My birthday is April 15, and I’ll be 48. On the one hand, I don’t feel “old”, and I do think my generation is, in general younger at this age than our parents were. On the other hand, 48 is pretty close to half a century, and that seems old. I really don’t worry about age much, thanks to some fantastic genes on my mother’s side: my great, great grandparents both lived to be 96; my great-grandmother lived to be 92 even with diabetes; my grandmother is 99 and still lives alone, cooks, walks her dog, and has parties; my mom is 71 and a cancer survivor, and is in great health and condition. So from that perspective, I’m only about halfway there! Better to think about that, I think.
My mom and grandmother, Easter 2012
So the migraines… Since Christmas, I’ve been MUCH better. Whereas I had one continuous migraine from October 8 to October 31, and then 28 days of migraine in November, and lesser intensity but still there migraines for about 20 days in December (including every day of my vacation in Freeport, Bahamas), since Christmas I’ve only had a handful of bad migraines, and at least as many days headache free (or with one that responds quickly to Bayer Migraine) as those with migraine.
With this really unfortunate condition, I want to share all I know about what’s working with you, in hopes that some of what I share may help. I don’t know… we’re all different and they don’t seem to know a lot about it when you come right down to it. But here goes!
Appropriately, this image is from migraine-ista.blogspot.com
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING:
It appears that my migraines are about 80% hormone driven, so when I entered peri-menopause last year, the reduced estrogen is what started my migraine spree. As I said before, I rarely had migraines until February, 2012. Having had a lot of experience with them at this point, I can say that I did actually have them more often than my previous claim of one per year; I just didn’t know that’s what they were. But I only had one that was debilitating a year, and that is certainly livable.
Now, with the “good” news that “most women” are done with menopause by 52, I have a “mere” 4 or 5 years to go. But, since my migraines are triggered by a lack of estrogen, I’m not sure that things are going to improve when I don’t have any… That’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when we get there.
How I know it is hormone driven is that, when I removed my Nuvaring for good in October, I started the migraine from hell two days later. That’s the one that lasted, non-stop, for 24 days or so. After consulting with my neurologist and gynecologist, I went back on the Nuvaring November 11. The headaches got better over time, and after 2 1/2 cycles, had steadied out to where they are now. The goal is to use the Nuvaring all the time, but my body isn’t cooperating with that plan yet. After it’s out for a couple of days, I have migraines, usually lasting until I’m back on it for 2 or 3 days. But this last cycle, I left it out for only 2 days, and didn’t experience an uptick in migraines, plus my body did okay with it as far as my period, so that’s my plan for the moment.
I know that birth control actually gives some people migraines, and that’s more usual. But there may be some of you “mid-life” women out there who are in my situation, and I want to share this information with you in case it can help you as it’s helped me. Note that it isn’t an immediate fix — it takes awhile for your body to get adjusted.
FIGURING OUT WHAT ELSE IS HELPING:
I had an appointment with my neurologist on December 12, and we changed up everything. I gave up caffeine. He took me off medicines with caffeine (Bayer and Excedrine migraine, Fiorocet). He gave me a nose spray (Migranol) and told me to order both Migra-Eeze and Vessel Care. For people who have migraine with aura, there can be a genetic marker, and Vessel Care contains the dietary supplements that are recommended if you test positive for that marker. Rather than send me for testing, he just recommended the supplement, since it’s OTC. Migra-Eeze is a supplement with butterbur, ginger and ribo-flavin. He prescribed Bupap instead of Fiorocet, which is the same med but without caffeine. I also started on magnesium glycinate, 800 mg a day (more on this later). (If you’re wondering about Imitrex, Zomig and that class of meds, I don’t respond to them. I have a very high threshold of pain and quite often have a migraine before I actually feel it. Because you have to take these medications as soon as you have the migraine, I always miss the window.)
The problem with this strategy is that I did everything at once. I’d also been on the Nuvaring one cycle by this point, although the headaches were still frequent (but less severe). So, while things were starting to work by Christmas, I didn’t know what was working and was afraid to stop anything to find out.
Since I’m terrible at remembering regular medications, I discovered that the Vessel Care wasn’t doing anything by accident. I got that from Amazon very quickly, and it was the first addition to the Nuvaring. I had been taking it two weeks by the time I got home from vacation. Then I forgot it when I didn’t unpack it quickly (it was Christmas, after all!), and nothing changed. I’m not sure I have aura anyway — very occasionally I’ll get a bit confused or ditzy before a migraine, but that’s about it, and that could be because of the aforementioned pain-recognition problem). So I didn’t resume taking that.
I did start taking the Migra-Eeze on December 23, and since I started getting a lot better after that, I kept that one going. Then I went to Uganda in February, and that became a bit hit or miss, and I again didn’t unpack in a timely fashion. There was no change… so I’ve quit taking that, too. The Migranol never worked.
I am still off caffeine as a regular drink, but I have discovered that it, along with either aspirin or the aspirin/aceteminophen combination, is that only thing that actually gets rid of a migraine for me. This has led to me mixing up Bupap and Fiorocet, depending on the severity of the headache. If I have one at night that is a real doozy, I take Fiorocet and go to bed. If it’s annoying but not awful, I take Bupap. The pharmacist didn’t like filling both prescriptions before my Uganda trip (“Is this a man or woman? What does she look like?” could be overheard…), but I take them less than once a week. I just didn’t want to be in Uganda without enough meds if I needed them. Likewise, I take Bayer Migraine with either a Coke or Coke Zero for a daytime headache. Sometimes I do “the cure” of a Coke and 4 aspirin, but that’s hard on my stomach if I haven’t eaten recently.
All in all, I’m managing them well at this point. I had only 1 bad migraine in Uganda (and it was a doozy… but it was also unusually hot, and I’d probably not had enough to drink, 2 key triggers). I had 1 bad one on the plane going over, complete with nausea, but I didn’t have one on the trip home. I don’t think I’ve had a bad one since I returned on March 4. So that’s MUCH better than just a few months ago.
On the magnesium glycinate: apparently a lot of migraine sufferers also struggle with constipation. (Sorry for the graphic-ness here, but it is what it is!) He said to start taking 800 mg of magnesium glycinate daily, and then up it until “you have diarrhea” (sorry again!), then back off one tablet. I am actually good at 800 mg except when I was traveling, then I had to up it. But travel’s usually a big problem for me, and it wasn’t this last trip to Uganda, so that was a huge blessing. So if you have this problem, try the magnesium glycinate. You can get it on Amazon or at your local Vitamin Shoppe or GNC.