The pain of migraines and yours

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Liz Breslin on the lifestyle tightrope migrane sufferers learn to walk.
Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

Nobody likes a whiner, I know. But some of you are going to recognise this: Eyes don't want to see the light? Stomach churning at the thought of moving? Feel like the hangover of the decade, without the pleasure of quaffing a single drop, has been crossbred on your temples with a very non-angelic aura?

Then you, my fellow migraineur, are among the 12%. Well, it's actually 12% of men that get repeated migraines and 18% of women. Leading the charge. Awesome. Pass the dark glasses and the damp cloth. Please.

During a particularly harsh and inconvenient migraine at the start of last week, I managed to do some number crunching of my own. Let's say a person, me, for example, gets a migraine once or twice a month, for one to three days each time. That's, like, literally more than 10% (give or take a bit because who wants to do actual proper mathematics with a stonker of an all-over-ache?) of my current existence spent migraining. Which is not efficient. Or fun.

Imagine if you multiplied my-grains by everyone else's, too. That's a lot of spaced out populace. In fact, in 2011, the World Health Organisation ranked migraines in the top 20 medical causes of disability for adults of all ages. And they're on the rise, thanks to increases in chemical imbalances or modern life being more stressful or people using too many plastic bags at the supermarket. (I made one of those causes up.)

And I imagine most of us are mostly feeling mostly completely over our systems being migraine-hijacked and the lifestyle tightrope we learn to walk.

I can recite the trigger factors for migraines far better than any learned rote prayers these days. Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I have sniffed a glass of red wine or eaten lovely, lovely cheese or driven somewhere without sunglasses or been premenstrual or had a smidgen too much chocolate or got stressed or all of the above ... and do you know how easy it is to get stressed out about the messed-up preoccupations of the planet when you're trying your hardest to avoid anything to do with the privileged pageantry of right royal preoccupations and it's all over every media like a rash?

Very easy, that's how easy. Honestly, they're so ... it's just ... it's all ... words fail me. (That's a migraine thing, as well as incredulity.)

And then, while trying very hard to retain some equanimity and ignore everyone making up lord and lady names because the world has gone mad, everything gets louder and brighter and collapses. Though that's not the technical explanation.

Technically, it goes something like this: temporal arteries get all big with blood. Nerves around arteries get stretched. Stretched nerves send out chemicals. Other nerves send back sympathy. And boom. Just like that I'm down and out for at least a couple of days.

Except I'm not, of course. Because who wants to miss out on 10% (give or take) of everything?

So I've been mindfully/bloody-mindedly emptying my head of hating on the House of Windsor, for all the good that does. Mindfully closing my eyes whenever I can get away with it. Stretching. Breathing. That last suggestion being especially useful for, like, life.

Next on the list is possibly doubtfully maybe mindfully getting a magic hole in me, though I'll be clutching at out-of-vogue straws. Inner ear cartilage/daith piercings were all the rage a while back for migraineurs. The jury is split as to their effectiveness. But the jury probably doesn't feel the same sense of dull desperation for a solution. Mindful dull desperation, of course. Keeping not very calm and carrying on.

The jury seems to be slightly more in on the people who crick the top of your cervical spine ever so fractionally and then you live happily ever after. I can only imagine how free that would feel.



The crick. A whack by the physio or Alternative stones (but not a fatwa), put on the client. I suffered the 'aurora' from 14 to 20 years. Random, unexpected. Your description of physiology indicates that migraneurs might need MRI observation.

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