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Prodrome, It’s Just the Beginning

Prodrome is the first stage of symptoms for a migraine attack. It can start hours or even days before the attack begins. It is subtle and often creeps into our lives without being immediately noticed. There is a laundry list of symptoms that can be part of this phase, and here are just a few to them: irritability, yawning, food cravings, light sensitivity, fatigue, muscle stiffness, nausea, and difficulty with reading and speaking. For me, I identify with yawning excessively and the muscle stiffness combined with fatigue. Even though I know these are prodrome symptoms I still don’t always catch on until I get into the aura phase of an attack or the attack itself.

Not always noticing the warning signs of migraine

I’ve had migraine for several years and have undergone countless tests. There is the constant prodding and poking with the hopes that the next test will yield some viable results. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that all the tests don’t take care of any of my prodrome symptoms. I guess it really doesn’t matter too much as it relates to my daily routine. As I said before, prodrome symptoms for me are subtle and seem to roll in like a light fog.

I tend to keep myself busy so some symptoms like food cravings and fatigue generally come without me really taking note. Other symptoms like light sensitivity and nausea are a little more upfront and noticeable. Once I notice these symptoms I know I usually have about an hour left where I can push myself to get things accomplished before all bets are off.

Light sensitivity, muscle pain, and irritability

Light sensitivity will continue to get worse and with the aura that accompanies the pending attack comes visual distortions in my left field of vision. I am also more aware of the stiffness and muscle fatigue. Somewhere in the late prodrome phase, I start to experience a flu-like drain on my energy reserves. This normally ramps up the irritability factor for me which makes me more likely to snap at people! This is not great when trying to work with the public and supervise twenty or so employees. I’ve made many apologies as you can imagine. My wife is usually the first one to pick up on the irritability when I’m home, but she says she doesn’t like to tell me about it for fear it will bring on the attack.

Taking an abortive once I realize a migraine is coming

By the time I’m at the end of the prodrome and going through my aura I know it’s time to try an abortive. If I take it too early it hardly ever provides any relief, but if I take it too late I’m out of luck too! Abortives for me have always been a double-edged sword, but I take them in the hopes that the timing is right and that they will work. I get relief about twenty-five percent of the time, and that relief is only mild to moderate. It’s almost not worth the side effects.

The next day for me is the payback day. For me, abortives come with nasty gastrointestinal consequences. That being said I know many people have great results from taking their abortives. I do believe they have a part in the fight against migraine. Prodrome for me ends with the painful part of the attack. I don’t wish it upon anyone, but I know I’m strong like only a migraineur can understand.

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

  • laurahildebrand
    1 month ago

    Yes, exactly. Migraines do make us stronger. I wish this was universally acknowledged. I’m tired of being judged as weak because I have a chronic illness.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    1 month ago

    @laurahildebrand that is the unfortunate part of migraine, the stigma of an invisible disease. Migraine research on average only receives about 1/20th the money as other diseases and migraine is consistently in the top 10 most disabling diseases according to the World Health Association. It’s also funny to note that even when we are not being judged for having this disease so many of us still feel judged. Tom(migraine.com team)

  • Idahokid
    1 month ago

    Greetings migraineurs, I also get all those symptoms Tom mentioned. Have found Pink Himalayan Salt does help. Maybe it isn’t the triptan making you feel sick the next day, it could be the postdrome, maybe. Started to get chronic migraines a few years ago, I’d be lost without Imetrix. Migraines are so weird!

