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Completely unofficial, made-up migraine types: the wind tunnel

Completely unofficial, made-up migraine types: the wind tunnel

Completely Unofficial, made-up migraine types: the wind tunnel headache

Like most of us, I cannot say for sure when I began having migraines. I wrote about what I now think may have been my first major migraine attack, but even before that I had aches and discomfort that none of my other friends seemed to experience.

My most distracting and memorable headaches of childhood and adolescence were what I still think of as the “wind tunnel” headaches. I recall trying to explain the feeling to a friend who wanted to know why that day’s headache felt different from the occasional tension headaches we were all accustomed to by early adolescence.  I said something to the effect of, “It’s like the left side of my head has been hollowed out, but not with a knife or anything.  It’s just that there’s a long, thin tunnel that goes from the front of my head to the back. And then cold wind is blowing through it.”


Um. Okay.  I can see how, to someone who’s never had migraine disease or another type of serious headache disorder wouldn’t know what in the world I was talking about. I don’t remember the pain being severe enough that I really needed others to understand— it was more of a nagging feeling that something was off with me, but it was never so bad back then that I couldn’t continue with my day.

Once I became an adult, this particular brand of migraine episode fell by the wayside.  Until I reached my thirties, I’d thought of the wind tunnel headache as something of the past. I imagine, in particular, the field behind my elementary school where we had PE each day. We’d have to run laps around the baseball backstops to warm up, and when I was in sixth or seventh grade I would sometimes experience the wind tunnel headaches while running. It wasn’t until I saw a friend’s utterly confused face when I mentioned the windy discomfort in my brain that I realized I was the only one who was feeling that way.

For whatever reason, the wind tunnel headache/migraine has staged a return in the last year or so.  I’ve been getting a lot of migraines lately, and about every fifth or sixth one is a wind tunnel headache. As I’m typing, I’m waiting (perhaps in vain?) for my triptan to kick in to rid me of this migraine attack.  The wind is back, cutting straight through the hole in my head that runs from my left eyeball to the nape of my neck. The cool wind is blowing slowly but steadily, making the exposed part of my brain feel as if it has hairs standing on end.

Have you ever experienced this totally unofficial type of migraine, or have you had pain and discomfort that mimic this pattern?  Why do you think some attacks feature the wind tunnel headache and some do not?  Have you ever tried to describe the sensation to another person?

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

Comments

  • Marjorie Kast
    2 years ago

    I’ve had a swooshing tunnel occurrences from left to right…only a few times, but such a weird feeling. As the years have passed, the mounting migraine symptoms are astounding…it’s unusual to have a “normal” day!!

  • UKuser
    2 years ago

    OMG I never thought anyone would be able to describe it. Thanks for sharing ☺

  • TracyM09
    5 years ago

    My “Wind Tunnel” Migraine has this weird air chopping sound, sort of like a helicopter noise. It’s not so much painful as it is nauseating. I’ve gone so far as to get Bose Headphones to play Migraine music to override the helicopter chopping sound. They seem to go ear to ear through my head, not behind my eyes like the others. Just covering my ears doesn’t work at all, I have to override it.

  • Stacy
    5 years ago

    I call these headaches ‘the biter’ because it literally feels like something is biting the inside of my head. I feel the pain all around my head and inside my temple. It is just so piercingly painful it’s really indescribable.

  • Gator
    5 years ago

    I call them chock line headaches. I have other pain in my head almost all the time but I get these chock line type things almost daily and sometimes they hurt so bad I will be on the floor in tears. The real bad portion of the pain will last for about 10-30 seconds and then go away and then leave a hull sharp pain in its place for hours. I was put on a med that is commonly used for arthritis that is known to help with these type of headaches and it does help them not be so severe when they hit. I can hide most migraines from people real well but these chock line things I cant hide because they are so bad.

