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Managing a Multi-Day Intractable Migraine Attack

Managing a Multi-Day Intractable Migraine Attack

It takes just a few consecutive days of being down for the count with an intractable migraine attack before we begin to lose perspective. The intense and severe pain completely removes us from our lives and is akin to having the wind knocked out of the body. It’s disconcerting and causes us to lose our place.

Even the most emotionally balanced of us can lose hope. Will it ever get better? The pain is so comprehensive, encompassing, and attention-stealing, that we can barely recall feeling well, even if we were functional just days earlier.

Helpless

Those of us lucky enough to have a network of helpers in our lives watch as friends and family assume our responsibilities, filling the gap we have left behind. This dynamic fills us with a mixture of gratitude and guilt. That said, we simply don’t have room in our hearts for anything but simply responding to the pain that demands our attention.

Others of us who are on our own, or are faced with tasks only we can do, can’t help but leap frog in our minds to our ever growing to-do lists. And with each visit to that list, there comes a mini-panic attack which leads to an increase in pain. Weighing all the tasks at hand against the fact that we’re incapable of doing anything that requires thinking or movement is beyond frustrating. It’s like being tied to a train track and watching the freight train barreling ever closer, helpless and unable to get out of the way.

Bored out of my pained mind

In addition to being a guilt-inducing, sad experience, a multi-day intensive migraine is also incredibly boring. There’s so little we can do when battling comprehensive pain. It’s impossible to focus on any one thing (except for the pain) for any length of time. For some, the TV works, with the brightness turned all the way down. For those who struggle with concentration during migraines, simply watching TV or listening to podcasts is a challenge. Some listen to music in an attempt to distract from the pain, but often the pain seems louder than all the music in the world.

Nothing’s working

Frequently, when managing our way through the more drawn out migraine attacks, we end up throwing everything in the medicine cabinet at it to no avail. We might max out on rescue medication limitations, and end up being stuck taking daily preventatives and waiting it out.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

When we’ve tried everything else, and yet remain in the midst of  severe, intense, intractable pain, the best approach might be to sleep it off. However, even that  can be a challenge when simply getting comfortable enough to sleep can be difficult. Sometimes, the pain can wake us up from sleep. Or, when we are able to sleep through the pain, there is a terrible sinking feeling that we are sleeping our lives away.

The upside

The upside of a multi-day, intractable migraine attack is the moment it lifts. Well, it might not be a moment. It is often a slow fade and during that fade, we often live in fear that our actions will cause a migraine to return. But when an awful attack is truly in the rearview, there is a time when everything tastes sweeter, the air smells fresher and feels good on the skin. Our senses are more alive. It’s as if the pain acts as white noise and once it lifts, we can see, hear, and feel things more clearly. This can result in a level of gratitude about being in the world and appreciating the simple things in a way that few others experience.

How do you make it through a multi-day migraine attack? Please share your experiences and tips here so we can learn from one another.

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

  • Theresa
    1 month ago

    This is my life. I have intractable migraines. Earlier this spring, I was down in bed for 6 weeks. Weather is my trigger. Rain, cool, damp is my kryptonite. All I can do is go to bed, take the meds and wait. It gets better between storms so I get up at those points.
    There is no rescue med. The headache ends when it ends.
    On the upside, I know I’m not gonna die. Downside, it’s only going to stop when the weather gets better. Two weeks of rain coming. Ugh

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    HI @theresagreenwood – You are the second person recently to speak of an upside being the knowledge that migraines can’t kill us. Such an interesting and important point as the pain and related symptoms certainly at times feel as if they have the power to do so.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your intractable migraine attacks that are so lengthy and unresponsive. Trying to sleep through the pain can get really old fast.

    I find during my lengthy windows of migraine attacks, it can get hard to maintain perspective. One strategy I use is to try to record my well-moments either by journaling or literally recording them by making a video of myself taking a walk, etc – just so I can look at those moments when I’m down for the count to remember that those experiences are indeed in reach. It can be hard to even recall such a thing when in the midst of an intractable migraine attack:

    https://migraine.com/video/snapshot-of-wellness-challenge/

    https://migraine.com/living-migraine/turn-corner-when-feeling-down/

    Thinking of you during this stormy season. Please stay in touch.

