Ophthalmic migraine is killing me!
May 16, 2010 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Help, I'm in the middle of a nine hour migraine and need some drugless therapies. Meditation? Breathing exercise? Advil and Tylenol aren't helping.

I suffer ophthalmic migraines about once in a blue moon. Even though prescription drugs usually work okay (not always), by the time I need them they've expired and it's pointless to keep stocking them. The migraines usually hit fast and hard with symptoms including blind spots, numb hands and tongue, vomiting and of course head splitting pain. I've never had one this long and the blind spots and numb hands are coming and going (usually they show up first and then disappear).
Anyone else have to deal with this crap? I have spoken to my doctor, mostly he says to stay in a dark room and relax, but I've been lying down for almost 10 hours and I'm wrecked. Please hit me in the head with a brick. I mean, recommend some exercises.
posted by Miss Mitz to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't get them, but my girlfriend and some of her friends swear by walnuts as a very fast cure. Girlfriend's friend says it's the omega 3s.
posted by gally99 at 10:30 PM on May 16, 2010

hot bath to relax muscles? I don't know if it'll improve the migraine per se, but it'll subside some side effects (stiff neck, tension headache, etc). It couldn't hurt.
posted by Neekee at 10:31 PM on May 16, 2010

Assuming you have health insurance, is there a reason you're not considering going to the ER for a shot? They give me Dilauded and Phenergan. I do not have health insurance and it's cheaper for me to buy Relpax at $36 a pill (even if it does expire) than to go to the ER ($800+) on the rare occasion I get a migraine. Incidentally, I was once given some Relpax and told I could use it 2 years past the expiration date, so perhaps your meds weren't truly expired.

You don't say how long "this long" is... if it's been 3 days with less than 4 hours of relief, you do need to go to the ER.

If you're nauseated, take some Dramamine, or if you don't have that on hand, Benadryl is closely related and can help with nausea. If you can keep it down, that is.

Sometimes it helps me to lightly rub my forehead where the pain is.

My mom always suggests to press hard on the web of skin between the thumb and index finger.

You can also try a cold wet washcloth on the back of your neck and/or rubbing the back of your neck firmly.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:37 PM on May 16, 2010

Lots of advice in this migraine thread. But why not call the doctor that you saw last time, and ask for a refill? Or go to an urgent clinic place - migraines can last for days. They suck. If pills work for you, why not try to find a (prescribed) pill?
posted by barnone at 10:43 PM on May 16, 2010

Sorry, you did say 9 hours. And I really can spell Dilaudid.

Also, to help with the pain, sometimes I try a meditation that I read somewhere once. I close my eyes and picture a healing sphere of light entering my room and enveloping my head. It doesn't take away the pain but it helps it ebb and flow... I'll have a few seconds of pain, a few seconds of relief, etc. Try to consciously relax your face too.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:49 PM on May 16, 2010

I don't get them, but my girlfriend and some of her friends swear by walnuts as a very fast cure. Girlfriend's friend says it's the omega 3s.

Everyone's migraines are different, but generally nuts (including walnuts) are widely considered a trigger drug, so I'd be careful experimenting with that one in the middle of an attack. That said, the omega-3 thing has its fans, but it doesn't work for me.

The best universal advice I can give for someone in the middle of an attack, beyond lying in a quiet and dark room is to make it very cold. Also, a wet towel (also cold as possible) on the forehead helps. Stay away from fluorescent lights, computers and tv screens. Try to vomit. This helps a lot of people, although it's a drag trying to force yourself! Massage is also good. I've taken imitrex (often expired) and it works, but only if I catch the attack before it's full-blown. After that, it's worthless.

I feel your pain, believe me.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:58 PM on May 16, 2010

The Naturopath who taught me anatomy, physiology, and pathology recommended putting the feet in cool to cold(ish) water to help with migraines that are vascular in origin...something about dilating the blood vessels in the feet...

Good luck
posted by Cats' Concert at 11:06 PM on May 16, 2010

Sometimes I take a showerbath when my head is throbbing. It helps for me, YMMV.

