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Completely Unofficial Made-Up Migraine Types: the Bulldozer

As someone who has dealt with migraines for two decades now, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in this sneaky, oft-unpredictable disease. I not only try to keep up with research by reading scientific articles, talking to experts in the field, and attending conferences: I also study myself in a completely unscientific way.

My powers of self-observation have allowed me to create what I call Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types. So far I’ve shared my opinions on The Creeper and The Wind Tunnel Headache with the audience, and it sounds as if many of you knew exactly what I was talking about even though my made-up types of migraine will be found in no scientific literature anywhere (at least by the names I call them!).

That introduction brings me to today’s post, which is all about The Bulldozer Migraine.

Let me set the scene for you: it’s a lovely day, and you’ve experienced the wonder of waking up relatively pain-free. You’re almost oddly enthusiastic about the day and don’t even groan much as you climb out of bed and into the shower. Your morning routine, which usually squeaks along for you (and can grind to a halt if you’re having a migraine) is going so smoothly. By noon, you’ve put in a few hours of work and decide to meet a friend out for lunch—this is a rare treat.

You and your friend sit at an outdoor café, marveling at the temperate weather and cloudless sky. All is feeling right with the world. You continue to feel such gratitude for your clear head, positive attitude, and lack of migraine.

And then.

A barely-audible rumble approaches you from the left. A sudden and profound sense of discomfort niggles its way into your head. “Something’s wrong,” you think out of the blue. “Did I forget something important? Something’s not right.” The woman at the table next to you gets up to go and, even though she’s been five feet away for the last hour, suddenly a whiff of her perfume seems to slap you across the face. The squeak of her chair on the outdoor patio feels like a knife in your grey matter.

“Are you okay?” your friend asks the very minute you realize what’s happening: YOU ARE BEING BULLDOZED BY THE BULLDOZER MIGRAINE.

Usually your migraines approach slowly and give you some warning, but not the bulldozer migraine. The bulldozer migraine rams into you when you least expect it, right when you think you’re in the clear and will have a pain-free day. The bulldozer migraine doesn’t give you time to head home and crawl into bed. The bulldozer migraine only gives you time to fumble around in your bag for some cash, tell your friend you’re not feeling well, and get out of there. Before you even make the five-minute drive home, your head is pounding.

Have you ever experienced what I describe as the Bulldozer Migraine? Have you been completely caught off-guard by a swift and sudden migraine attack? What is your name for this phenomenon?

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.


  • shell
    2 years ago

    I have experienced a “bulldozer” migraine. The worst migraines of all. I hate it cause usually I have warnings and can take measures but with this it seems to happen at the worst posible time

  • UKuser
    2 years ago

    Since I had migraine diagnosed in 2014 I’ve only experienced this type a couple of times but it completely knocked me sideways and I will never forget it!! I had been shopping with my son. I got home and began gathering ingredients to make spaghetti Bolognese when I literally had to abandon dinner and go to bed

  • headacheslayer
    5 years ago

    This is my worst enemy because I feel so sick, so awful, I can’t take meds and turn things of and get ice packs fast enough. I just read your different names….not that I share all of them. But yes yes yes. I don’t name mine (and while I’ve had migraines for 30 years, I’ve only had them near daily or daily for a decade). But I thought I was the only one who had “different types”. I’m sorry you have to endure migraines but I love your writing. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.

  • Devi Bala
    5 years ago

    Well explained article..and at least I have some names to call out what type I am experiencing every time. How you people are managing this type of attacks? Its pathetic that it never comes with announcements..and once I got it while walking on a busy road..When there is a Bulldozer attack I tend to have vision problems (haziness or blurred vision) coupled with severe ear pain that spreads from neck and in next 5 minutes I start throwing up..which is really tough when u dont expect and you are not at a place near to some rest rooms..:(

  • Sally
    5 years ago

    I think the most difficult thing about this type of migraine is that you are under the illusion that all is well. You feel great so you go do that activity you’ve been putting off. Then BAM, you get smacked with the worst pain ever. And for me, many times the triptans won’t work on this headache, at least not totally. And then it makes me hesitate to go something the next time.

  • TracyM09
    5 years ago

    Oh my goodness, this happens to me a lot with scents! I mean you can’t plan when a scent is going to come to you, or when you’re going to walk through one etc…. I was in Walmart on a remarkably good Migraine day until I walked through a cloud of men’s cologne in the cracker aisle! I was destroyed from several angles, my head tightened, my left nostril began to run and the spike behind my left eye was sprung! I had to get out of there immediately because there were suddenly too many people, lights, noise….I was Bulldozed! What an excellent name, Bulldozer!