  • Miss Kim
    7 months ago

    I have no choice but to lay crying in bed taking my meds in the dark. I’ll go from ice across my neck or heating wrap around my neck and face. Funny that the article says some need TV. That’s me and I can even tell what volume it’s on without looking. If I don’t, hearing my head pound makes it extremely worse. Work? No choice…gotta go. Sometimes with dark glasses (that’s when my friends know) or lie down in a dark room during lunch. I also speak with my other migraine warrior circle at work where we help each other. Until then here’s to hopefully feeling less or migraine free days

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    7 months ago

    Hi Miss Kim- I love the term “migraine warrior circle” and glad that you have one at work. That’s amazing that you have identified others in your world with migraine with whom you can connect and provide and receive support. I’m also one of those who needs the tv on in the background- it provides me with comfort and distraction from the pain and other symptoms.

    Thinking of you and so glad to be a collective part of this online migraine warrior circle! Please stay in touch.

  • seslie
    7 months ago

    Well said. It’s nice to know that someone else understands and feels your pain/agony over so many things you can’t control. I actually made the mistake of “bragging” to my Neurologist this month that I had gone 6 weeks without a migraine, only to find myself currently on my 9th day of pain, head pressure, and nausea. It’s not the worst I’ve ever had, but a disappointment to say the least. It’s just a reminder that I don’t have it all figured out yet. 😉

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    7 months ago

    Oh, Seslie! I’m so sorry to hear about this! I have to say, this is a lesson I haven’t learned either. There seems to be something about jinxing ourselves when we voice out loud that we are doing well- it seems to bring about an attack almost immediately! I’ve got to remember to just keep it to myself in the future! In all seriousness, we can have all the pieces figured out that we can control (stress, sleep, eating) and then another trigger unfurls that is out of our control (moon cycle, weather, hormones) and a new attack begins. So, don’t be too hard on yourself in thinking this is something you don’t have figured out. Migraine is a complex neurological disease- being migraine free for 6 weeks is a huge accomplishment!

    Thinking of you and really hoping you round the corner back into wellness soon!

  • DinaMay
    7 months ago

    Just came out of a migraine about a week long so I appreciate the article. It’s been a slow, tiring day because I’m weak from so many days in bed. And everything I need to do is way behind. But feeling blah is ever so much better than lying in the dark with a towel over my head because the teeny weeny bit of light that steals in around the blinds is too painful to bear!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    7 months ago

    So glad to hear you have emerged! It’s a slow process coming back to life, but as you said- anything is better than being under the thumb of an active migraine attack. Welcome back to the land of the living! Glad you’re a part of our community- please stay in touch!

  • melissa351968
    7 months ago

    This article really hits home for me. I just went through this over the Thanksgiving weekend. Sleep would have been great, but I can not lay down and have to sleep sitting up, which then makes my back and knees hurt as well. Luckily, my husband is such a wonderful person and will do whatever he can to make it a little better for me. He has dragged a recliner into our bedroom so I could be more comfortable through the night. I could not imagine having to do it by myself. All I had at that time was over the counter Advil and Aleve, but since I also get sick to my stomach, I couldnt take any of it. We just had to wait it out. So miserable, but like the article says, once it was gone, my senses were heightened and I was a very happy camper.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    7 months ago

    So nice to hear that you have a supportive spouse to help you through the hard times. Sleep is, indeed, hard to come by when in the midst of the most stubborn migraine attacks. I’m glad you came out of that one and are feeling better! Stay in touch!

  • ruthschu
    8 months ago

    (Sigh) Much of this article assumes the privilege of being able to take time off for chronic daily migraines. Staying in bed in a cool dark room would be great, but I’m not alone in having to work even when I have intractable daily migraine that no treatment (so far) has helped or prevented.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi Ruthschu- Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so sorry to hear you are suffering while at work and that you have not been able to find any effective treatment. It is such a challenge to be at work while managing the severe pain, difficulty with words and clarity of thought, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and all of the other complex neurological symptoms that make up migraine.