Get into the tub and turn on the shower, and adjust the spray to something slightly firmer than a mist, like early rain, and make the temperature warm but not hot. Turn the lights off, get back in the tub, sit down so that the water is hitting the back of your head and neck, and close the drain. Then sit quietly in the dark and try to meditate as the water rolls down your back and gathers around you. I wait until my legs are underwater before getting out.

Something about the pressure on my neck, the white noise from the water, the darkness, and the distraction of focusing on the rising water level seems to help. Like the others said, good luck.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:31 PM on May 16, 2010

I don't suffer migraines, but I do get the occasional brain throb.
Here's what I do, and this is also good for a hangover...

Get up and walk around as much as you can endure (move and bend your limbs, around the block is ideal, but around several rooms is good too).
Take many quick but deep breaths (Yes, PANT, but deeply).
Drink as much cool water as possible (cooler than your forehead).
I wish you the best.
posted by mdrew at 11:39 PM on May 16, 2010

Sleep. Do whatever you have to to knock yourself out for a while.

If I don't have any sleepy-making medications (benadryl knocks me right out but makes me nauseous too so ymmv) I will lie on or press directly on the part of my head that hurts, the pressure usually reduces the pain to the point that I can fall asleep. I also put my feet up on a pillow and that helps too, I have no idea why but it does. This makes for some funny sleeping positions but it makes the difference in being able to sleep or not for me.

btw, excedrin migraine is the only OTC drug I take and it often kills the pain to the point where I can sleep.
posted by fshgrl at 11:50 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Anecdotally, I had the "oh, yeah, I have an aura migraine... maybe once a year" situation too. My solution was one Tylenol, one Aleve, and five cups of coffee shotgunned in rapid succession; this may or may not work for you.

That worked great for a while, and then I started getting them every month around my period... and then I had one where my left hand and part of my visual field dropped out intermittently, coming and going, for four freaking hours. It scared hell out of me, I went to the ER, and they managed to mitigate but not abort it-- and that's when I got religion and signed on with a neurologist who specializes in migraines.

It's the best thing you'll do for yourself, trust me. Get a referral, go talk to a specialist, tell them that it's a pain in the ass to keep refilling triptans but that your symptoms are getting weird and scary and exhausting, and you need a better approach. Lay out your data and let them do some tests. My doc prescribed a medication for daily use that lowers the occurrence of migraine episodes, which has been working for me for almost two months so far. I'm actually optimistic rather than stressed about it now, and that's a big help.

In my experience, a regular GP or non-specialist neurologist can only do so much. Migraine with aura sucks bigtime and needs specialized care. Good luck.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:04 AM on May 17, 2010

Oh Christ I used to get these and they are the worst.

1) Massaging the muscle between index and thumb seems to relieve a little bit of the headache stress. No cure, but slightly relaxing.

2) Put your hands into a sink full of very hot water. I would visualize all the blood leaving my head and going to my hands. The warmth is relaxing and should loosen up the muscles a bit. I would usually repeat this five or six times during the course of a migraine.

3) Try to sleep. It's hard, but if your eyes are closed then at least you don't have the irritation of the blind spots.
posted by molecicco at 12:22 AM on May 17, 2010

Seconding the index finger/thumb massage and sleep. I'm not convinced the massage actually does anything, but the repetitive act of doing it seems to take my mind off the pain a bit. Sleep is the only non-prescription remedy that's reliably successful for me. Hope it goes away soon, they're hell, I know.
posted by muteh at 2:56 AM on May 17, 2010

I gave Feverfew to a friend who has migraines one day when she was suffering. She made tea from it and said it gave her relief before she got to the bottom of the cup.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:07 AM on May 17, 2010

The thing that usually does the trick for me is popping a couple of Tylenol PM and sleeping for a few hours. I've also had luck with a small heating pad to the forehead; cold always made headaches worse for me, but YMMV.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:58 AM on May 17, 2010

Fellow migraine sufferer here. I'm hoping that by this time your migraine is successfully GONE, but just in case / for the future...

