Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 45 - 13 Things About Chronic Migraine Pain

For the past two weeks I've been held in the piercing talons of a migraine. You may recall I've mentioned my recurring migraines from time to time. Unfortunately I react to barometric changes, especially incoming low pressure systems, and we've had very unsettled weather lately. By Monday I was so worn down I muddled my way home from work and found myself sitting on the couch crying for a good half hour. My husband held onto me until I felt like I could face the next hour again. If I could have chopped my head off I would have done it.

My Thursday Thirteen this week is a collection of information on migraines as well as eloquent artwork that says it all.

1 - "The term migraine is originally derived from the Greek word hemicrania, which means "half of the head." And, for 70 percent of migraine sufferers, the headache is unilateral or occurring on one side." - National Headache Foundation

2 - "Migraine headaches have been attributed to malfunctions of the brainstem nucleus, and brainstem pathways that affect nerves and blood vessels in the head. Thus, all of the patient's conditions could arise from malfunctions within the brainstem and most could be attributed to a single neurotransmitter, serotonin." - Frank M. Painter, D.C.

"The trigeminal nerve pathway carries nerve signals from the head and face to the brain. When a migraine is triggered, the trigeminal nerve releases neuropeptides causing inflammation and dilation of the blood vessels. Subsequently, trigeminal nerve endings stimulate the release of more neuropeptides and a vicious cycle is begun. Serotonin regulates pain messages via the trigeminal pathway. There is evidence that changed levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) may cause migraines." - AOL Hometown

Julia's note: My face often swells on the side where I experience the migraine - my right side.

3 - "Migraine sufferers are twice as likely to experience a stroke, compared to people who do not get this type of headache. People whose migraines are accompanied by auras, such as scintillating lights or other visual disturbances, are at somewhat higher risk of a future stroke than are those whose migraines do not produce auras." - University of Washington, Science Daily

Onset of stroke symptoms (Julia's note: these mimic the onset of my migraines exactly):
"Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause" - American Heart Association

4 - "Migraineurs often experience auditory-related symptoms such as increased sensitivity to sounds and difficulty in processing auditory information. There is some evidence that there may be abnormalities in certain brain regions. Amplitude growth for auditory brainstem response (ABR) was larger for the migraine group. These results may suggest subtle, but enduring, abnormalities in the central auditory system in migraineurs." - Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of North Texas,

5 - "A recent study entitled "The Effects of Weather on the Frequency and Severity of Migraine Headaches" conducted in Canada arrived at the following conclusions: A) "Phase 4" weather, characterized by a drop in barometric pressure, the passing of a warm front, high temperature and humidity and oftentimes rain, is closely associated with higher frequency and severity of Migraine attacks.
B) a high humidex discomfort index during the summer is associated with an increased frequency of Migraine attacks
C) wind from the southeast was shown to be associated with more attacks than wind from any other direction
D) a number of Migraine sufferers may be sensitive to extreme rates of barometric pressure changes." - Michael John Coleman and Terri Miller Burchfield,

Painting by Peter Gachot

6 - "In the remote part of Washington State, in the community of Oak Harbor, a mother named Erika Miller was entertaining her little two year old daughter, Alana, when on Thursday night (September 13th, 2007) she had a break though Migraine which hit her very hard. "I remember feeling a little bit dizzy," she said. "Took two or three more steps and hit the floor."

It was reported that Baby Alana actually saw her mother Erika collapse in the next room. She then walked up to the coffee table, picked up the telephone and dialed 9-1-1. According to Petty Officer William Cummings, on the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, "While she was on the phone she said 'Mommy ouch.'"

Petty Officer Cummings reacted to the two-year-old’s cryptic message. He checked out Alana's house only to find Erika on the floor, with young caller Alana in the other room, reportedly getting a blanket for her mom, who was shivering from the effects of an intractable Migraine attack. Paramedics took Erika to the hospital where she was released the same day.

Erika says she now has the correct medication, but says she finds comfort in knowing that Alana knows what to do in case of an emergency. According to KOMO-TV Erika said, "I was shocked to hear my 2-year-old had the ability and knowledge to call 911." - Michael John Coleman and Terri Miller Burchfield,

7 - "Like so many people with chronic pain who have to keep a full-time job, mental disconnection was Hazel’s main way of coping. For her 24 years at the phone company, she put all of her energy every day into just getting through work 'like a robot' - a comparison she makes often - while keeping the pain a secret from most others. When she got home, she could do nothing but collapse." - Paula Kamen, NY Times

Photo by Dolores Neilson

8 - "I remember severe attacks that lasted for 19 days, and the acute pain was so intense that I couldn't sleep for four days. These are nightmarish memories." - Michael John Coleman, photographer

Julia's note: the squiggles in the lower righthand corner are what I see as a visual disturbance (minus the yellow color) when I'm having a migraine
Painting by Walther Morganthaler

9 - "In ancient Rome, patients with unbearable head pain were sometimes treated with jolts from the electricity-producing black torpedo fish, or electric ray.

Scribonius Largus, physician to Emperor Claudius, was a staunch advocate of the remedy. 'To immediately remove and permanently cure a headache, however long-lasting and intolerable, a live black torpedo is put on the place which is in pain, until the pain ceases and the part grows numb,' he wrote in the first century.