    I would like to mention that your comment assumes that I had a choice in taking “take time” off for chronic daily migraine. The truth is that I was forced to stop working by the disease over a decade ago due to vomiting my way through my daily meetings, using up all my vacation and sick time until I had to fight for disability. Additionally, there is no privilege involved in struggling to make ends meet financially due to this reality. I’m also sorry to say that while I’d hoped to find some relief in taking my more than full time job out of the mix, that was not what happened. While my stress level declined, the migraines did not, and there has been nothing “great” about staying in bed in a cool dark room, with intractable and severe pain, while holding a vomit bucket, and giving myself injections, and suppositories so I can keep meds down.

    I hope I’m not coming off as defensive here. I’m simply trying to explain that everyone has a different story. The world is full of people who don’t understand or comprehend what migraine is actually like. But we do. You and I. And the 36+ million people who have the disease. The purpose of this site is to provide information, guidance and support. The support part is key because it’s not something that flows easily to those of us with this disease. Many are judgmental due to the invisible nature of migraine. In my point of view, it’s therefore all the more important that we provide nonjudgmental support to one another here. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/why-do-we-judge-each-other/

    We have many resources on pursuing disability if you’re interested in learning more about exploring that option. https://migraine.com/blog/disability-means-not-mean/

    You mentioned not having found any effective treatment solutions thus far. This, unfortunately, is fairly common for people with migraine. We have far to go in terms of research and development. That said, it’s very helpful to be working with a migraine specialist as they are the best trained to navigate this complex neurological disease. If you need help finding one near you, here’s a link that might help: https://migraine.com/blog/the-mrf-directory-of-headache-and-migraine-specialists/.

    Lastly, because you hinted at having chronic migraine, I assume you’ve already heard of and perhaps tried Botox, however, I wonder if you’ve heard of the two recent treatments that have been FDA-approved for migraine. If you haven’t already, they might be worth discussing with your specialist. CGRP https://migraine.com/clinical/cgrp-similar-different/ and Gammacore: https://migraine.com/video/gammacore-approved/

    Thanks again for your comment and please let us know if you have any questions, and/or need for information, and support.

    Glad you’re a part of our community- please stay in touch!

  • MimiRamone
    7 months ago

    Thank you for this amazing article! Of all that I’ve read this one hits home for me the most. I appreciate that you do not have the “privilege” of staying home to rest in a cool dark room. I don’t have that privilege either, but alas, that’s where I lay, sleeping my life away. Like you, I am forced to do so & also in the process of fighting for disability. I cannot stand up walk talk or drive when I’m having a migraine there is no working For me.
    I also love how you made mention of people who are alone sans a support network. Many articles focus on someone’s respective partners & when I read them I wish I had a partner, but as you said in the article, I only have room to manage my pain right now, sadly & the mounting to-do list!!
    My family is in NY & I’m in Seattle. I’m recently going from episodic to chronic migraines and this experience is teaching me a lot and I am grieving at the same time. Nine months ago I was so hopeful that taking time off work was going to make a difference. I am thinking I’m going to need to sell my place & move back home so I can be near people who can support me better. They have a way of turning life upside down.

    Thanks again for this amazing article. Wishing for peace & healing for us all.

  • abanks
    1 year ago

    My intractable migraines don’t just last days…they last months. I’m approaching the 10 month mark with this one

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Holy moly, that’s a long attack. I suppose that moves into chronic daily migraine territory, perhaps? Are you working with a migraine specialist? Just in case you’re in need of someone new who specializes in the disease: https://migraine.com/blog/the-mrf-directory-of-headache-and-migraine-specialists/. Thanks for chiming in- thinking of you and very glad you are a part of our community. Please stay in touch.