Contrary to mdrew's advice, DO NOT go out walking. I've had times when I've needed to go outside to get meds or go to the hospital and I've both collapsed on the street and have started vomiting / dry heaving uncontrollably. Thankfully, I was with friends both times and the places I had to get to were not very far. But again -- I would not recommend going into a public situation where you can't control what other people are doing or what's going to stimulate you (read: horribly aggravate your migraine).

When I've been unable to access Imitrex/Treximet/etc (or when it's been too late for prescription meds to work), I've had some success with feverfew, as well as ginger tea. Caffeine helps a lot to at least take the edge off (which is why it's in a lot of the meds that are either OTC or prescribed). As recommended above, anything you can do to make you fall asleep will at least give you some temporary relief. If you can keep your pillow cool, it'll at least make you slightly more comfortable. Best of luck in taking care of this migraine!
posted by ohruaidhri at 5:09 AM on May 17, 2010

I get those kinds of migraines around my period and from some kinds of flickering fluorescent lights. I usually put an icepack on the back of my neck and sometimes on my forehead or on my eyes. I drink cold Mountain Dew. I just try to get cool as possible. I wear sunglasses or an eyemask and try to sleep.

As a last resort, I sometimes take Dramamine. I'm not sure if the anti-motion sickness part helps or it's just that it puts me to sleep, but I do get some relief -- the pain usually goes down, and I don't feel as nauseous but there's nothing that stops the blind spots but time and rest. As a long term strategy, you could also try fish oil.
posted by bluefly at 5:52 AM on May 17, 2010

I've found that laying down makes my head hurt more, so I prop myself up with pillows and try to sleep that way. Cold cloth on the forehead helps me. When I was a kid and had migraines more often, I tried biofeedback and basically it was laying down and focusing on relaxing my body by starting with fingers/toes and working my way up.

In terms of meds, I drink a caffeinated soda and take ibuprofen. Imitrex worked marvelously for the first couple of times and then didn't.

I hope your migraine ends soon. They're miserable, aren't they?
posted by sciencegeek at 6:07 AM on May 17, 2010

I get terrible migraine-like headaches (no aura, but sensitivity to light, nausea, and horrible pain lasting hours/days). Anyway, I woke up with the beginning of one yesterday, and did some yoga for about 15-20 minutes, then took a hot shower....headache completely went away. Yoga worked before too. It might be too late for you now, but something you can consider for the future.
posted by bearette at 6:19 AM on May 17, 2010

I really hope your migraine is gone by now.

For me - cold air helps. Not fans because I find them irritating, but cranked air conditioning, or, if you're in the southern hemisphere / a colder climate, opening a window might work (as long as you aren't on the street or what not). As cold air as possible helps, for me. The icepack on the back of the neck is great in pain reduction, though not elimination. Excedrin migraine, or, alternately, a handful (3-5) of advil and a lot of espresso.

And, as everyone said, get some sleep if at all possible.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:38 AM on May 17, 2010

Mine used to knock me into bed for about three days each at least once or twice a month, but luckily, they're extremely rare these days. But my trump card was always loads of caffeine. Drinking caffeinated beverages usually helped get me through the day whenever I'd get a migraine. Following that, sleeping in a dark room as soon as I could. Ibuprofen plus caffeine is usually a good combination too. Mountain Dew has the most of normal sodas, but Red Bull and its ilk would hit you with a large shot. Coffee, of course.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:50 AM on May 17, 2010

Anyway, I woke up with the beginning of one yesterday, and did some yoga for about 15-20 minutes, then took a hot shower....headache completely went away. Yoga worked before too.

Just noting that heat/hot showers dilate the blood vessels, which might not be helpful. it can cause a dip in blood pressure. I learned this the hard way.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2010

I used to take hot showers until I figured out that they actually made my migraines worse. Someone finally told me to pack my head in bags of frozen peas/corn. It helped a lot. Breathing in the cool air as the packs melted was very relaxing and I was able to calm down. I used to have Imitrex shots at home which really was the only medicine that worked BUT I was often too out of it to administer them correctly. I would even practice how to do it and still failed. Before the shots I thought there was now way I could give myself a shot but in the throes of a migraine I would have gladly whacked my skull with an ice pick if I thought it would work. They also make Imitrex suppositories. Get thee to a doctor and good luck.
posted by futz at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2010

I also get migraines and they are terrible. Something that changes the way I perceive the pain is Tiger Balm (or any other menthol/minty smell). I rub it on my temples, on the back of my neck, on my forehead and sometimes right under my nose. The smell is intense but seems to relieve some of the nausea. The cooling feeling also helps to get me out of the worst pain somehow. I usually slather on the stuff and see if I can fall asleep (I don't know about you but when I have a migraine my pillow feels like stone and no amount of OTC meds will cut into the pain). The balm will temporarily lessen the pain and give me a little window of time to fall asleep.