  • barthhead
    5 years ago

    One type of migraine I get feels similar to this. However, instead of an actual wind tunnel, I’ve described it to myself as an air vacuum, almost that a section on one side of my head from the back of my eyeball thru my temple and back has had a powerful hoover hooked to it and sucked the air out and left it so very dry, like a painfully dry sinus but in the entirely wrong area of my head. Very different from my other type, which feels like instant immense pressure in that same area, like something is trying to push my eyeball out of my head. This has gotten so bad I’ve pressed cold rags to my eye with enough force that I’ve given myself a few black eyes (scared hubby a bit!!) These types of pain seem different, yet other symptoms between 2 remain fairly close.

  • lynn
    5 years ago

    This is almost exactly how mine feel. A tunnel of pain running from the corner of my eye or browbone, through my brain the base of my skull. It’s like the pain from an icecream headache without the cold. That incredibly intense ache. You nailed it!

  • tucker
    5 years ago

    I used to get the “axe slicing my head down the middle” migraines. They would start at about the bridge of my nose and go straight down my hairline to the nape of my neck.

    Now the majority of them are on the right side with the most pain in my temple and the back of my head, where it feels like someone has taken that axe and left it dangling at an odd angle back there-just a bit off center to the right.

    Yes, it’s funny how we describe our pain. But I also get that wind tunnel thing. For some crazy reason, at random times, and almost every time I work at one of our 3 stores, I get a stuffy ear. It doesn’t hurt, but it drives me batty hearing my voice “inside” my head, esp if both ears do it. And what makes that one location make my ear stuff up? Crazy.

  • Tammy Privett
    5 years ago

    I didnt realize this was a migraine, I aways have this after the pain goes away and just thought it was because the pain was so bad . Thanks for sharing

  • Amie Marie
    5 years ago

    I have read several different names of migraines on here with a smile. Not because I am happy someone else is going through it too, but knowing I wasn’t the only one to give them names helped me feel more normal. In the past year and a half I have went from managed 95% of the time (since I was about 7) to chronic with no real management at 34. I started reading the weekly newsletter about the time I started seeing my latest (hopefully last) neurologist. It helped encourage me not to use the terms we are taught to use, they don’t really describe all of the different things that we feel anyways. I described more like I was writing for the “Completely unofficial, made-up migraine types…”

  • Amie Marie
    5 years ago

    Sorry, hit enter to soon. He understood and wanted me to always describe them in this sort of way! I really scored with him.

  • Hennie Duits
    5 years ago

    Fine and clear description by Janet of her (migraine) sensation, and I’d like to encourage people to write down, or at least think of, similar descriptions of their own “sensations as if” (not just the pain, or the head, but also other “sensations”). Should you ever decide to consult a classical homeopath for your migraine, such descriptions will be true gems for him/her, the more detailed and exact, the better. The sensation as given by Janet only has two remedies, one of which *might* be the remedy she personally needs for her migraine (because we all have our very own and personal migraine).

  • Newdancerco
    5 years ago

    This is a new one for me. My typical description of my “normal” migraine (I have chronic daily migraine, so it is literally my normal, lol) is the lightning storm.
    The storm clouds hover in my occipital lobes and shoot lightning up and over into my temples. It is almost always bilateral n or rather it “floats” bilaterally. If it hurts worse on my left and I lay down on my left side (or even put pressure on it, though laying down is best), the clouds of pain will float to the right side to escape the attempt at soothing them away.

    I do realize that migraine is not sentient, though I often think and talk about the disease and the pain as if they are allied forces deliberately making decisions and strategic plans to maximize my downtime and minimize my ability to function!
    Amy

  • leichelb
    5 years ago

    Interesting story but nope I have never had any thing that has ever come close to anything that I would describe in that manner. I have migraines for almost 40 years now beginning in my very early twenties. Have had auras with and without headaches, memory loss, vision loss, and chronic migraines now. I have had buzzing in my head but nothing like wind. Sorry.

