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Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types: The Russian Nesting Dolls Migraine

Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types: The Russian Nesting Dolls Migraine

Yesterday* I woke up with an awful migraine. It was at least ten times worse than the modest migraine I’d gone to bed with, but, to make a very long story short, I wasn’t able to medicate just yet.  Once I was a little more functional, I drove to my bookshop to buy some coffee because—god forbid—we’d just run out at home.  This is not good news any day of the week, let alone a Sunday morning when Jim and I both had a lot of work and projects ahead of us.  Why would I drive to the bookstore for coffee, you wonder? Well, we sell it by the can.  (A local roaster, Jittery Joe’s, actually let me do a few months of taste testing until I decided on the perfect coffee. Pretty dreamy. But I digress.)

A few minutes later, I left the bookshop, which hadn’t opened for the day yet (another perk of owning a store: you can go in when it’s closed and get what you need). I ran into a handful of friends on the street, back to back.  I chatted with each and, unlike sometimes when I decide not to reveal my current health status, I told each I was dealing with a migraine.  What can I say? My guard was far from up and my person was disheveled enough to merit an explanation. Everyone was very kind and gently rushed me along.  “Don’t stand here talking to me,” one friend said, “go home and rest!” “And drink my coffee,” I joked.  “Yes, and drink your coffee!”

At last I was walking at a moderately fast pace (at least “fast” for being in the midst of a migraine) back to the car.  My brain felt slightly too small for my skull or something. It was like I had a skull within a skull, or a brain within a brain within a brain. Every step I took, the insides of my head jumped a bit and I suddenly had a very clear image of this rare but very distinct type of migraine I get sometimes: the Russian nesting doll migraine.

You know those carved wooden dolls that have a seam down their center? You remove the top half of the largest doll and there’s another inside.  You pull that one out and divide it in two, only to reveal another little wooden doll. And on and on until you reach the tiny doll at the very center.

That’s what this migraine felt like, and the minute I coined the term to myself I realized that this was not the first time I’d felt this way. The Nesting Dolls Migraine tends to pop up when I’ve had a few migraine episodes back to back; perhaps by default (since my menstrual migraines are bad and occur like clockwork), this type of migraine enters my life a lot when I’m having my period. My skull feels like a vessel for a series of smaller and smaller containers, all bumbling around and hurting a little each time they make contact with one another.

Has anyone out there felt this Nesting Dolls Migraine? It feels as if your skull is slightly too big for what lies inside it, and your brain is jiggling around in there, a little uncomfortable or perhaps even in pain when it moves and hits bone.  

Curious about the other types of attacks in my “Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types” series? Check“>this out.

*Note: This was written in fall 2015

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.


  • Stacy
    3 years ago

    I get these, it’s like my brain doesn’t fit my body. They are unusual for me as well as I am usually an ice pick in the side of my head migraine girl. Yay! The last three days I’ve had a vice grip on the base of my skull. All equally joyous to deal with.

  • lovems
    3 years ago

    Hi migraine girl!
    Hope you are having a good day. I can totally relate to what you are describing, I tell my husband that my brain feels like it’s being caged or crushed from my entire skull. Sharing your story helps to validate my experience. Thank you for contributing to the community and know you’ve got our support and understanding.

  • TorontoMigraineGal
    3 years ago

    I’ve had the multiple-wobbly head one for sure, the one I “invented” yesterday was the “nose stuffed up with my nose” one. It is when I’m having crazy sinus-y symptoms, and it feels like the bones in my face are expanding and pushing up against the skin so that my nose is literally stuffed up with my nose and I can’t breathe and the pressure is causing fluid to leak out of my nose and eyes! woot, fun times.

  • Cathy Cottrell
    3 years ago

    Oh my gosh!!!! I’ve tried to describe this exact feeling to my husband and son many times… Sometimes I feel as though my brain is wobbling around in my head! The nesting doll analogy is perfect! Hang in there!

  • ChronicM
    3 years ago

    I have had these many times. It’s at its worst when a footstep hurts. It got to a point that I started looking into cranial adjustment. Those, I guess, the anti-inflamatory meds worked for, kind of, & ice, sometimes. Mine change all the time. I haven’t had those in about a month. I agree I do feel like a Russian that is being nested inside of by unknown villians (or dolls).

    Side note: I really like that you said when you coined the term you realized you had them before & almost determined a pattern. This happens to me sometimes, I realize when I dont know tbat a new pain is from a migraine or made up or age, I tend to write it off as a sensation or nothing in common with others. I always come to realize later those were real & now they’ve happened enough that I’m noticing a habit/routine/pattern. I still have to learn to trust myself more.

    Chin up, we are all behind you, you’ve got this!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the affirming and kind reply, ChronicM! I hope you’re feeling well today. -Janet

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Janet,
    I am not sure if I’ve had this type of migraine, but it is such a great description of how weird migraines can be!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    I hope you never have one like this–they’re obnoxious! -Janet

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