  • Susan L
    5 years ago

    What a great name for these! I would have to simply call mine the O My God Headache because I go from almost no pain to grabbing my head in AGONY groaning “oh my God” in someone else’s voice in about 60 seconds. Light usually sets them off, & generally from my computer since we have a small home business. I do wear dark sunglasses. They are killer migraines, as are all of mine these days. So sorry for all of you experiencing such cruelty on top of cruelty!

  • tina gascon
    5 years ago

    Most of my “attacks” are the BULLDOZER, but I call them the “baseball bat”. They come on instantainiously and feel like someone literally hit me with a baseball bat.

  • marlenerossman
    5 years ago

    My neurologist said the technical name is thuderclap migraine.
    It hits you like a ton of bricks, from out of no where.
    I had one and she told me to go to the ER the next time it happens. She also made me get yet another MRI to make sure it was not a stroke or some other dangerous happening.

    I get them low and slow, I get thunderclaps, I get 5am “get up and drag myself to the toilet to vomit.” I get all kinds, so I never know how, where or when a migraine will hit me.

  • Still Smiling
    5 years ago

    I totally recognise this. For me loss of consciousness and I’ll find.that I’ll be feeling great with no symptoms and next thing I know I’ll be picking myself up off the floor and having to contend with a full blown migraine and all it’s associated symptoms! These are my worst and scariest as I could be anywhere doing anything: (…..

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    You mentioned that your dog often knows you are going to get a Migraine before you do. What exactly happens? Is your dog trained at all? Animals are amazing creatures and provide a lot of comfort to those who spend a lot of time living in solitude from this disease. I’m very curious to learn more about how your pet helps you.

  • bluebird
    5 years ago

    I call the Bulldozer getting “Slammed”. These events are they scariest in the form Still Smiling describes. I haven’t seen other people describe this on the forum and so I am relieved to know someone else has this experience and is being told it is Migraine. Of course, I am sorry anyone else is suffering.
    My dog knows before I do, that I a about to get Slammed and that can help me adapt. Unfortunately, I have had little success with RX.I was in the epilepsy unit for days, but did not get a diagnosis of seizure disorder. Yet it feels like a seizure coming on so suddenly and leaving me unable to communicate or to move. Sometimes, I know I am “going down” and lose awareness. I look like I am asleep. Suddenly I return to wakefulness but often I feel as If I have hit a wall.
    As a result, I have found my life contracted profoundly because I am afraid to drive or to be in a public situation and have events like this. I feel so Vulnerable! It has made making commitments to anything that costs money…like going to school or training…or concerts…seem impractical. It has made sustaining friendships challenging.
    The greatest challenge of Migraine is the Unpredictable Arbitrary nature of these events.

  • Dee
    5 years ago

    I got one of these yesterday evening and it has not let up. Cooking dinner and BAM! out of no-where. The trigger was obvious though – hunger. Migraines are a pain!! I have had to cancel plans for today (a Sunday) because of it’s magnitude.

  • body
    5 years ago

    I know it as “the boomer”! Catches me completely by surprise, and even though I have my migraines under control now and it happens very rarely, it leaves me wondering what I did to trigger it :).

  • Lynnekinnison
    5 years ago

    I too have these!! Often times I am not able to drve. I have to call for help and have my great husband come rescue me. Odor does it a lot!! Does anyone have like an echo effect migraine?? I feel like noise or smells become noise and they echo around INSIDE my skull. As if there was nothing in there and it keeps bouncing from one side to the other?? IFI can’t intervene fast enough days are just gone with no memory.

  • kim716
    5 years ago

    I know the Creeper well and I know the Bulldozer well. I love having names for these. I would have to say that more often than not my migraines are bulldozers. I will be going through my day, minding my own business. Then… BAM! I’ve been run over by something and I’m left in pain, looking around for whatever it was that caused it.

  • Vicki
    5 years ago

    Yep, I know this one! Mine come in all shapes and sizes too. The ONLY consistency, and so-called “warning” I get is when the light starts bothering me, especially headlights. But, of course, the insurance company won’t allow me to become an Imitrex addict, lol.

  • Amber Carter
    5 years ago

    I hate the “Bulldozer” migraines. I can be having such a great day when all of a sudden, BOOM!

  • Amber Carter
    5 years ago

    I hate the “Bulldozer” migraines. I can be having such a great day when all of a sudden, BOOM!!

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