  • SkiingIsBelieving
    1 month ago

    All the symptoms related to onset of migraine are part of the cortical spreading depression (CSD) that make up migraine—the electrical impulses in neurons starting to fail and start a domino effect. I think of prodrome as the sign that your brain is running low on electricity–it’s like the battery warning light on your car. I have had huge success with sodium, which of course is a huge part of electrolyte, which controls how the neurons in our brains communicated. There is increasing research that migraneurs brains need more sodium to support more neuronal activity. Next time you feel any prodrome symptoms, try this: Dip a finger in salt and stick it under your tongue. Sit tight and see if you notice ANY improvement. Sometimes it’s very obvious, other times subtle. If the salt helps AT ALL, even if the symptom comes back in minutes, it’s a sign you are low on salt and your voltage is waning. In that case, drink 1/8 tsp of plain salt in 8 oz. of water, all at once. This has helped me so many times! If for some reason the salt makes it worse (this is rarer) it means you need potassium, which is another essential part of electrolyte. In that case, eat a potassium rich food–a handful of almonds, peanuts, a couple spoons of avocado, a glass of whole milk, a few bites of meat (beef and pork and salmon are highest.) For more info on this salt test and fascinating science about migraine brains, see this paper: http://www.mhfmjournal.com/pdf/migraine-cause-and-treatment.pdf

  • laurahildebrand
    1 month ago

    Great information. Thanks for sharing.

  • lisa c santa cruz
    2 months ago

    excellent article. yes, never could explain the yawning and always thought “don’t bring it up nobody will understand” . all those symptoms show up together and if i do not take a relpax i am toast.
    the pressure and anxiety of a migraineur is rough and i thank God for this symposium. Literally has saved me from many moments of depression through suffering.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    1 month ago

    @lisa c santa cruz as migraineurs I feel we are always under a lot of pressure both external and internal. I find my mind races at times and I have to reel myself in before I get totally consumed in my thoughts. One of the biggest niceties I’ve done for myself is to allow me to be ill and not carry a great burden of guilt. I also make time to provide myself the self-care I need when I’m suffering whether it be for a day or multiple days. I’m glad you have found comfort in our community! We are here for each other always. Tom(migraine.com.team)

  • Ann
    2 months ago

    I get all those symptoms too. As far as the stomach issues, I just wanted to let you know it’s called an abdominal migraine. The brain is connected to the stomach via the vagus nerve and that’s why digestive issues occur in many migraineurs. Some suffer only digestive issues and it’s never connected to a migraine even by the medical profession. That’s why a seasick person vomits. It stems from the assault on the balance receptors in the brain and travels to the stomach via the vagus nerve. I know how strong you are because we all are sharing your plight.

  • laurahildebrand
    1 month ago

    So true. I have been diagnosed with disabling gastroparesis. My abdominal pain is off the charts and I have intractable migraine. I’ll have to have surgery soon.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    1 month ago

    @laurahildebrand best of luck with your surgery. Praying you find the relief you desire from your procedure. I also hope your migraine symptoms remain quiet while you go through it. Tom (migraine.com team)

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @Ann thanks for the information and the support! I will be discussing the stomach issues with my neurologist on the next visit. Tom(migraine.com team)

  • Kathy
    2 months ago

    Yes it’s always good to read that we are not alone! I get the yawning ( what’s that all about? )I get the blurred vision in my right eye( what’s that all about? ) And I get diarrhoea ( what’s that all about?). What works for me is a combination of triptan amiprazole and naproxen. What’s that doing to my body? Good question! Nothing good I’m sure. Looking for answers? Super healthy diet, no stress and a restful peaceful life!! We wish! We keep struggling through with no real answers but thanks to fellow migraineurs who are doing the research and educating us best they can Thanks

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @Kathy thanks for letting me know you understand. It means a lot to find others who get what we go through on a daily basis. I don’t have great luck with my triptans. I’m usually sick the day after taking them or my other abortives. I call it my payback day! As if the migraine hangover wasn’t enough! Tom(migraine.com team)

  • Jesuscolom
    2 months ago

    Hi tom! How strange it is to read your post and read my own experience at the same time! I suffer the same simptoms. Now i’m ranking sertal compuesto and it helps a lot. Some times it just cut the episode completely. Once the aura comes I just laydown ay my bed. Not completely, about 45degrees and I meditate. Also I use some ice at the top of my head. Some times it hits shorter some times longer. Usually it was one or two per year, but this year I ve had already 8 episodes. Nice to read your post, stay strong and enjoy good moments between episodes…
    Saludos
    Jesus

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @jesuscolom thanks for your support and understanding. It’s always nice to find others who get what we are going through! I pray that you will have fewer episodes in the future. Remember we are stronger together! Tom(migraine.com team)

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