Strange symptoms

The strange early signs of a migraine attack

Some of the earliest signs of a migraine attack are less obvious, even to people with migraine. It’s important to identify these early symptoms in the prodrome stage, as early detection can affect how well treatment works against an attack. We asked our Facebook community if they have any unusual early migraine signs, and here’s what you told us (you can view the complete list here):

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  • tucker
    3 months ago

    I find I have to go to the bathroom (pee) constantly the day before or the day of a big migraine. And that morning I often have diarrhea-quite annoying if I’m trying to get to work and don’t make the connection until the migraine hits in the afternoon.

    I also have the cold nose but associated it with my cold office and then getting a migraine from staring at a computer all day and being stressed out by certain coworkers. Maybe the cold nose was from the migraine, not just the cold office!

    In or out of the office though, I will smell things- esp bread/toast, chocolate (like when you heat chocolate) and then yucky smells like cigarettes and garbage/fermented fruit or old yogurt containers that no one else smells. I used to think that my bad eyesight was compensated by a way better sense of smell and hearing. Ha! Jokes on my stomach. Those yucky smells and body odor or bad breath can really send my nausea into high gear which starts a more vicious head pain cycle.

    It’s odd how you don’t think about certain things until someone else says hey…

  • cosmicdork
    4 months ago

    When I was a kid, I didnt really make any distinction between the types of migraines or headaches I was getting. I just remember getting sick in class, going to the nurse’s office, and vomiting and sleeping. This happened a LOT throughout my elementary years. Summers were worse because the box fan my dad set up in my bedroom window didnt take much of the edge off, but cold compresses to my forehead would help.

    As a child, I do remember yawning a lot; having a sensitivity to: bright light, smells, hot temperatures (on/around my head, specifically); being incredibly tired – etc.

    These are still signs that a migraine is coming, but the warnings have extended to include mood swings and a strange.. twinge? It feels like that strange sound/vibration of a dry manilla rope being pulled taut – a creaking of rope. I dont hear the sound, though I could almost swear I do, but it is an intense, quick sensation that feels like it happens somewhere inside my brain. I know that I wouldn’t be able to sense anything that actually happened inside my brain matter, but the sensation is still perceived as having come from there. It only happens once in a while, and not for every attack. It isnt always in the same place. But when it happens I stop what I’m doing and chug some water and also a beverage with added electrolytes, turn off any overhead, bright, unnatural lighting that I am able to work without, and if I haven’t eaten recently I’ll make myself eat some plain white rice. I have found that this helps curb the migraine and it usually passes more quickly, if it even properly hits at all.

    As I mentioned, as a child I never discerned between types of migraines or headaches, but I saw a neurologist a few years back due to a chronic, prolonged attack. My neurologist said it was presenting as migraines, but that I was having them in clusters with some symptoms of cluster headaches. He labeled it “cluster migraines” and apologized that he couldn’t be more specific because I was having migraine symptoms (nausea, heightened sensitivity to light and sounds, pain in temples and along one side of head to back of neck, inability to speak clearly) and the severity and physical symptoms of cluster headaches (waking the same time each morning for multiple days in a row with sharp headache, inability to sit or lay still due to pain, sweating, over stimulated sinuses with clear sinus discharge on one side, feeling of a intense shooting pain behind one eye, inability to control expression of pain, thoughts of suicide to cease pain).

    Cluster migraines aren’t a “thing” as far as I’m aware. So I felt a bit let down. But he did prescribe Verapamil, a blood pressure medicine that has had good results in preventative migraine AND cluster headache treatment. That has made a huge difference for me and my overall regular migraines have decreased, as well as the frequency of those weird cluster headaches with additional migraine features.

    I don’t have any warnings to the cluster type migraines except timing. They do appear to align with stages of my menstrual cycle. Usually a week before menstruation I’ll have a short run of cluster migraine headaches OR just a three day run of depressive migraines where my existence is literally just sleeping or vomiting, and being completely weak and exhausted.

    I apologise for the long post with several tangents from the “prodrome symptoms” topic. I’m sure everyone has a lot to unpack as migraines vary so much from person to person.

  • AB727PDX
    5 months ago

    Almost always, yawning is my prodromal symptom of a migraine. To make matters worse, I experience jaw/TMJ pain to compound it and its like a “chicken/egg scenario.” Which started first; the jaw/TMJ pain or the yawning”

  • aurohra
    5 months ago

    I smell overwhelming scents before a migraine – dust, smoke, mold – it’s either a strange sign of migraine attack (the smell doesn’t exist) or the smells are real and they’re a trigger for me. I have asked other people before and no one else can smell it

  • verav927
    7 months ago

    Sneezing is one sign for me . I sneeze and after I few hours I will get the migraine . Although surprising while I have experiencing my migraine if I sneeze it also heals my migraine in a few hours . This might be related to my migraine induced allergies.

