What else ya got? On having migraine AND other health conditions
Until I reached puberty, I was a very healthy kid. I didn’t eat fantastically well or anything, but I was thin and exercised a lot (usually just through playing and by swimming competitively), and I spent a lot of time outdoors exploring and indoors reading. I’m sure my mom and dad might remember differently, but I don’t recall having any significant health problems growing up apart from recurring psoriasis and the occasional childhood virus.
Now, at thirty-five, I alternate between feeling as if I am a relatively healthy person and feeling as if I have been dealt a crappy hand. Though viruses take their toll every once in awhile, my main health issues related to my chronic illnesses: migraine and psoriatic arthritis. If I’m particularly fatigued one day, it’s not technically possible to know for sure if it’s related to typical tiredness due to a busy week or if it’s part and parcel of my arthritis or a sign that a migraine is on its way (or has just left the building). Is my lower back hurting because I somehow bent down to pick something up in a less-than-optimal way, or is it because pain on the lower spine can be a trademark sign of psoriatic arthritis?
If you’re reading any article on this site about migraine, chances are you have it, or one of your loved ones does. I won’t go into more detail about living with migraine right now. I can tell you a little about psoriatic arthritis, which is the illness that waxes and wanes and, unfortunately, is waxing right now (neck pain, low back pain, joint aches, fatigue). I’ve talked to many migraineurs who have join pain, mobility problems, and/or even a formal diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (which is very similar). In addition to joint pain and tightness, my typical arthritis flares come along with chest/rib pain when I breathe in deeply or lie on my left side—this is due to inflammation in the muscles there, and it’s a figurative pain as well as a literal one.
When I am in an arthritis flare, I know I am lucky compared to many others who have the same diagnosis—my flares, thus far, have been relatively mild and I can live my life during them. Many people I’ve talked to are bedridden during arthritis flares, and I send my admiration and sympathy to them. Unfortunately, an arthritis flare that involves neck and back pain and fatigue can almost always help trigger migraines, making me kind of a mess. Those of you who have read my articles on this site for years know that, for me, migraines wax and wane as well. Some episodes are mild, and others knock me flat for a week at a time, unable to function at all. And sometimes I go several days in a row without an attack!
In talking with many migraine patients, I have come to realize that nearly all of us—at least the talkative ones I happen to encounter—are dealing with more diagnoses than just migraine.
So tell me: what other illnesses or health struggles do you face? In your experience, how do your conditions affect one another? How is your life impacted by these other diagnoses as compared with how it’s affected by migraine, and how do the illnesses affect your day-to-day life?
Have you taken our Migraine In America Survey yet?