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The wave

Completely Unofficial Made-Up Migraine Types: The Wave

Have you ever walked along the beach, your feet tracing the ever-changing line where water meets sand? Perhaps your flip-flops are in one hand and your pant legs are rolled up as high as they go (but the water will splash on them no matter how hard you try to prevent this).

The waves come in, and the waves recede.  With them you notice little tiny ghost crabs scurrying on the shore and then diving down into the wet sand.  Perhaps seaweed gets washed up, only to be whisked away with the next receding wave.  Your feet get wet, then dry, then wet, then dry, then SOAKED, then damp, then dry.  Some waves splash, while others barely make a ripple.

I couldn’t help but think of the ocean and its waves the other day as I tried to find the words to describe yet another Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Type.  This attack wasn’t like The Creeper, as it definitely made itself known when it was present and, when it was absent, I felt great.  And it wasn’t like The Bulldozer, as it wasn’t hard hitting when it was present.  I realized I was experiencing an entire new type of Made-Up Migraine Type: The Wave.

The Wave, generally speaking, is a gentle phenomenon.  (Think the Atlantic Coast as opposed to the Pacific.) For a few minutes, you are completely sure that a migraine is here, and if you were the teeniest bit less lazy, you would have walked over to your purse by now to either spray some topical magnesium spray or to bite the bullet and have your Imitrex.  Once you finally motivate yourself, you realize that the migraine—or whatever it was—is gone. You feel fine.  You might not feel incredible, but you no longer are experiencing the telltale signs of an attack.  “Weird,” you think.  “What was that?”

The tide has receded, but you’re not in the clear, as the waves will always come back.  And here it comes, nibbling at the shore, then rolling over you right as you relax into what you hope will be a healthy day.  Your eyes hurt just the tiniest bit, and you wonder if you’re experiencing an aura because you are having trouble verbalizing your thoughts—maybe it’s not migraine-related at all.  Maybe you’re just tired.  Then you feel tension in your neck and on the left side of your head, and right when you decide that yes, this is indeed a migraine and you need to grab your meds, you start to feel better again.

For me, The Wave is very rare—in recent memory, it has only happened twice.  But I found it so strange and hard to wrap my brain around (so to speak). To have a complete absence of pain and discomfort followed by what surely felt like a migraine followed by another symptom-free time was odd at best.

Have you ever experienced The Wave? Did you decide to take medication or not? How often, if ever, does this happen to you?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • KGriz
    4 years ago

    I have had this type of migraine for years. Whenever I describe it to a doctor they look at me like I have 3 heads. Glad to know I’m not alone.

  • Rachel Cooper
    5 years ago

    I feel like this almost every day. Great description. I often wonder how to treat them. My neurologist told me to take the maxalt when I get to a pain level of 5. This leaves me with a lot of unmedicated, miserable days.

    I will have pain on the right temple for a couple minutes, it goes away, then my left ear will hurt, then another spot. I have wondered if it’s more like an ice pick headache over & over.

  • Tammy
    5 years ago

    this describes exactly what I have been experiencing for several days now…. been wondering myself if I was crazy?!?!?

  • Barb N.
    5 years ago

    Well described. Sometimes, my wave will subside when I have a little snack, then just when I’m thinking I’m in the clear, here comes the next wave, and it usually gets worse with each wave until I reach for the Imitrex. Thanks for the very well written description.

  • Devi Bala
    5 years ago

    I get this type these days very often..For first two instances I try to restrict myself to pain balms (atleast I have that psychological feel that the smell of the balm dominates the pain)..but of course waves tend to come back..and push me to swallow a pain killer otherwise which it become unbearable.Also the wave forms doesn’t lead to the peak of symptoms like throwing up and vision problems which normally occurs during the Bulldozer type..that am getting it atleast once in a month..:(

  • kim716
    5 years ago

    Yes! I experience “the wave” quite often. A couple of times in the last couple of weeks actually. They usually aren’t severe enough for me to reach for meds. At most, I will rub on my peppermint stick – a peppermint oil infused balm which helps when the wave comes in.
    Even though these are “made up names” I’m glad to be able to put a name to what I’m feeling.

  • terry
    5 years ago

    Yes, I have experienced the very same type of thing and thought it very odd and did not know what to think of it. Sometimes, I would take meds for it and other times I wouldn’t. Please let me share some wonderful news and I hope this is going to help many people out there. I recently had an MRI because of my migraines, which luckily was normal. But, the new specialist put me on Vitamin B2 100mg. 4 tablets a day, along with Magnesium 250mg one a day. To my amazement I have not had one Migraine since I have been on this regimen of vitamins. I knock on wood every time I tell anyone about it, because I am so surprised, and I’m afraid if I say it out loud that they will come back. Silly I know, but you guys know what I mean. When you’ve had migraines for so many years and then vitamins take care of the problem, you’re like “No way it could be that simple and natural”. I am so thankful to this new doctor and I wanted to pass it along to all of you. Good luck to you and Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

  • MaryW
    5 years ago

    I have that exact type, ‘is it or isn’t it’. Gets so old, but at least I can function, not getting hammered. Fioricet works pretty well on these.

  • nicole
    5 years ago

    This describes the majority of my days, but then it can go to this to full out migraine in a very short amount of time and before I know it, it’s too late for Imitrex to be effective.

  • Beth
    5 years ago

    Yes…in fact, I’m having a wave right now!! First there was an aura…lasted only a few minutes. Nothing more for a while and now…I just turned down the tv because it’s too loud. Now that I know…will it continue as this wave or became the creeper?? So far, no real pain…just small little pokes.

  • EllenM
    5 years ago

    This happens to me quite a bit. Because it seems to be a milder version of my usual headaches I avoid taking Imitrex. I find that the less Imitrex I have to take, the better my overall condition is in terms of frequency. In this situation, I drink a lot of water when it starts and I take some Himalayan Sea Salt with lemon juice. Each time I feel a wave come on I repeat the salt/lemon combination. It may go on for a day or two but it gets me through it naturally. I don’t really understand why these waves happen; I am hoping it means that there’s overall improvement in my situation because they are less severe.

  • Anine
    5 years ago

    Yes, this is very well known to me. Im glad you shared this as i was thinking i was the only one experiencing this! Often i choose to medicate, even when the pain comes and goes in waves. The meds helps to keep it more stabile.

  • Alicia
    5 years ago

    I think this form best describes most of my migraines, actually. It’s a “is it or isn’t it”, “will it or won’t it” kind of thing.

    It acts like that, but then if I go too far on the “nope, don’t think it is!”, or do too much the next day, I’ll about half-drown falling in a tide pool (to continue the analogy).

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