Well tie me up and call me Shirley!
June 23, 2011 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I get crippling migraines. I've noticed that tying something REALLY tightly around my head (a robe tie, dog leash, etc) often helps alleviate the pain. Sometimes it's the only way I can fall asleep at night. I often leave the tie on for hours and have occasionally fallen asleep with it on through the whole night, though I really get nervous about that. Am I causing any sort of long term damage to my head?
posted by corn_bread to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I doubt that you're causing long-term damage, but I'd like to point you towards the use of pressure/deep pressure in the treatment of other disorders:

Behavioral and physiological effects of deep pressure on children with autism: a pilot study evaluating the efficacy of Grandin's Hug Machine.

That sort of squeeze/binding treatment for problems isn't new and there are many avenues you may be able to pursue. (Not saying you're autistic, just showing similarities.)
posted by unixrat at 11:35 AM on June 23, 2011

Is there a reason you haven't been checked out by a doctor for this and mentioned your method of relieving the pain? That is step #1.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:55 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

OnTheLastCastle - I am under the care of a very good neurologist that has helped me out immensely. Obviously at my next appointment (in August) I will ask him what he thinks, but the head-tying is a rather recent discovery. In the meantime, I am asking metafilter and will take all responses with a grain of salt.
posted by corn_bread at 11:59 AM on June 23, 2011

That's good. I would give him a call and ask what he thinks. You can leave a message with his nurse, and he'll consider it. Knowing how you gain relief from the problem may even tell him what's likely causing it in advance.

Worrying about whether or not you're causing yourself harm is stressful so don't wait until August.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pliny the Elder used to tie a bra around his head for headaches. And it took the eruption of Vesuvius to take him out, so I'd say you're safe.

More seriously this is something to talk to a doctor about; migraines have no surefire cure that works for everyone (or even a large number of ones) so they're usually pretty open to different approaches to curing them.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:19 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could possibly cause local tissue damage if the "rope" (so to speak - I realize it's not literally a rope) is impeding blood flow to any portion of your head. In other words, if the rope is so tight that it's almost cutting into your skin, it could damage the underlying tissue.

Have you ever noticed any red marks after removing the rope, particularly ones that don't blanch when you lightly touch them with your finger? That would be a cause for concern. Any time there's pressure on the skin, you are at risk for causing a pressure ulcer. They can develop in under an hour. IANAD, but I'd suggest removing the rope/tie at least once an hour and checking the skin for bruising or redness. I wouldn't recommend falling asleep with this on your head, for the reasons stated above.
posted by pecanpies at 12:24 PM on June 23, 2011

(Also, just to put my answer in perspective: clearly, you're not going to wake up with a giant, oozing Stage IV pressure ulcer after a few hours' sleep. Local tissue damage is a risk, though. Just be aware of it, and be cautious about how and when you're tying things around your head.)
posted by pecanpies at 12:27 PM on June 23, 2011

I'm guessing the neurologist has x-rayed your head. I used to get terrible headaches that would go away if I rolled up a hot towel under my neck. Turned out from an x-ray that some of my vertebrae were misaligned and were pressing on some nerves and muscles. A few months of physical therapy and I stopped getting them.
posted by davextreme at 1:07 PM on June 23, 2011

For whatever it's worth, I do something similar, as pressure on my temples really helps with my migraines. I mentioned it to my doctor once and she wasn't concerned - although I'm nowhere near impeding blood flow, and couldn't possibly fall asleep when in the heat of a really dreadful migraine.

I can get similar relief by lying on the side that hurts, with my fist or something else hard right under the temple that hurts, providing the same sort of pressure without having something tied around my head. Might be an alternative you could try, if you're really worried. (Though that assumes you don't mind lying on something fairly uncomfortable, and that you have unilateral pain, as I usually do.)
posted by Stacey at 2:32 PM on June 23, 2011

Pressure on the back of my head relieves my migraines. What I do is face my boyfriend, bend slightly at the waist and rest the top of my head on his chest, then he squeezes the back of my head for a bit. If he does it for a few minutes, I usually get enough relief to fall asleep. Depending on where your pressure needs to be centralized, and whether or not you live with someone who will squeeze your head, it might work for you too.

Sometimes twisting or pulling the hair at the base of my neck and behind my ears also works, but for milder pain.

Good luck - migraines are a bitch.
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2011

Oops, meant to say, "squeezes the back of my head with the heels of his hands".
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:34 PM on June 23, 2011

I do this too. May I suggest something to you? Use a wide leather belt, one with a belt buckle. You can use the buckle to cinch it (even if it doesn't go through the hole), but it's too wide to really cut into your flesh. The thicker the belt, the better it is for not cutting into you.
posted by Addlepated at 2:50 PM on June 23, 2011

I started doing this after reading about it as a Medieval headache remedy. It does help a lot. Since I want more pressure on my temples, which are a little indented, I sometimes put a rolled-up sock on the painful side between the belt/band and the temple.

I have no idea if it causes long-term damage; I don't _think_ so, but as others have said, your individual pressure and binder material might make a difference.
posted by amtho at 5:23 PM on June 23, 2011

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