  • afinkel
    5 years ago

    Interesting description! I often get migraines where it feels like the top of my head has been scooped out, like with a large spoon. It just feels like a huge hole.

  • Tammy Kammer-Anderson
    5 years ago

    To me- this is my “cluster headache” – piercing pain behind the left eye to the nape of my neck. There is a nerve that is irritated that causes that hollowed out feeling paired with my eye feeling like it could auto-eject from its socket at anytime. I keep one of those beauty eye cover patches (yes it’s pink) in the freezer, and if it’s not cold enough I prop a bag of frozen peas at the base of my neck. Even eating something cold helps me with the wind-tunnel effect.

  • rrpjr
    5 years ago

    I appreciate your description. Describing migraines can be an exercise in metaphor, even dark poetry. I have tried for years to find the words for my particular feeling, which is definitive and entirely distinct from the “garden-variety” headache or neuralgia I generally live with. The “wind tunnel” is close. I feel also a sense of emptiness or empty space, but more in the vein of a bladder within my head being slowly inflated with cold air. It is not actually painful at first, and only a faint pressure, more a “presence,” one I know is installing itself in my head, my entire being, for the next 36 to 48 hours. The world around me looks different, filtered through this “presence.” And my place in it feels different. I feel as if I’m slipping into a penumbra — there but not really there, in the shadows, out-of-body and watching myself. It is surreal. Light is absorbed differently. The pain comes and builds slowly — entirely on the right-side.

  • Kittypride
    5 years ago

    I call these my Ice Pick migraines. It feels as though something sharp was suddenly stabbed through my left temple then going behind my left eye to the back of my neck. It will repeat the sharp stabbing feeling on and off in random patterns. It also feels cold inside my head.

  • Buffi
    5 years ago

    I call them ice pick migraines, too! My mom always calls hers “the hat pin.” I am always so relieved to come here & read that I’m not the only one who experiences this. Nice to know I’m not crazy!

  • Cindy McMillan
    5 years ago

    Oh, yeah. Every time I have tried to come up with an explanation for it, the first thing I think of is cluster headaches. But since I also get those, I know that’s not it. It feels completely different, even if it sounds similar when described. The wind entering the eyeball and battering it’s way to the base of my neck sounds much better. Maybe I’ll be able to describe it to my neurologist better next time I see him.

  • stravi
    5 years ago

    Hi Janet, I have experienced wind tunnel headaches for years. I’ve had 3 this week already. Sometimes just breathing really cold air will trigger mine.
    I do know exactly what you are describing and can sympathize completely.

  • Stacy Weichel
    5 years ago

    These types of migraines are what I call my Antarctic Migraines. They sound like I am standing in the middle of the frozen tundra with a raging wind. I hate when it starts because it will last for hours, if not days. They are so frustrating when they start and for some reason when I have this happening I am hyper sensitive to other sounds.

  • janenez
    5 years ago

    My unofficial type is “the magic 8 ball” migraine. My brain feels like it’s floating inside my head. I turn my head and my brain slashes too far and the has to self-correct. It’s a painful sloshing. Makes me dizzy and nauseated too.

  • Syeager
    5 years ago

    No, never. But I absolutely love your description and enjoy reading your “Completely, unofficial made-up migraine types” segments. I hope that you find someone else who has experienced this. I know the comfort that one can find when someone can identify with your pain.

    Just this week I received my first Toredol Injection for a migraine. After 10 minutes, the doctor came back to check on me and asked how I was feeling. I said “Okay, maybe kinda light headed, kinda strange, but I will be okay.” He looked at me so kindly and explained that sometimes when he has had a really bad migraine and had one of these injections it kinda feels like a balloon that that is being deflated in front of his head. Like maybe the air is being sucked out. And that was exactly how I felt! It felt so amazing to connect with someone like that, for them to tell me how I felt! And for it to be my doctor no less, was such a treat.
    Keep up the great articles. They are such an inspiration, and keep me going. Thank you.

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