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Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types: the Hourglass

Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types: the Hourglass

Those of you who have been involved with migraine.com for awhile now may be familiar with my series of articles focused on “Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types.” It’s been both entertaining and comforting to hear back from you all—who knew that these weird migraine attacks I thought I was alone in facing were actually pretty common?

Many commenters here on the site and on our migraine.com Facebook page have identified with me as I try to define these migraine types that a doctor would perhaps scoff at (though I shouldn’t assume that, especially as more and more doctors are taking steps to be better educated about migraine and all its forms).  Now I’m going to see if you think this “type” of migraine rings a bell for you.

I call it “The Hourglass,” though my initial term was “The Sandbag.”

Starting out well

The Hourglass is very slow and deliberate. Your day starts out fine. You may not feel incredible, but you certainly don’t have a migraine. You go about your routine, perhaps getting up and showering and heading to work. You make sure to eat balanced meals and even managed to go for a little walk between breakfast and work.

Slow nagging sensation

But you have this persistent, nagging sensation in your brain as the day goes on.  One grain of sand after another is filling up your hourglass/sandbag, making it harder and harder to go about your day. Your body is getting heavy, and your head and shoulders are carrying most of the weight.

Creeping down to the neck

At lunch, you feel like your neck is getting a little crinkly and crackly. You roll your head on your shoulders and then stretch. You may be getting a migraine, but you just can’t tell. Maybe you are just a little stuffy-headed because it’s spring. Maybe you just need to get up and out of your desk chair for awhile and give yourself a break.

Heavy head

By mid-afternoon, you feel as if you’ve gained weight, but all the weight seems to rest along your spine and inside your skull. Now you’re pretty sure this is a migraine, but the workday’s end is in sight and you don’t want to medicate if you can still find the energy to be productive.

Finally in migraine land

The sun is setting, and you can no longer avoid the reality of your migraine. It is here, and your head and body are full of sand. You can now envision yourself as an hourglass (or a sandbag if you’re not feeling the sexy hourglass vibe here): you started out relatively empty and light, but verrrry slowly, you filled up during the day. It wasn’t a sudden shift into migraine land (as with The Ninja). Rather, it was a slow process that took awhile to dawn on you.

How many of you out there have dealt with this completely unofficial, made-up migraine type? What has your experience been like? What other made-up migraine types would you like for me to write about? I’m curious, as always, to hear from you.  

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • d-m
    4 months ago

    For years, Migraine followed a pretty predictable schedule. It was the only predictable thing in my life except that I was only at one time a month absolutely without fail certain I would experience a migraine. But since my periods were highly irregular, I could not know when that would be. The other unpredictable part of Migraine was, when the pain would actually stop. Or, when the prodrome would stop draggin itself out and adopt the usual pattern, which went like this: I would wake up tired. I almost never noticed this until later in the day. Around noon, I would sometimes, not always, develop this odd lessening of symptoms to the point of feeling really well and very talkative, this never lasted past two. Around two or three, I would be staring at the inevitable, beginning with sparkling lights and a growing inability to focus or use language at all, often times one side of my body would develop a deep ache and feel unusuable, and my brain would experience very odd symptoms including but not limited to the distinct odor of nicotine burning. The nausea would hit between 3 and four and between four and five, excruciating pain on one side of the head. Vomiting would most often occur. At some point I would pray for sleep, which rarely came without medication and/or the much too frequent visits to the E.R. If I slept and awoke in pain, I had the postdrome to deal with. If I awoke still in pain, this would sometimes travel to the whole head doozy, at which point I would fall into a “stupor” and lose all track of time. The headache would then go to the opposite side, and travel back. A few times, I was awakened three days later, in disbelief that this much time had passed. Then about age 50 the Migraine began to morph into a pain at the base of my skull. In the mornings. It was excruciating and I could hardly move. Two hours later, Ice and Coffee would render the pain gone, but not the hangover. Every. Day. I still had the other headache type, but less often. I had abdominal Migraine as a child, as well as the head aches, but then they followed a four to eight heightened period, and by ten o clock I could eat. For the last two years though, I have had the fun of yet another form that developed: Vestibular Migraine. Looking back, there were symptoms of this now and then, but not to the degree of what I experience 24/7 today. I was also diagnosed with Migraine with brainstem aura. I began researching my Disease (it is called that now!) and am stunned by the developments being made in Migraine Research and the new CGRP based therapies. Despite my overwhelming disability, which I have yet to officially apply for, my insurance denies me these treatments. But I have a story to tell, and having fought so many battles, I am well equipped to continue the fight for others. I do so feel for all of us with the struggle of Migraine. Do take heart. Things have never looked more hopeful. Hold strong.

