Honey, I think I’m Getting a Migraine
Do you have a sixth sense? Last month, we reached out to the migraine community, asking members to describe their “sixth sense” for migraines, or how they predict when they’re getting a migraine. Although not every person affected by migraine can pinpoint when an attack is coming, many community members shared how they learned their early migraine signs & symptoms, and discussed the decision to take their meds.
Spotting the signs
“A lot of times, I get them when light looks really weird to me. I can’t describe it.”
“Sometimes I have a day of fatigue prior to an attack. Sometimes my head feels foggy and like cardboard.”
“My neck stiffens up”
“I’ve learned it is imminent by the look on my face”
“I occasionally smell cigarettes beforehand also. So weird!”
For many migraineurs, you can tell when you’re about to have an attack based on early, pre-migraine symptoms. Many community members report experiencing the same symptoms with each new migraine, ranging from light sensitivity, blurred vision, excessive yawning, pain behind the eyes, and/or sensitivity to smell. Many people say that they “smell cigarettes” just before a migraine, and some people just get a “certain feeling” that a migraine is coming. While migraine symptoms affect everyone differently, consider reviewing this list of common pre-migraine symptoms to see if you can better predict your next migraine attack.
“I most times can tell, but I still have the occasional migraine out of left field too.”
“I’m at about 50/50 accuracy.” ~ “Never.”
“I can always tell!” ~ “I wish I could” ~ “I do have that “sixth sense” a lot of times.”
Although many community members reported that they can usually tell when a migraine is coming, for many of you, “surprise” migraines happen too. Surprise or sudden migraine attacks can be difficult, especially when your migraine changes your schedule, or forces you to cancel another get-together with friends. However, if you have trouble “predicting” your migraines, learning and tracking your migraine triggers can help. If you recognize your migraine triggers, you can try to avoid these things, as well as better predict what situations may lead to a migraine. If you are a person who can already tell when a migraine is coming, consider confronting your migraine in its early stages: taking your abortive medications early, adjusting your schedule to allow time for rest, and trying other migraine management strategies can help you feel better faster.
A good offense is the best defense
“I [trained] myself to ‘just take the pill’ so that I didn’t have to make a decision.”
“I don’t bother waiting to know for sure. If a headache starts, I medicate.”
“I had to learn the hard way to medicate early and often – at the very first sign.”
For some people with a ‘sixth sense’ about migraine, the choice to medicate is “Why wait?”. Although you should always talk to your doctor about the correct times and dosages for your medications, some community members find that early medication helps them to prevent or manage migraine attacks. Many of you shared stories about deciding not to take treatment medications and then wishing you had when your migraine hits, or how early medication helps to control the intensity of your migraine later. Although early medication is not the best option for every migraineur, ask your doctor about the best time to take your treatment medication when you think a migraine may be coming.
Running out of meds
“I don’t want to waste my meds on a so-so migraine when a super duper one could be right around the corner. When you are given a limited amount of triptans, you have to conserve.”
“Sometimes, I put off taking meds since the insurance only covers 9 pills a month and I tend to have 12-15 migraines a month.”
“I’m terrified of running out of meds.”
Although treatment medications are most effective when taken early, for many migraineurs, deciding when to take limited abortive medications often comes down to “How bad will this one be?”. The prescription, distribution, and sales of several migraine medications is limited, leading many migraineurs to worry about ‘wasting’ their medications on a less intense migraine. Because most migraineurs have limited access to much needed Triptans, many of you shared experiences of waiting to take your medications until you are certain that you have a migraine. Although medication rationing may lower your risk of Medication Overuse Headaches (aka “rebound headaches”), not having enough treatment medications to make it through the month can be frustrating. Migraine management can become a difficult balance of conserving limited meds, but also taking your medications early enough to feel relief. If you feel like you’re always short on treatment medications, try talking to your doctor about getting more triptans each month, and consider how complementary or alternative therapies could help you.
“I am still learning when to take my meds”
“I wish I was more in tuned with signs”
“Not newly diagnosed, just apparently can’t put the signs together!”
If you’re newly diagnosed with migraine disease, you may not recognize your early migraine symptoms yet. Similarly, even after years of managing migraine attacks, some people do not have a ‘sixth sense’ for when a migraine is coming. For many community members, learning the symptoms and ‘feeling’ of an oncoming migraine took time. Although it may feel time-consuming at first, using a migraine journal and tracking your daily habits and activities can make a big difference in managing your migraines. Additionally, while the unpredictability of migraine can make your schedule feel uncertain, you can still lead a full life while dealing with migraine, including both social activities and work responsibilities. If you’re newly diagnosed, or otherwise need help learning your migraine triggers, we encourage you to connect with your migraine community and share your story to gets advice and expertise from your peers!