  • elixabetta
    1 year ago

    @Robynd I hope you have read the encouraging words above and found peace. Finding a new dr can offer a fresh prospective~ a new set of eyes.

    @MDM Save your precious energy for healing or having fun. No need to hide anything be yourself just say I have a chronic neurological condition called migraine. Somes days are better than other. You will feel better if you arent trying to be something you arent.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    elixabetta- This is a beautiful message for both @robynd and MDM (@24xhi66). It warms my heart to see our community in motion like this when the tapestry that IS migraine.com enlivening and pulling around one another in a warm embrace of support and understanding. Thank you for taking the time to extend such kindness to others.

  • RobynD
    1 year ago

    Thank you!! I did!! Your response helps more than the article. Take care.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    RobynD- I’m so glad to hear that these messages of support and compassion from fellow community members have been helpful to you. You’ve been on my mind a lot in these last few weeks and I’m deeply happy to see you here again. Also great news to hear you found a new doctor! Did you find a neurologist, and/or migraine specialist in your area? Please keep in touch.

  • ellenp
    1 year ago

    I am in the midst of an intractable migraine. Everything you said is like you’re describing me and my illness, like you know me.

    I get to feeling desperate too and I have ventured close to the edge, into a very, very dark place.

    But I’ve always stepped away, always found my way back. It is because of that sweetness, when it stops hurting and I can see again, I can venture out of my cool, dark room into the sunlight again, that’s why I step back.

    Deep sigh. What more can I say? The moment of release is far away yet, I know this. I have to work 12 hour night shifts tonight and the following three nights.

    I understand feeling desperate.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @ellenp – I’m hoping that the intractable migraine has lifted by now for you. I’m so thankful that you shared how you maneuver through the dark times – by keeping your eye on the prize. It can be hard to remember what it feels like when the clouds part when we are in the midst of a tornado -https://migraine.com/living-migraine/somewhere-over-the-rainbow-migraine-as-tornado/ – but you sound somehow able to keep that vision in your mind’s eye— even despite the incredible challenge of having to pull demanding work shifts while experiencing intense pain. Can you offer others who are having a hard time seeing that light any guidance about how you are able to maintain that vision despite the pain? We are here to learn from one another and are grateful to have you in our community- sharing your wisdom.

  • mammapeaches (Susan McManus)
    1 year ago

    Holly,

    I feel like you’re in my head!! Those are all my thoughts exactly! My migraines are always 3-6 day events. And, when the sweet day of no pain comes, it’s just so great to feel good!! I tell my family and friends this when I get to be with them somewhere, heck, anywhere! They don’t really get how strong of a statement it is. I love the days I get to say: It feels great to feel good❤️

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @susanmcmanus– You are so right that it’s likely that others don’t really “get” how good it feels to feel good for those of us who spend so much of the time feeling poorly. So glad this article resonated with you and here’s hoping today is one of those good days for you!

  • omymigraine
    1 year ago

    The entire month of March was a migraine. Drums of the islands kinda migraine. Isomethicine, butabutal and tylenol pm and occasionally the codiene 7.5 mg. I used all my isomethecine and the pharmacy says that 2 of the 3 makers have quit making it. It will be June before they get a shipment. imetrex makes me puke. gabapentin had be chasing invisible mice. I have dark glasses, meds for nausea, G2 gatorade dark and cool room. I turn the brightness down on my tablet to keep me from going cray cray. I cant take off work so the flickering flurescents (sp) torment me daily.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @bneill – Oh my goodness- what a horrific run of an attack to have it last for an entire month. It sounds like you tried everything in your arsenal and were still spinning. How did you maintain any semblance of perspective and keep your emotional wits about you during such a run? I ask you for your guidance because so many of us struggle to stay balanced when under the thumb of a lengthy migraine attack. As you know, it is all-consuming and makes it so hard to see the forest for the trees. Did you mobilize your support system? Sleep through it as much as possible? We’d be grateful for any tips you could provide! Thanks for chiming in!