  • NoeJohns
    2 years ago

    Made-up Migraine: The Slug

    Whether it is the wee hours of the morning or on the drive to work, the Slug starts his slow niggling journey on the right side of my forehead. As the hours go by, he stretches and flexes until the right side of my forehead is blooming with pain. My right eyebrow permanently arched in defiance of the Slugs powerful clawing towards my ear.

    With the help of Slugs sledgehammer wielding friends, a crater is created (or at least it feels like it) along my right temple. Slug will wallow there until the need to stretch again, leaving a slime of pain tracing from my forehead and landing with a pounce behind my right ear.

    Hours into his sluggish journey, he stretches his full length, forehead to the base of my skull, sliming his blazing pain down the right tendon to my neck. Bastard.

    Not until the whole right side of my head is completely ablaze with Slugs searing slime, does he decide to relinquish his hold, and in my mind, just slips away.

  • Susan756
    2 years ago

    Most of mine are a little like this. As others have said, it’s the eternal question: Do I medicate or not? Most often I do, earlier rather than later, because once the beast takes hold no medicine at home is going to help.

  • mattiew
    2 years ago

    This describes yesterday perfectly, but with stomach qualms all day. Ate a banana at dinner time, of all things, made me sick to my stomach. And always the never ending game of “is it or isn’t it? Do I take meds or don’t I?”
    The best thing about this site is finding I’m not alone. Camaraderie!

  • katydid_315
    2 years ago

    Ugh. Yes, these migraines are the bane of many a promising day. Unlike my ninja migraines, which often decide to appear upon waking up or mid-morning, the hourglass is a special kind of awful.
    The internal stress and debate of: “Is this a migraine or not? Do I take my meds or risk it?”, which typically occurs mid-afternoon when I have important evening plans, can only be compared to Heller’s Catch-22. If I don’t take my meds and it is a migraine, then anything planned for tonight and tomorrow might as well be canceled, but flippantly taking my meds for something that may not be a migraine isn’t advisable either. I’ve found myself tending towards medicating early and risking the medication gradually decreasing in effect. It’s a dangerous game, that feels like high-stakes poker or Russian roulette, but when I play my cards right and win another 20-24 hours of decreased pain and (somewhat) normality, it feels akin to winning the pot on a draw-out.
    But win I lose, I lose big… and I’m left thinking the age-old question: what would my life be like without the migraines?

  • terrapinny
    2 years ago

    This describes about 3/4 of my migraines. Except I only make it until about 2-3 pm, and then the mods come out.

  • Erinlpj
    2 years ago

    Yes, it seems like this is every day for me. I start ok, a little twinge in my brain, but nothing severe. By mid day or end of day I have a full blown migraine . I cant medicate at work, so by the time Im home, my migraine is fullblown.

    I hate feeling like that because I dont know if it’s going to be a migraine or not. 9 times out of 10 it is.

  • kareen1
    4 years ago

    My first visit to this site. Head and Face pain, Status Migrainus, Chronic
    Migraine, Migraine With or Without “aura.” ( mine are without ). 2 hospitalizations inpatient in Ann Arbor MI and 2 stays at Stanford, twice at Univ of San Francisco inpatient. I have a headache more of the time than I don’t & have been on so many & mixes of drugs. Now, at thie illustrious headache instution where I am being treated by the chair of the department
    they subject me to options, like nothing or infusions of something they stay up nights thinking about, I have had it. I, as are all people who have headaches, thought to be drug seekers rather than people who have pain that they can hardly describe. Where to go fom here

  • 179smiley
    4 years ago

    I completely understand your description to the smallest detail. Although I experience Chronic Migraines with headaches that can interrupt my ability to even think, there are a lot of in between days that are just a nagging headaches. I rarely have a day that I don’t feel like my brain hurts, but never take anything to abort or take analgesic, because I know there will be worse days, so as I like to say to myself, “Just suck it cupcake!!” lol, and go on with my day.

  • lynn
    4 years ago

    Do this quite often sometimes by end of day full blown migraine and other times just have a weird feeling in head without the pain but sensitive to light. Makes for a long day hard to concentrate

  • Gemma15
    4 years ago

    Wow…exactly how most of mine happen! Thanks for sharing this.

  • Melz
    4 years ago

    I’ve never thought of my day this way, but this is how so many of my days are! Thank you for adding a positive spin on a disorder that affects my daily life: I’m definitely an hourglass day girl.

