Knee Surgery, Migraine, and Opioids

Last updated: January 2023

For as long as I can remember, there has been a debate over the use of opioids for those with migraine. Obviously, this means that some people believe opioids can be used sparingly to manage bad migraines. While on the other hand, some individuals feel as though opioids should not be used at all to treat migraines. It simply depends on you and your doctor.

Are opioids part of my treatment arsenal?

In addition to chronic migraine, I have fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and autoimmune issues. Due to this handful of conditions, I do have a prescription for an opioid. Despite having the prescription, this is a medication that I use sparingly. Only when the pain is too much to tolerate. In these small doses, the opioids do not make my migraines worse.

Why did I need knee surgery?

In April, I ended up having knee surgery on my left knee. By the time it was said and done, I had a meniscus repair, a microfracture, and a cartilage replacement performed during the surgery. My surgeon later told me that my surgery was the second worse one he had ever performed.

While my meniscus was torn in an unfavorable position, they were able to stitch it back together. This was a better solution than having the entire meniscus removed. The microfracture portion of the surgery involved them drilling holes into my femur bone. This released some bone marrow and blood. These bodily products are supposed to assist the new cartilage in adhering to where it was placed inside my kneecap.

How was the pain post-surgery?

After my knee surgery, the pain was quite significant. I attempted not to take too much pain medication. I was worried about what the medication would do to my head. But by not taking the pain medication, I ended up worse off. So, I had to start taking the medication as prescribed.

How did my body respond to the narcotics?

Originally, they wanted me to start taking these codeine-based pain pills. This was not pleasant at all. Besides being itchy all over, my migraines began to worsen. I would get easily irritated, and then a migraine would send me to bed. With time, I did my best to try everything I could think of to counteract the side effects. This included taking Benadryl in hopes it would help with the itchiness, which it did not.

Eventually, I was able to convince my surgeon to allow me to use the pain medication I normally used instead of their codeine-based medication. This drastically changed how I felt after taking the pain medication.

How did these medications impact my migraine?

I did find that if I used the pain medication too frequently, my head would not appreciate it. Additionally, I learned to keep my migraine tool bag close to me in addition to the items for my knee. While I was able to get through the worst part of my knee surgery recovery using opioids, it may not be the best for everyone. We all react so differently to medications. It is important to keep that in mind.

Have you ever had to manage your migraines while taking narcotics for a different injury?

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