After many months clear of migraines (maybe 9?), I got hit with a whopper last Wednesday. I was driving to an appointment at the time, when I noticed that my vision was starting to go a little blurry. At first I thought my eyes just needed a good rub, but after a few minutes I had the sinking feeling in my stomach which meant a migraine was definitely on the way.
Sure enough, about 30 minutes later my vision was so blurry that I could barely see anything. This is fairly typical of how migraines start for me. With experience, I’ve worked out that if I can ingest some ibuprofen early in the game (i.e. before my vision has gone) then the severity of the migraine headache that follows is greatly reduced. Sadly, since I was out and about and didn’t have any nurofen on me, I completely missed my window of opportunity. By the time I arrived home, the migraine had started to hit, so all I could do was go to bed and try to sleep it out.
Like I said, it was a whopper, so sleeping didn’t really work. A new technique I gave a run this time was putting my feet in hot water whilst holding a cold pack on my neck. The theory is that the temperature differences at the extremities causes blood to drain away from your head, hence reducing the severity of the migraine. I found that this technique does work, but it only provides relief while you’re sitting there, but as soon as you take your feet out of the water and the cold pack from your neck, the migraine comes back with a vengeance.
Eventually I went and saw a physio/acupuncturist (Simon at Go2 Human Performance, if you’re interested), who did give me some relief by using a combination of acupuncture points and some physio on my shoulders, neck, and skull. I definitely felt better after leaving, but the headache was still lingering. Thankfully, it was enough relief to allow me to eat some dinner – before that, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, since migraines also completely turn your stomach inside out. I’ve never had a migraine so bad that its made me throw up, but there’d be no way I could eat anything while its running its course. This is also the reason its important to take whatever drugs you’re going to try as early as possible – once your stomach “stops working”, it actually prevents you from absorbing anything through your gut, so taking medicine late in the game has no affect (unless you go the suppository route – uhm, no thanks).
A good sleep overnight cleared things up, and then I had the joy of spending the next day feeling hung over. On Friday however, I got hit with yet another migraine! Two in three days! Thankfully, I have ibuprofen at my desk, so I quickly downed two capsules then made an appointment with my GP (who conveniently is only a three minute drive from work). She prescribed me some Naramig tablets, so I popped one of those as well. I’m pleased to say that the combination of the two seemed to be quite effective – I still got hit with a headache, but it was far, far less severe than what I normally get. Really, I took the naramig a bit too late, so hopefully next time I can pop one a bit earlier so it is even more effective. My GP also prescribed some Maxolon, to help prevent the feeling of stomach sickness, so the next time I get hit with a migraine, I’m to try the “three drug cocktail” (her words, not mine!).
Cycling to work definitely seems to be a migraine trigger for me, and sure enough, I had cycled in on the Tuesday before what I’m now calling Whopper Wednesday. One theory with exercise related migraines is that vigorous exercise burns through all your magnesium, and as such, I’ve been taking magnesium supplements regularly for the last year or so. However, I suspect that I haven’t been taking a high enough dose around days when I cycle in summer. There seems to be some link for me between intensive cycles on hot days and migraines, as I only seem to get them in the first six months of the year. Tuesday had been one of the hottest days that I’ve cycled in a long time, and naturally I was cycling as quickly as I could to break my own records (which I did!), so it was foolish of me not to greatly increase my magnesium supplements before and after the ride.
The other tip I’ve since read is to take an anti-inflammatory before riding. Migraines are thought to be caused by swelling of blood vessels in the brain, and obviously a high intensity exercise causes a higher rate of blood flow – its easy to see the link. So, by taking an anti-inflammatory before exercise, the theory is that it helps prevent the blood vessels from swelling. I tried this tip for my cycle to work yesterday, and I also decided to let my existing records stand, and instead took it a bit easier than what I normally do. So, hopefully this will all be helpful; traditionally, the migraines hit the day after exercise, so by the end of today I’ll have an answer. Fingers crossed!