Migraine with Limb Pain
Last updated: March 2022
For a while, I thought my migraines might be gone for good. Then I realized they weren’t gone; they’d changed. I rarely got an aura, or if I did, I didn’t always get the headache afterward. Sometimes I got a headache without any tingling, aphasia, or other migraine indicators that couldn’t be touched by ibuprofen and only got better after taking my prescription migraine medications. I didn’t know how to head off a migraine without the aura to warn me and keep me bound to my bed, unable to see. I was powering through headaches, sometimes for days, without knowing to seek relief in my medicine cabinet.
My weirdest new attack
The weirdest of my “new migraines,” though, happened one very hot summer day. I was picking up my kids from camp and was in a seemingly interminable pick up line, lifting my leg on and off the breaks every few seconds to inch my way forward. My hip, which generally has some issues, did not like this and was aching up my side. My right arm was also hurting. The muscles that connected my arm socket to my trapezius were the loudest, and I found myself trying to stretch in my car.
My limbs were in pain
I got the wilted kids home and gave them popsicles. I took some over-the-counter painkillers. I curled up on the couch, kept rubbing my arm, and did some hip stretches. I was nauseous and exhausted. I felt like I couldn’t really move, kind of like when I’d had panic attacks. I wasn’t really anxious now; I just hurt. My head wasn’t hurting, though. I put a wet washcloth on my eyes to help cool down and liked the idea of being in the dark on this hot summer day.
Was it a heart attack?
Even though looking at my phone made me queasy, I started Googling heart attack symptoms. Surely I was too young, I thought, but my arm hurt so much! Finally, in a bit of a fog, I took stock of my body: pain in my shoulders after being in a weird body position for a long time, stress on my body after a horribly hot day, light sensitivity, nausea, painkillers not working.
I took my migraine medication
Because I didn’t have a whole lot of other ideas, I decided to follow the nausea and light sensitivity and took my migraine medication. Within twenty minutes, I was fine. My head cleared. My arm stopped hurting. I was still tired, but not so much that I couldn’t get up and finish out the day with the kids. It was a migraine. Maybe the headache would have come, or maybe the muscle pain in my shoulders was the extent of it. Perhaps the heat caused it, or the body tension, exhaustion, or a mystery trigger.
Is limb pain a symptom of migraine?
I tried to look up migraines that aren’t in your head and didn’t find anything that fit perfectly. Hemiplegic migraines affect parts of the body besides the head, but one side would be numb, not in pain. I had this type when I was an adolescent. I found an article about limb pain with migraine with and without headache that had a very small study size but might fit what I experienced.
While I really hope it doesn’t happen again, I’m going to try to listen more to my body around these events and give my healthcare providers enough information to get to the bottom of it and head it off sooner.
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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