Whack-a-mole: Chasing Freedom from Pain
Last updated: October 2022
As we seek freedom from pain and related symptoms of migraine, it can end up feeling like we are playing a crazy and awful game of whack-a-mole. With a medicated hammer, we take aim at one migraine symptom, just to have an equally troublesome side effect pop up in its place.
There are countless symptoms related to migraine in addition to severe pain. Few people have the same bouquet of issues. Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells are most common. Many of us also face nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, aphasia, and mood changes. Some of us also deal with comorbid conditions like depression, fibromyalgia, anxiety, or diabetes.
No easy fix
What a complicated world we navigate when it comes to managing the many health challenges that accompany our migraines. We are not only trying to stop the pain, but also to quiet the nausea, and perhaps the anxiety as well. As we all know there is no magic solution when it comes to preventing or treating migraines. There is no easy fix. There is a real dearth of treatment options. For most of us, the medications and therapies currently available are rife with side effects.
For instance, a medication we take for pain relief may cause nausea. We then might take medication for nausea and then experience severe drowsiness as a result. After days in bed due to a migraine, we might seek massage therapy to address tight muscles, but the toxins released during deep tissue body work might trigger a new attack. Maybe we receive steroid injections to halt an intractable migraine, but we are left jittery and unable to sleep due to the prednisone in our bodies. And we all know lack of sleep triggers migraines. Topamax, one of the few FDA-approved migraine prevention medications, is well known for causing brain fog and aphasia, as well as weight and hair loss as patients first adjust to the dosage. Anti-depressants, shown to have a positive impact on some migraine patients due to their impact on serotonin levels, can cause weight gain and emotional flatness or lack of affect in some.
Putting out fire with gasoline
As we seek relief from the severe pain caused by migraines, we inevitably end up juggling side effects from the solutions themselves. There is a sense we are putting out a fire with gasoline.
So, how do we manage side effects on top of symptoms? Many of us are left feeling emotionally raw and heavy and as if we are swimming through a pool of mud as we wade through daily pain. In the face of this reality, it becomes important to:
- Keep our eyes on the horizon and remember there are new therapies coming. CGRP, a new therapy involving antibodies, is quite promising and is likely to be released within the coming 24 months.
- Make sure you are working with a migraine specialist. They are the doctors who are best-equipped to handle the unique demands of your condition.
- Visit your migraine specialist regularly. It is a good idea to consider reworking your treatment protocol if it loses efficacy.
- Stay connected with friends and loved ones in whatever way works for you. Connect daily with at least one other person to ask how s/he is doing. Have them do the same with you.
- Keep visiting your friends at migraine.com. The community here is alive and well, and full of people who are figuring out how to get by, just like you are. Migraine is an isolating condition and it is important to remember you are not alone in this.
Do you experience side effects from your migraine medications? What are they? Are the side effects of your medications sometimes as bad as the migraine symptoms themselves? How do you cope with the cycle?
Which are you most sensitive to?