  • grubbmcc
    8 months ago

    I also get the mixed up words (or forgetting them all together). The burnt toast smell is when I know for sure one is coming. I thought I was crazy about smelling things!

  • DLehrious
    9 months ago

    I find that I will often be ultra sensitive to noise. It doesn’t even have to be loud. Just a normal conversation level seems much louder to me and very irritating. I’ve began to learn that sign and know that (probably) a migraine is in the works and will come to fruition within the next 12-24 hours.

  • jeaninew
    10 months ago

    I had a change in my migraine symptoms this past month. I woke up migraine took my sumatriptan and went back to bed. Woke up about an hour later headache was better , but lingering in the back of my head. As I went through the day it stayed . Toward 5 it intensified again but I also had numbness with a strange sensation on the left side of my face. It felt like my face was drooping but it wasn’t. This numbness last for 2 days
    Even after the headache past. Saw my Neuro the other day day and she believes it is the migraines changing but wants to get a new MRI just to rule out stroke.

  • altag
    12 months ago

    My teeth feel like they are shifting (like having braces), I get a feeling of water up the nose (like jumping in a pool, with nose unplugged), and sometimes my nose or an eye will swell.

  • DawnBailey
    1 year ago

    I have tinnitus, and just before a migraine it becomes louder. I don’t have an aura, and most of my migraines hit all at once, so catching them early in onset is difficult for me. I’ll have to pay attention to yawning. It would be great to have another pre migraine warning sign.

  • altag
    12 months ago

    Me too.

  • BrendaWW
    3 years ago

    My early symptoms are confusion, mixing up my words and my green eyes become glassy & “drunk” looking. Next might come the smell of burnt toast, aura, light sensitivity & lastly is head pain. Nausea used to be a huge part, but has almost disappeared as I entered my 40’s.

  • 1eba4tp
    3 years ago

    Was in hospital last year for loss of feeling in my legs ,arms, and hands,face and feet.Spent 9 weeks on the couch at home cause I could hardly lift my feet too walk and needed help to do most normal personal things.Had MRI nothing to be seen , ended up with walking frame for another three weeks then the head pain eased off and everything just went back too normal.Still get mild numbness and tingling as I have for 30 odd years but nothing like that.

  • 1eba4tp
    3 years ago

    Before I have a migraine I become hyperactive and mentally overactive.I cant stop talking,working, laughing etc,manic.Then I get the migraine if it is not one of my three day ones and only what I call easy which means I can still do some things I become a monster.I get really nasty and say some really horrible ,mean things to the people I love more than life itself.I know I am doing it I just cant stop.If I have a chronic one which is usually more the case I do the catastrophic thinking while I am suffering in bed , then when I surface I have severe depression for at least four days after.

  • Sandyjparrott
    3 years ago

    I would get “shooting stars” – I would see bright “shooting stars” across my field of vision about an hour or two before a migraine started. They would only last for a few seconds but were enough of a warning to try and prepare or take steps to try and fight off the onset.

  • ft217
    2 years ago

    Yes, I always say my eyes are hopping. Those bright spots dance for me rather than shoot.

  • MargoW
    3 years ago

    Sometimes I notice that I start yawning more. Mostly I have to rely on auras and hope that I get them so I can get some place safe before the migraine hits. I now have about 15 different auras so that part is interesting anyway. Unfortunately I get migraines 5-7 days a week every week so I don’t have many breaks and lost my job because I was missing so much work. It didn’t matter that I had a registered disability and a reasonable accommodation in place, I still lost my job due to downsizing. Now in fighting for short-term and long-term disability insurance benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. All the paperwork and appeals isn’t helping with the migraines, but what can I do?

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    I have brain fog before as well as half my face feeling numb. The first time numbness happened my husband rushed me to hospital. They thought I was having a stroke!! Now I know but it’s really scary because my eye doesn’t respond. Add in the brain fog, no wonder they thought I was stroking out!!

  • mommabear
    4 years ago

    Dont know if anyone has experienced this but I can sometimes tell when I’m going to get a migraine by my speech. I have a hard time saying what I need to say, I miss pronounce words and talk slowly.

  • DawnBailey
    1 year ago

    I have this problem too, but never put it together with migraine onset. Another signal to watch for. Thanks for sharing.

  • ft217
    2 years ago

    Yes, I find that compound words are reversed, i.e. towel paper. I also find that I will use the wrong word, but my husband has noticed that the misused word is always alphabetically shy of the correct word. For example, “ball” instead of “bill”, ba being alphabetically before bi. He always knows when it is coming before I do. He says my blue eyes turn grey.