Zomig is my favorite prescription migraine med. You can get it in chewable tablets and it knocks out the migraine in 15 to 20 minutes. Heaven.
posted by koselig at 8:06 AM on May 17, 2010

I've had a migraine each of the past four days. Last night, after seven hours of nothing else working, I tried a zinc lozenge. About 10 minutes later I was nearly pain free. That's just once (although I'm sure I'll get to test it again soon) but it may be worth a try for you. Good luck.
posted by bryon at 8:59 AM on May 17, 2010

Nthing the recommendation of getting cooler - cool shower, cold packs, and I've found that it temporarily helps me to eat cold things like ice cream.

If your pain varies according to your blood sugar or hunger level, keep eating small amounts constantly - if I get hungry or my blood sugar drops, the pain gets worse. If I eat just carbs, which is unfortunately the easiest snacklike thing to hand most times, it doesn't work as well as if I eat protein.

In my case, unlike a suggestion above, vomiting helps not at all because all it means is that I've got the sort of migraine where I can't keep anything down, so the pain is going to get much, much worse very soon as I get hungrier and hungrier. I keep a prescription of anti-nausea meds on hand for these types of migraines. Your own mileage may vary.
posted by telophase at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2010

I get bad migraines... with vomiting and nose bleeds. Except for walnuts and the "throbbing headache" advice (a really really bad headache is still so very much not a migraine), I use pretty much ALL the suggestions in this thread; though I tend to start off by crawling to the bathroom and resting on the cool floor (when I'm not making offerings) for an hour or so. When making tea (or, in case of migraine, having someone else make it), I blend with green tea for the mild caffination. In case of home emergency, Dramamine has been helpful though not a total solution, as it's adviser mentioned. I keep a package of peas marked, "Do not open, for medical use only" in the freezer.

I burn through migraine prescriptions - they all work a couple of times and then I've adapted or something.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:07 AM on May 17, 2010

No migraines here but I used to get very long (up to 1.5 days) headaches. Last 3-4 times I got them here's what helped me: 1. 1-1.5 glasses of water every 2 hours 2. absolutely no food [*] 3. good sencha tea an hour after every glass of water 4. romaine/green/red lettuce, a few leaves at a time

[*] except for [4]

Sencha is not essential, it's mostly just not to get bored with water. It does stop the headache for about 15 minutes, but then it returns, maybe even a bit stronger than before. Sencha has to be lightly brewed though, about 3/4 teaspoon of leaves to 12oz.

This regimen does not stop headache but makes it much shorter and instead of being completely knocked out and miserable I can actually do anything, even do work, except that I have to be much slower than usual.
posted by rainy at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2010

Caffeine? I don't drink caffeine as a rule but when I get a bad headache I drink something with caffeine in it and I feel better.
posted by MsKim at 9:36 AM on May 17, 2010

Try to massage the scalenes muscles via triggerpoint massage. Basically: find points in neck muscle that hurt / radiate pain, press on with thumb, hold for 10-15 seconds. Avoid carotid arteries (where you feel a pulse).
posted by Eltulipan at 10:19 AM on May 17, 2010

You might want to try cold rags on your wrists. I get migraines and I find the rags on my wrists provide a small amount of relief.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2010

I hope your migraine has gone at this point.

In the future, you can have your doctor call in a prescription to a pharmacy. Hopefully you have a friend who can pick up the medication for you. Or you can get a prescription but not fill it right away, I think in some states you can wait up to a year.
posted by yohko at 1:00 PM on May 17, 2010

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