But recently, electrical or electromagnetic devices that hark back to the head-zapping torpedo fish have come into vogue among the country’s most prominent migraine researchers. In transcranial magnetic stimulation, a magnetic device is pressed to the back of the head, and brief pulses are delivered, altering electrical activity inside the brain in hopes of halting the migraine before it progresses. This approach is being studied only for patients whose migraines begin with an aura, or premonitory phase, that is typically characterized by flashing lights or other visual disturbances." - Amanda Schaffer, NY Times

Julia's note: This is the exact floating shape I see as a aura before the onset of a migraine. Drawing by Anton van Amerongen

10 - "Around 1550BC, the Egyptians would firmly bind a clay crocodile holding grain in its mouth to the head of the patient with shooting head pains using a strip of linen. The linen bore the names of the gods whom the Egyptians believed could cure their ailments. In actual fact, the process may have relieved the headache by compressing the scalp, and possibly collapsing distended vessels that were causing the pain." - Louise Alexander,

11 - Famous migraineurs: Julius Caesar, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Lewis Carroll, Cervantes (Don Quixote), George Bernard Shaw, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Tchaikovsky and Elvis Presley. - National Headache Foundation

12 - "As I look at my work from the perspective of living with Migraines, I see imagery that appears impervious to many things. The subjects seem to be more than capable of preventing anything from hurting, altering or dominating them. Perhaps in some respects I've built them, whether in paint or clay, in the way I'd like to be, too powerful to be altered by many things, blinding 'beats' of pain being one of them." - Janet McKenzie, New York artist based in Vermont

Panel from a piece by Clayton Campbell

13 - "The daggers of pain continue but Courage gains power and holds off the Dark Knight till you are strong again." - 'Lady Sharon', a migraineur


Sandee said...

How awful. I've never had a migraine, but my mother did when I was growing up. She would stay in a dark room for several days at times. It was awful. Big hug honey. Have a migraine free TT. :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...


Did I tell you that a year or so ago, I had a pair of contacts that gave me migraines? The eye doctor refused to believe me until the migraines were so bad, I was ready to ask for an MRI of my head.

As a last-ditch attempt at things, I threw the lenses away. Three days later, the omnipresent headache and migraine was gone.

Two weeks later, I tried the brand again and ... migraine within hours.

Olga said...

Strange yet fitting you should post this for I just got over my monthly 3day migraine! Those pictures were too painful to look at. ugh. I feel your pain sister-literally!

Annette Gallant said...

Big hugs, Julia! I can't imagine what this must be like for you. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and you'll be feeling better soon. :-)

Darla said...

{{{{hugs}}}} That's just miserable. I had fairly frequent migraines in my teens, but thankfully, they've become rarer now. Mine were mostly 2-day affairs, precipitated by a lack of sleep.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Thanks for the hugs, everyone. I'm feeling a bit more human today.

Susan - that's weird about the contacts, but visual triggers are well-known. Good thing you got rid of those!!

Mia Celeste said...

Really interesting information. Thanks. Hope you feel better soon. You poor kid.

She Became a Butterfly said...

i have a coworker who has them all the time. i'm so sorry you suffer!


Open Grove Claudia said...

God. Poor you! I heard recently that they are linking migraines to high blood pressure - manage the bp - manage the migraine - but who knows? Our bodies are so unique and amazing.

I love your husband. He gets a big star in my book for holding you and letting you cry - not fixing. yea!

Happy TT! I hope you feel better! ((hug))

Karina said...

UGH Julia, sorry you've been feeling so badly! This was a really informative post, and the artwork is powerful! I've only suffered one seriously debilitating migraine that I can recall, but that was enough to know that those who suffer them regularly are stronger than I!


Akelamalu said...

So sorry to hear you're suffering so much Julia. I used to get migraines years ago (when I took the contraceptive pill) and got the flashing lights etc. The only thing I could do to make myself better was to (turn away now if you're squeamish)make myself sick!

Tempest Knight said...

Very informative! Thanks for posting this. :)

Dara Edmondson said...

Glad you're feeling better. That must be really awful.

Unknown said...

As a fellow sufferer, you have my sympathy.

Jill said...

If you are sensible to barometric change, this winter should be hell to you!
Wishing for you(and yes, for me too, I'm so tired of bad weather) sunny and warm weather!

Ire said...

Ummm my aunt suffered from these horrid migraines too! hope your feeling better now!

Ann said...

Ouch, hope you're feeling better. I get wicked headaches, but I don't think they are migraines (they seem to affect both sides of my head, but in various places).
I can tell you when a cold front is moving in, though. :)

Aimlesswriter said...

I see auras! The first time they hit I thought I was going blind. Scariest thing. Now, they are just a horrible warning of what's to come. Flash, flash, flash...a moment of respite and ...PAIN! A dagger between the eyes!
Food is my trigger. Especially things that could contain mold; oranges, peanuts, cheese, wine...there a whole ugly list somewhere on the internet.
I see the lights now and think, Damn! What did I eat???

Tink said...

Unfortunately I know all about having migraines, but I don't have them very often, thank goddess!
Thanks for visiting my inspiring people TT.

Shelley Munro said...

Ouch. I really feel for those who suffer from migraines.

MsSnarkyPants said...

Oh you poor thing!

I have them too but mine have never lasted more than a day and are not often at all. I do worry about the fact that the symptoms are exactly the same with stroke and migraine. Especially since I almost always get the auras!

M. said...

extremely evocative art. almost all made me physically cringe. i have learned about myself that the few times in my life i suffered a migraine, it was linked to stress and emotion.