  • jrse
    1 year ago

    I have acute attacks of intractable migraine about twice a year and for which I take steroids and triptans, and then chronic headache due to migraine disease, which is just a constant headache all the time, even while sleeping. I do have times when the headache is not there thanks to management meds, but lately it has gotten worse, the pain has been constant, and the pain has been severe. Since it is not acute migraine, triptans do not work. I have a hard time with medications because I also have mast cell disorder, so I am allergic to many meds. Thankfully, my neurologist just prescribed me a new med, prochlorperazine, meant for nausea but is often given for migraine pain. I was quite skeptical, but pleasantly surprised that it worked! Now I cannot take it every day, so I have to alternate days of this med with a pain killer, and still use the triptans for acute migraines. But I am so happy to have some sort of solution to the constant, nauseating pounding in my head.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @jrse– So wonderful to hear you have found some relief with this latest new medication. That kind of news always offers a semblance of hope to the rest of us who might be struggling. I also live with constant pain that is topped off with acute migraine throughout the day or week. You are right that the two different types of headaches can be helped (or not touched) by different medications. It can be very complicating to figure out what treatment protocol works in this instance. I have recently found some relief using gammacore – which have helped both the lower grade constant pain as well as the more pronounced acute attacks. https://migraine.com/?s=Gammacore+&submit=Go Thanks for sharing!

  • Martin
    1 year ago

    Wow I’ve been there before. Thankfully although I get about 6 migs a month I only get knock out ones about once per year. You are right, just chuck everything at it and hope for the best. Thankfully my GP here in the UK are really good. They told me not to go to A&E but to call them. Ok, in reality I can’t see my phone so my wife would call. They can prescribe anything that the hospital would as pain killers. I only found this out last time I got a really bad one back in Feb last year so here’s hoping that I don’t have to take them up on their offer any time soon.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    HI @martinkloos– my goodness- I’m sure many in the US join me in being slightly envious of your experience in the UK! That’s wonderful that you can get what you need with one phone call. And yes, here’s hoping you won’t be needing to make that phone call ever again. Thanks for sharing your perspective from your part of the world!

  • RobynD
    1 year ago

    I am about to take my life bc of the unbearable pain. I have had no success with migraine treatments and they won’t help me in the ER. No doctor will give me even a single dose of narcotics to kill a migraine that is in status migraine. I’d rather be dead at this point:

  • MDM
    1 year ago

    I have been there. I once had status migraine that lasted two years. My children were small and I needed to try to stay around for them. I vomited anything I ate and my weight was skeletal. All I can say is that it eventually lifted. I’m sorry for your pain.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @24xhi66– thank you for your compassion and kindness. So glad to have you as a member of our community.

  • MDM
    1 year ago

    A question. I often try to appear as if I am fine or even deceive people about my days in the bed in the dark. I feel like it is shameful to be so compromised. And I am embarrassed about how often my migraines occur. It is too much for normal people to believe. I’ve heard snide comments such as “she has another headache”, as if this is a choice we make. Anyone else deal with this?

  • Imjcn
    1 year ago

    Oh dear Robyn, I’ve been there, too. I have started getting Botox, which has pretty much been a life-saver. I’ve tried everything. I still get 3-day migraines, but they aren’t at that “10” on the pain scale. More like an “8.”
    I take 300 mg of Topamax daily, flexeril, antidepressant, multivitamin, amitriptaline plus imitrex when I get a migraine. I use peppermint oil and sometimes if all else fails, I take an Excedrin. I don’t use caffeine otherwise.
    I used to have 15 to 25 migraine days a month and now it’s down to 7. Huge difference for me!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @ktloon– just wanted to thank you for responding to @robynd and sharing with the rest of the community a little of your story. It helps so much to remember that we’re not alone in this, so it is very meaningful when we choose to open up to each other and talk about our challenges and successes. It is a great recommendation to consider a new migraine specialist when we are at our wits end in terms of our current treatment protocol. It sounds like you’ve had quite a journey but have learned so much on the way and have emerged with a strategy that helps you manage your condition. Thanks again for sharing with the rest of us.