  • Heather Benton
    4 years ago

    THE BRAIN SNAP: Can happen during a bad migraine or before getting one, or just random. But it always leaves you with reminder it was there. If it were not for my amazing Aunt who has migraine just like mine, the first time I had A BRAIN SNAP, I am sure I would have thought something seriously went wrong.
    So what its it..just as it sounds something in your head SNAPS and I mean SNAPS. It causes you to jolt, although it isn’t actually painful it is an unpleasant feeling. The only way I could describe it would be to compare it to a ”rubber band”
    If 2 people pull the rubber band in opposite direction then one person lets go…it SNAPS…You can hear it actually SNAP, well you can hear the SNAP in your head, feel it and for days after you remember it happened.
    Thankfully they don’t happen often.

  • kitta4
    4 years ago

    yes!!That has happened to me! And sometimes, after the snap, which I used to describe as a “boing!” on one side of my head, there would be a rippling sensation down one side of my body.

    The “boing!” was painless. But, the pain would soon follow. If I was out somewhere I knew I had to get home fast and take some medication to stop the headache that was coming.

  • julie
    5 years ago

    Many of mine start with right sided back/flank pain but do not always progress. Sometimes it’s just a headache which we all know is different from a migraine so I have a hard time telling if I am going to go there or not. When I start getting the nausea I know I am going there. So then I start taking the pre-meds to stop it but, it does not always work and I wind up with the ice pack and the dark room and eventually the opiods which I hate. They make me feel woozy and out of control of myself and I do not like that feeling in any way shape or form. I just go to bed. No lights, ice pack, silence and do not talk to me. You can check on me but please do it quietly. I may ask for coffee (black), or tea with lemon but do not want to eat due to the nausea!

  • blueangel1980
    5 years ago

    I have these migraines along with others. Right now I have been out of work for 2 months, and by the end of the month I will have 4 different doctors that have no idea how to help,but seem to be trying and I have so far tried 16 different types of medications. I have migraines 2 to 4 times a week. This migraine I hate the most cause it’s the hardest one to figure out until the pain has immobilized me. The Imitrex works but I can’t function for the rest of the day and sometimes the day after. I feel so useless. I found this site, and relief has set in that I’m not the only one. Thank you. These unofficial names are a great idea.

  • Sean
    5 years ago

    Hi blueangel, so sorry to hear of your dilemma but I’ll offer up what works for me just in case you haven’t tried any or all of this. Rizatriptan ODT-orally disintegrating tablets-10 mg. + really strong coffee and ice packs and for me as little light as possible with something on in the backround, music or TV not loud, it helps me to not just keep focusing on the pain while waiting for all of the above to work and there are some that are so bad that I have to take a second tab or a 3rd which is the limit for a 24 hour period, when they’re that bad sleep is the only other option which was told to me by a migraine specialist who also gave me a Px for sleeping pills but since I’m on Zanax anyway, I just use that instead, also use a preventive, amitriptyline, every night before bed. I assume your Drs. had you take an MRI of your head to rule out anything there that could be causing your migraines. Other than that, knowing what your triggers are and trying to avoid those if possible is all I can offer up. Hope you’re able to find something that works for you soon, we all know just how awful and debilitating our migraines can be.

  • Sean
    5 years ago

    One thing to add is yes I’ve got the same thing sometimes, you feel it around the edges, not sure if it’s going to happen or not, should I take the meds or wait, am I just jumping the gun here due to it being much worse when it finally does come on no mistake about it. You really just don’t want it to be one, so you wait, sometimes I’ll only feel it if I turn my head or that nagging feeling you’ve been on the computer just a little too long but you’re not done yet so you push on until you start to actually feel it coming and just give up/in. To take or not to take, that is the question.

  • sbs
    5 years ago

    What other kind is there? This describes 99.9% of my migraines. Except for what I call my “ear migraines” which are not painful, but cause extreme hyper-sensitivity to the touch behind my left ear. They have the same duration as my usual migraines and I have the same “loggyhead” feeling that one gets with migraines, but thankfully no pain and no nausea with these. My neuro agrees they are indeed a different variety of migraine — just hitting a different area.

  • Melz
    4 years ago

    I get pain over/behind my left auricle. It almost feels bruised. When I had long hair, I thought my ponytail was causing the pain, but after I cut my hair (in an attempt to decrease headaches before I was diagnosed with chronic migraine) I still have this intermittent pain. And I have not had a neuro who takes it seriously.

  • Teresa
    5 years ago

    Yes, this is a very common area to get migraine pain. It is the occipital nerve that travels up both sides of the head. It branches out from the cervical spine and travels up and over the head. It has branches that reach right behind each ear. My pain is usually on the right side instead of the left, only I have severe pain in the rest of my head as well. This usually gives me what I call a “Wave” migraine, where any movement causes pain to wash over my head like a wave from back to front. Many doctors will give nerve blocks for this pain. Unfortunately, my insurance won’t pay for it because there are not enough studies about the effectiveness for migraine pain.