  • Falcon6
    2 years ago

    Yes! Slurred speech or mumble, lost words or use the wrong words.. I work in an elementary school, so it makes me look pretty bad when this happens. I have other warning signs, they take turns to keep it interesting I guess. I never know which symptom will show itself before a migraine. The newest.. diarreah. Ugh…

  • 1eba4tp
    3 years ago

    Yep I start to speak like a New Zealander,I actually come from Australia we speak very differently.I say I’m been possessed by my Kiwi mate again ,those close to me know its a sign of whats to come.Or sometimes I cant pronounce simple English words ,or I stutter , or cant think of the words needed to say what I want to say.Yep can talk like we have had a stroke or heart attack .I found out with my migraines at lot of this is inherited from my ancestors we traced a line thru four generations of sufferers in our family on one side.The migraines are I’m told called Familial Hemi-Plegic.Not sur if I spelt that right.So many symtoms involved its ridiculous.

  • grubbmcc
    8 months ago

    I forget words as well. It’s embarrassing because I am a high school teacher and I have an advanced degree, but I can’t remember the word “sink.”

  • MargoW
    3 years ago

    The first time that happened to me, I completely freaked out and thought in was having a stroke. Now I’m used to it and son are my friends and family so it’s not so bad.

  • stacysillen
    4 years ago

    Topamax is an anti-convulsant and I got Osteoporosis and osteo-penia from 5-6 years of taking it. So beware and at the least please do bone-strengthening exercises from the get go. Beware it’s not listed in the info packet that comes with the bottle, but it is well known among some doctors and bone scan folks.

  • 1eba4tp
    3 years ago

    Thankyou for the info.I have been on it for six years and had no idea.I have masses of pain happening in hands,wrists , feet ,etc.

  • MargoW
    3 years ago

    I got strange bone growth in my mouth – extra bone on the inside and outside of my lower jaw. I had to have surgery to have it removed and it was so painful! Then I got kidney stones and had to have emergency surgery to keep from losing my right kidney.

    Too bad. Topamax was the only migraine preventative that worked for me. Now I can’t take anything, but with these side effects, it’s not worth it!

  • Nina Rose
    4 years ago

    I don’t get angry before a migraine but I have often gotten really happy and excited, sort of like when you’re at the top of a roller coaster and you’re just about to drop and have the best time ever! It’s always such a let down then, when the aura sets in. The pain and other symptoms come after that.

  • altag
    12 months ago

    Same here!

  • 1eba4tp
    3 years ago

    ditto.Like manic and then boom you crash.Your on top of the world and almost convince yourself that at last life will be normal! Stinks when it all drops out from under your feet hey?

  • Shani
    4 years ago

    I have the heightened senses for sure. Things seems SO amplified that sometimes I have to catch myself not flipping out on others for things that would go by usually unnoticed. Lately it seems worse. Cold nose almost always! Short tempered. I used to get “white-tornados” where I would have a major cleaning and need to get things done right before a major one hit. Kinda like my body letting me know I was doomed for the next few days.The brain fog when I can’t think straight forming sentences, usually my husband notices this one. Sometimes actual clumsiness I truly equate to prodrome phase.

  • 1eba4tp
    3 years ago

    Same here I would go on manic work overdrive to do as much as possible before the four day crash.The sound of a watch ticking or the bubbles in a glass of coke would drive me insane just before one of my major crashes or another time it would be the parrot or the tap dripping.Ordinary things that you don’t notice.My clock in my room which normally I don’t hear can sound like a time bomb about to explode.

  • Rockin mama
    4 years ago

    I have terrible eye/sinus pain … My neurologist says I have neuralgia and has prescribed cymbalta. It worked really well for the first few months, but I think I’m going off it soon due to possible hypothyroidism and gastrointestinal side effects. I’m also back up to 2-3 migraines per week on it. I think our next course of action may be topamax. I hope it works …

  • janenez
    4 years ago

    My husband tells me I have a very distinctive bad breath before a migraine. He hates to say anything to me, but I’ve finally convinced him it’s important I know so I can be prepared. I usually have heightened sensitivity to smells, tastes and sounds – sometimes noticing or complaining about strong smells and such that are not even there. So, I guess it’s not too strange to me I don’t notice a change in my breath – although I must say it is a weird chemical reaction. How Embarrassing!

  • MargoW
    3 years ago

    That’s really cool that you have such a distinctive prodrome. I’d sure rather know I’m going to get hit with a migraine ahead of time with something simple like this then the surprises I get. Good luck to you!

  • brianne
    4 years ago

    Wow. I was not aware that cold nose was an early sign that a migraine may be starting. I often have cold toes and fingers and nose! Interesting!

  • nulasol
    4 years ago

    I definitely have some of these (neck pain, facial pain) but the worst for me is the eye pain. I’ve had it nearly every day, before a migraine, and it is the only reason I keep taking topamax. I don’t have it at all with topamax. Otherwise, it makes me want to rip my eye out it is so painful and uncomfortable.

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