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The things I take for granted-bending down

Like most of you reading this right now, I have had way more than my fair share of migraine attacks (let’s face it: having even just one is probably more than anyone’s “fair share,” but we won’t go there right now). One might call me a migraine episode expert if you consider the fact that I’ve had frequent migraines for twenty years now and that my migraines change from episode to episode, giving me a wide range of symptoms and experiences.

All that considered, you’d probably assume that I try to live life to the fullest on my migraine-free days, that I really don’t take for granted any of the aspects of my life that are cut off from me when I am sick.

This assumption, my friends, is not always true.

It’s usually during a particularly rough migraine attack that I realize just how much Healthy Janet takes for granted. Case in point: bending down.

In October of this year, I spent about ten days in California for various weddings of friends and family members. Thankfully, I was virtually migraine-free during the festivities; unfortunately, I was sick with migraine on the days between the weddings. Jim and I rented this little apartment in L.A. for a few days between our commitments, ostensibly so he could roam around the city while I spent a couple of days working. Surprise, surprise: that plan did not come to fruition. Instead, I spent most of the days I’d set aside to work and write feeling totally sick and migrainey instead.

On a Wednesday, I attempted to do some menial tasks that wouldn’t tax my tired brain too much. I’d taken my Imitrex and was hoping it’d kick in with few side effects so I could get to work soon, but in the meantime I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. Still, there was work to be done and lying down didn’t make me feel much better, so why not sit at this little desk and do some necessary but easy tasks?

Everything was going okay—albeit at a snail’s pace—until I dropped my pen. Without giving my actions much thought, I immediately bent down to pick it up and couldn’t believe the sensation. A loud and powerful wave of what felt like blood rushed to my head, storming my ears as if I were being held under water. My head bobbed involuntarily and I am sure I uttered some curse word under my breath. My vision started to blank out in little black bursts—sort of like the inverse of fireworks, where instead of explosions of light against a dark sky I saw explosions of dark against the room.

As soon as I realized I wasn’t going to faint, I thought to myself, “Wow. Bending over is hard. My healthy self totally takes this for granted.” Later Jim (my partner, who is also a migraineur) and I talked about how tricky migraine attacks can be, how sometimes you think you’re on the mend until—all of a sudden—you do something that Healthy You could pull off without a hitch but Migraine You can barely suffer through. In my case, bending down to pick something off the floor shot off so much discomfort, pain, and dizziness that I couldn’t help but be shocked back into the reality of my migraine attack. I ended up sitting on the couch for awhile, abandoning even my petty little work tasks until the medication began to set in.

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.


  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    thank you for this. Bending down or over or squatting can produce a migraine. When I have a migraine and I do one of these things, I feel like my head will explode. I am exploring all avenues of tx.

  • Sharon M
    6 years ago

    Hi, MG, & all,
    The blood rushing part of that sounds similar to what happens to me with some headaches when I move up or down too fast, and also with many headaches it happens if I just move too fast, or even move, period. I call it “motion sensitivity.” Small movements feel like I’m going 90 miles an hour, but the pain hits after the movement.

    Unfortunately, motion is also a trigger for me. When I was a kid, riding on a swing or a merry-go-round (forget any other amusement rides) or sometimes the car would
    do it. Later any circular motion (forget folk dancing). Now any movement that is too fast…and if it involves a turn I’m really in trouble. I found out the hard way I can’t sit in the front passenger seat – instant full blown headache right out of the the blue.

    Anyhow, I’ve learned to avoid, and try to pace myself. Especially have to be careful on the days I’m feeling good.

  • Kari Froelicher
    6 years ago

    I can relate to this also. I have to be careful pretty much all the time in bending down, especially putting my head down too far. I don’t experience all those same symptoms she describes but it could well trigger a migraine even when I am feeling well.

  • ninjaqutie
    6 years ago

    When I have a migraine, I avoid bending over at all costs for that very reason. My head does not pass the parallel plane of the floor. My husband questioned my odd movements at first, but now he has picked up on my quirky movements as a sign I have a headache. I also use this as a migraine test too. If I have a headache and want to know if it is approaching migraine territory (I often cannot tell), I will bend over and see what happens. If I experience anything like you did (on a small level even), I know I am on my way towards a migraine. If I don’t, then I often leave well enough alone and just “deal” with the headache.

  • khaug
    6 years ago

    I can totally relate to this one. If I am “on the edge” of a migraine, meaning just not feeling “right”, and I bend over, there it is, an abrupt pain in my head that starts the cascade of a migraine. I now know better to prophylax with my rescue meds prior to doing any major house or lawn work. This approach works really well for me.

  • tucker
    6 years ago

    I totally appreciate this. Just a few days ago, I woke up with what I thought was maybe the beginnings of an eye infection. I have been having problems with either a minor cold or a big onslaught of allergies since raking leaves about a week ago. My eye hurt like dickens when I woke up but I had to go to work. When I got off in the afternoon, I came home and dozed for a while with a cool cloth on my eyes. I woke up with really blurry vision in that eye – like vaseline blurry. I was pretty freaked out and since it was the weekend- it was not really a day to call the eye doc or PCP and just ask about it.

    I tried the wetting drops I use for dry eyes, they helped a bit and after another hour or so (and some internet investigation which I determined I probably didn’t need an ER visit) it got better. I went to the grocery store and what do you know. I was barely there 1/2 hour when all the usual migraine symptoms started. By the time I came home I put the refrigerated stuff away and took meds b/c it was full on.

    I do have an appt with the neuro in a couple weeks so I’ll tell her about this new symptom. But it was pretty scary for the better part of the day. Back when I was getting my BP meds adjusted for a heart condition, I used to faint quite a bit or “near-faint” with the black or white vision (which was way creepier and my Cardiologist never seemed to understand the “white lights”). Thankfully that rarely happens now and I have a rescue med when my BP is low. It is not a fun feeling.

    I, too, take my healthy days for granted-but maybe b/c “healthy” means “I feel much better today than most days”. I’ve given up on telling anyone about the pain I live in – I HAVE told them (ie family and docs) but really, there is nothing they can do. Not all of it is headache pain. It is much better some days and I know it is. Internally I am well aware of my body on the days I feel cruddy but the only way people know is if I am cranky or short tempered. I suppose this is the season to be thankful for the good days. But honestly, often we are just trying to live our life every day.

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