  • ktloon
    1 year ago

    Hi Robyn. I too have been saddled with migraine. At this point I am diabled by intractable migraine but I have found that with a good neurogist and trials of preventative meds any migraine usually can be decreased in severity to just annoying or just pressure. My neuro has tried& tweaked for a while, then also has some stuff to dofor the rare breakthrough. I cannot take triptans because in 2002 I had a migraine induced stroke. So far at night I take a combo of anti seizure, SSRI, & triciclic antidepressants. Also I find hydration plays a big part, and treating other headaches quickly such as sinus so they dont trigger. I also am very careful with rescue meds as rebound migraineshappen a lot. I also use essential oils & massage. Hope some may help. Maybe a new doctor?

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @23bi2r5 – I’m so glad you chimed in here in support of @robynd. It is important to point out the development of new(ish) treatments like Botox, gammacore https://migraine.com/?s=Gammacore+&submit=Go – and the CGRP treatment which is around the corner:https://migraine.com/?s=CGRP&submit=Go We appreciate your sharing the treatment plan that works for you in hopes that others might learn from you. Thanks again!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Dear @robynd – I am so glad you reached out and spoke up about how you are feeling. Migraine, by its very nature is isolating, but you are not alone and we really hear you. We are here for you on migraine.com and our facebook page to provide information and support, anytime. We encourage you to get all the support you deserve, both online and in person. This may come in the form of medical professionals and counselors as well as support groups – to help in dealing with the extreme hardship that migraine can cause. Also since you mentioned considering taking your life, I hope you will call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ which has a live chat option. I hope this is helpful. Please stay in touch. We are thinking of you.

  • debbieleq
    1 year ago

    I don;t have a choice to care for myself. I have too many people depending on me. So I try as much medicines as allowed and I power through.

  • tucker
    1 year ago

    to MDM – I’m pretty sure most people don’t know just how bad I feel most days my head is throbbing. Maybe if they are perceptive at work they would know I’m not dancing around as usual and I’m quiet and short instead of supportive and joking. But since folks are usually wrapped up in their own little bubbles, I figure no one cares anyways. I’ve learned to stop telling anyone and just take meds and stay at my desk at work and send the family out to dinner and go to bed at home.

    Point is- think about it- don’t ask, don’t tell. Don’t feel guilty. I’ve given up on a Martha Stewart home, glorious vacations, and was never the class mom. There is no reason to outdo anyone. Now I work part time, I’m pretty happy with my life, I’m starting to do some volunteer work on my schedule, and I’m taking a fun class I’ve always wanted to take and I love it! My kids are graduating from HS this year and while we are not the most functional family there are worse. So they survived me just as I survived my mother (she suffered migraines in the era when there was just a shot of demerol/phenergan and the kids were banned from the house all day).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @24xhi66 – When I feel judgment from others, I try to let it go and remember that judgment comes from ignorance. Of course it’s not our responsibility to educate others, but if I care about the person, I will make an effort to increase his/her understanding. I have been known to send out the articles that resonate with me most from migraine.com in hopes of raising awareness and compassion – to help others see that I’m not alone in this, but rather one of more than 36 million in America who have this disease.

    And I love the advice of Tucker -I hope we can all follow it! Let go of worrying what others think and focus on ourselves- getting the most we can out of life despite the limitations that migraine can place on us.

  • MDM
    1 year ago

    Thank you, Tucker. My mom the same… I do remember really hating the times she was in bed for days. And yes this was when cafergot was the only very nasty med.
    Kindly doctor would come out to the house and give her an injection to stop the vomiting and pain somewhat. I just hope none of my grandchildren have inherited the family curse. Kids are ok.for the most part. My son has only occasional migraine. Thanks again for your response. Don’t ask don’t tell…

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @debbieleq– That is a harsh and true reality for many. I hope there are times, here and there, that you can rest. In the meantime, good for you for shoring yourself up to get through all that life demands of you. Very glad you’re a part of our community.

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