Now, let’s talk treatment.
Finding the right treatment to help relieve my pain with migraines has been a long time coming. This is especially true because moving to places with different weather systems has created different types of migraines for me. So what might have once worked for me may just be a thing of the past. And again, I am not a professional, so please read what I share with a grain of salt. Well… maybe with more than a grain of salt cause home girl has been there, done that with migraines. But you know what I’m saying… basically, do your own research and consult a doctor, but use my advice as a starting place! Boom! Whoooo that was a lot to get out. Haha!
When I was younger and living in North Carolina, Goody’s Powder worked well for me. It’s a mix of aspirin, paracetamol and caffeine. You can buy it at the grocery store, pharmacy, gas station, basically wherever in the states, but they don’t sell it in Canada. It is powder, so not super fun to take, but it works quite well, especially if you can ingest it when you first start feeling your migraine. I would typically take it by putting some liquid in my mouth first and then dumping the powder in my mouth. It does have a bit of a medicine flavor to it (duh), but it’s really not that bad to get down.
I’ve also taken Excedrin Migraine before, which they do sell in Canada. It worked well for me too… until I moved to Calgary!
Since moving to Calgary, I have started taking daily medications and have supplemental medications to take when a migraine is coming on.
The daily medications I take are magnesium and atenolol. I take one magnesium pill in the morning and two at night along with one 25mg atenolol pill. Atenolol is a beta-blocker, which is a medication that reduces blood pressure. It is often used to help prevent heart attacks, but since migraines are the swelling of blood vessels in the brain, it helps with that too! Side effects of taking too much magnesium or taking too much too soon are diarrhea, so be careful with that! There is a list of side effects for atenolol, but the ones I experience are dizziness, unexplained tiredness and blood pressure that is lower than normal.
I also take acetazolamide (250mg) in the morning and at night when a chinook is blowing through. This drug is used to treat idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which is raised brain pressure. There is a side effect of numbness or a tingling sensation. Unlike the numbness I experience with a migraine, this is symmetric in my body. So it might be that both of my big toes are numb or both of my middle fingers. It’s a pretty strange feeling, but it definitely helps keep the migraines at bay.
The medications that I take supplementally are rizatriptan (5mg) and cambia (50mg). Rizatriptan is a little pill that dissolves when you place it under your tongue. It doesn’t work as well for me as cambia does, but I like to take it when my migraines aren’t super strong. Cambia is another powder, but you mix this one with water. It is the drug that helps the most for me. The only reason why I would choose to take rizatriptan over cambia is because you can only take a certain amount of each drug within a month. I am not sure of the side effects if you take too much of each drug within a certain time frame, I just know that it is a rule I have to follow. So if my migraine is pretty strong, I will take cambia and otherwise I try to fight it off with just rizatriptan.
After meeting with a neurologist, we decided on Botox treatment once every three months. Botox helps block chemicals that carry pain signals from your brain. So it’s like a roadblock that stops the chemicals before they get to the nerve endings around your head and neck. I get Botox in the back of my head (top and bottom), neck, shoulders, front of my head, jaw and around my brow line. It’s about 25ish pokes in total. It doesn’t really hurt and I don’t notice a difference in how my face looks, so I’m all for it. I also get a nerve blocker injected in the back of my head around the hair line. This is like what dentists use in your gums. It can apparently block or prevent a migraine for up to six weeks. The neurologist said if it is chinook season, I can just come in every six weeks for a quick injection of this nerve blocker. I haven’t done this yet, but I think I might start doing it soon!
All of the treatments I just listed are chemicals and cost money. Fortunately for me, my insurance covers a lot of it. And thank goodness because the amount of Botox I get each visit is $900 without coverage! But I have found several things that help that are not drug related.
The biggest one for me is proper sleep, like 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. I know this can be difficult sometimes, especially if you have kids, but it definitely helps!
Exercise is another big one for me. I love exercise in general, but if I am able to get my heart rate up a bit as a migraine is coming on, I can often soften the intensity of that migraine. So no, it doesn’t fight it off completely, but it does make a difference.
Water and electrolytes also help. I am terrible about drinking enough water, but I try to chug some down if I feel a migraine coming on. Adding electrolyte tablets to your water can also help.
Eating a well-balanced diet is another helpful trick. Sometimes I find that loading up on carbs really makes a difference when I actually have a migraine, especially if I need to eat something. But eating a well-balanced diet when I don’t have a migraine tends to help keep them at bay.
And lastly, a good massage can make a huge difference. I will often ask Keenan to rub my head and neck, but there are also pressure points in your hands and feet that can help relieve pain from a migraine. A main point for me is the meaty spot on my hand between my thumb and pointer finger. Usually massaging the hand on the opposite side of where I have the migraine helps. So if my migraine is on the left side of my head, massaging the meaty part of my right hand relieves some pressure.
These are treatments that work for me, and maybe they can help you too. If you are a victim of migraines and have other advice to share, please do so! I hope this series was informative and helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions about my journey – I am happy to share!