Stylized torso of human with hands holding back of neck and lower back due to pain.

Neck and Back Pain with Migraine: How Do You Deal With The Pain?

The pitch black except for sprinkles of white light from stars and the moon coming gently through my window make for a very soft and serene night scene---one of the more beautiful gifts leftover from winter is that night still begins early---and at this point I’ve been laying in bed through the night waiting for sleep to reach me for six hours already. I contemplate the beauty of rest that others must be getting at this time of night jealously as I lay awake, shifting in bed over and over again, unable to get comfortable.

Unable to sleep comfortably with migraine

I think to myself: "I spend so much time in bed with migraine, and yet so little time asleep." This night is not unlike many nights with migraine, except that I can’t seem to find any position that doesn’t make my neck scream. It is 3:00 AM on a Tuesday, and I am very, very sleepy. I haven't been able to rest in what seems like eons, and it is due to migraine and a very achy body. In the interest of not wasting more time not falling asleep, I turn on some soft music by Esperanza Spalding to help, I know it is going to be a few hours more before I am actually asleep though.

What the neck

Sleep has been hard to come by lately, partly from the fact that I have felt busy catching up on a lot of tasks as I get ready to move to a new city, but mostly because my migraines have been accompanied by awful symptomatic neck and back pain lately, making my daily migraine pain even more been debilitating. I find myself crying more during the day and losing more sleep, because I can’t find consistent relief to these all-over aches that seem to have teamed up. I try to lay down but there doesn’t seem to be any ‘right way’ to position my head to ease the neck pain. I try to fluff my pillows just right to release some pressure from my back, but the drive to work in the morning sets me back a few steps each day, so it seems like a waste.

As well, it is hard to sleep with an ice pack on your neck and back and forehead at once. At first, I thought maybe I did something to trigger these aches independent of migraine---did I sleep the wrong way? Has all this driving caught up with me? Am I too stressed out and tense? All of these considerations crossed my mind, but oddly enough the worst pain seemed to coincide with that familiar behind the eye throbbing I usually have at the start of a bad attack.

The unstable Jenga game

I have written before about what it is like to deal with other illnesses along with migraine at once. Many folks in the community know that migraine can be overwhelming on its own, but the pain and exhaustion that builds when we are also dealing with other pain can be enormous. Lately I have felt like my body is one giant Jenga game, and each ache and pain is a block being pulled from the tower, threatening to topple the whole thing over. I am finding that the neck and back pain are particularly poignant, perhaps because they seem so persistent.

Neck pain interfering with driving

This pain has been both disheartening and dangerous: on a particularly bad day recently while driving, I felt like I lost mobility in my neck altogether and was having trouble seeing due to the throbbing in my head, and I found myself unable to turn my head fully to see out of my side mirror with ease. After a few close calls of trying to switch lanes without much sight for guidance and jerking pain in my neck trying to see, I knew driving was out of the question for the rest of the day. I have felt uneasy driving with pain because it seems risky and is hard on the body.

Tried that...and that...and...yep, tried that too.

In an effort to find a moment of reprieve, I have been searching and searching for some pain relief. I’ve been recommended muscle relaxers, massages, ointments, ice packs, pain medication… nothing seems to help enough to ‘free’ me from the pain. One morning I put all of my forces on the front-lines and slathered a helping of Tiger’s Balm on my neck, cracked open two ice packs for my neck and back, took my Verapamil, tried to relax and unclench my jaw and...all that got me was a burning sensation in my eyes from the ointment and a continued painful throbbing in my head, no doubt unrelieved in part thanks to the scent trigger. Feeling unable to get through tasks and move through my day with migraine is often both a physical and mental fortitude arena, but the added neck and back pain really has heightened the physical limitation I feel.

This pain has been going on for about two weeks now and I am feeling so done with it! I am used to being in pain often, but I’ve been feeling like these particular kinds of symptoms are exceptionally hard to bear.

Do you experience neck or back pain as symptoms of your migraines? How do you find relief? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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