  • AnneNelson
    5 years ago

    I get the pain behind my left ear as well, and that tells me that it’s going to be a bad one… Someone somewhere told me that there’s a nerve group, or muscle in that area – and it’s a more common migraine symptom than you may think.

    My husband, who also gets migraines, has often wished for a really, really strong muscle relaxer that he could inject into that muscle. Convinced, of course, that it would help make the rest of the pain go away!

  • Sean
    5 years ago

    Well this is amazing, I thought I was the only one with the behind the ear migraine pain, sometimes it’s like I’m “chasing” the pain from my brow to my temple to behind the lower part of my ear with the ice packs while I wait for the rizatriptan and espresso to work, found it by luck really, just put the ice pack back there one day out of frustration and feeling the pain, was surprised but glad I did it. Wondering if anyone else has this chasing pain around, also sometimes from one side of head to the other or get rid of it on one side only to have it come back later on the other side.

  • Lizzie
    5 years ago

    I call them my smouldering ember migraines, they either die out or ignite, this sort is very hard to describe to a doctor.

  • Ela
    5 years ago

    Over 50% of my migraines are just like these never really knew how to describe them to people or my family now I know . Thank You

  • Stace31601
    5 years ago

    I have noticed this. I didn’t know of it was just me ignoring it until I couldn’t anymore or if it truly snuck up on me. I have ignored some many things just so I can make it through work or my son’s basketball game, and sometimes just dinner time. I am not sure anymore about what sneaks up on me or I just cant ignore it any longer.

  • JanetH
    5 years ago

    I tell my DH that a migraine is hovering around the edges. But otherwise, yeah, pretty much a very common occurrence for me, sadly.

  • mermadelove
    5 years ago

    I have definitely had this one. And another version that I think fits the Hourglass name: Sneaks up on you slowly then hits you, then slowly starts to fade to the point where you think you’re ok, but then comes back with a vengeance the second you start to get back into life. The narrow part of the Hourglass is the “feeling fine” window, and the two bulbs the migraines!!

  • bluebird
    4 years ago

    the narrow part of the Hourglass is the “feeling fine window”.
    With prodrome, and postdrome bumping into each other as barometrics rise and fall and thinking fades from clarity to haze…it’s so hard to know what will evolve next.Not knowing what to expect. But the hourglass gives shape to most of my days experience with migraine. Shifting with the sands of Time.

  • Teresa
    5 years ago

    Very good description. I hate these migraines.

  • Sandy
    5 years ago

    Yes, thanks for the description. That is how most of mine started back 10-20 yrs ago so I had a hard time telling the drs. where in my head it started and that is why triptans weren’t effective for me back then. At what point do you take them? When I was in transformation stage from episodic to chronic, this is how mine would be. Now that I am chronic, every morning I start out with head pain. It either goes up or down.

  • LAnnSmith
    5 years ago

    Oh yes, the sneaky little so and so. It’s also how it’ll come back if I think one has been conquered, but has just stayed as a small wisp of smoke in the background. Then it consolidates into a speck of sand, two, three, and we all know how it goes from there.

  • Dolly Ward Paice
    5 years ago

    I’d have to say about 50% of mine start this way. I usually will tell family I don’t have one yet but “it’s in the background.” Hourglass is by far the most ideal and directly understanding way to refer to them…

  • Teresa
    5 years ago

    I tell my husband I have a “twinge”. I have learned over the years (32 and counting) that I never get just a headache anymore, and that if I feel pain, I better take an Imitrex.

  • RobertCan
    5 years ago

    Unofficial perhaps, but nonetheless real for some of us. My mornings often begin with that nagging sensation in the left side of my brain. And as each grain of sand falls, I’m that much closer to the reality of chronic migraine. My sand falls quickly, typically within a few hours, leaving me to do my best to be productive and functional in the first few hours of every day.

    Wishing you all a pain-free day – robert

  • Luna
    5 years ago

    That is how the left side always starts, very mild until almost too late. The right side gives me a lot of warning in the back, shoulder or neck.

  • Jill M.
    5 years ago

    Very good description, Janet! Unfortunately I know this sneaky type all too well. Sometimes by the time you realize you’re “all full of sand”, its too late for the meds to really be effective. That’s what irritates me the most about The Hourglass…

  • GinnyBinny
    5 years ago

    My days often go like this, it makes it hard for my family to understand because ” I was fine when I woke up”. My dad is the harshest person when it comes to understanding my migraines, he thinks I should always “push” through it, he doesn’t understand that it activity makes it worse.

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