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Activity Caused Migraines – Am I an alien?

Okay – so I had a sporadic migraine or two growing up with totally different aura’s (one “falling golden coins” one black spot of no vision, and the more frequent one now being the “glowing neon ameba with lines”) but I have a symptom that has baffled me and doctors. Seventeen years ago I was in an accident where I was on a bike and hit by a car. The car hit the bike, but I flew off and landed on my right elbow and knee. The only reason I bring that up is because shortly thereafter, I started getting more frequent migraine headaches, and I took me a while to recognize the correlation, but if I put any stress or weight on my arms – lift or pull – I can cause a migraine within 24-48 hours. I feel fine during the activity – no pain, no soreness, but then… Activities I have issues with include: ironing, mopping, carrying groceries (or anything). Basically, chores of daily life. Its almost like over hours, something swells in my neck and it all begins.

I can’t tell you the frustration I have had trying to get someone to figure out what the heck is wrong with me. Migraines DO run in my family. My mom always got them, and now a nephew also suffers – so that seems to be the neuro’s “go to” diagnosis – but no one has this ability that I have to cause my own, and it is not only limiting my life, because I LOOK fine – but it’s causing relationship problems as well. Carry my own luggage? nope – pick up the heavy laundry basket? better not! Crouch for any time – like gardening – nope…Shovel snow!!! – Well I did that last Thursday in our blizzard, and only cleared steps and my car, and 36 hours later had a whopper migraine. Thank God I didn’t have children, because there is no way I could carry them!

I have also had some weird ones – one last year where I got the aura, then couldn’t speak or understand language and the pain came on 3 hours later – trip to the ER. I do have some white spots on my brain that a stroke specialist said was from migraine – not stroke (thankfully), and I do have a PFO (small hole in the heart many people with migraine seem to have), but what is the physical connection???

I have been told various things – its a muscle spasm that pinches a nerve – just take Tylenol with codeine – go to Physical Therapy (the lowest tension stretching bands caused a “bed ridden” migraine), tried acupuncture, been to 3 neurologists, an osteopath, have had numerous brain scans, neck MRI’s, etc.

I am 57 – and have tried to keep in some kind of shape. Luckily I am naturally slim, so I do look in shape – and I used to be able to do lower body exercise – but recently even that caused the headaches, then walking too far on the treadmill (on level setting) caused one, and now it seems walking more than 10 minutes makes one happen. Like – REALLY? My neuro told me to “have my husband carry things” and if I have to walk far – use a wheelchair – Oh, com’on!!!! I almost cried.

Yes, I know I need to find another doctor – but I am just wondering – does ANYONE here have this weird situation??? I am feeling like an alien…

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Iowapain
    3 years ago

    you are not an alien…I myself have odd triggers…overexertion and sometime if I move wrong some forms of exercise …ya its not fun in the last 3 years I have started to “Black Out” not knowing where I am or sometimes hard to talk for a bit after The doctors think it is a defense to Migraine so you are not the only one Good luck I hope you find help….Oh have you tried just going to a chiropractor to see if maybe you can get a little relief…just a idea

  • Josephine79
    3 years ago

    Hi Cher273,

    First of all: excuse my English: I’m from the Netherlands, so I will do my very best 🙂
    I’m certainly not a doctor, but I do have over 20 years of experience with very bad migraines (I have chronic migraine). Just like you, I also seem to get migraines after physical activity, as do a lot of migraineurs. So your certainly not an alien!
    Especially after carrying (heavy?) weight of any weight at all for that matter. But my advice to you: adept your life to this trigger and accept it.

    Personally I will get migraines anyway, but with this trigger I seem to get EXTRA migraines, so my partner and my friends will carry whatever it is what needs to be carried. And I don’t make very long walks anymore. I just enjoy short walks on my better days.

    All the best to you.

  • Cher273 author
    3 years ago

    Thank you Josephine! So far you seem to be the only person I have heard of who has similar symptoms. When I was told they were exertion migraines I was so skeptical, because I really am not one for exertion – in other words, I’m naturally thin and never really worked out hard to begin with. My blood pressure is always low – and the “exercise’ I refer to is a simple walk on level ground. Just seems to be getting worse and more limiting as time goes by. First I could do lower body exercise, then that caused delayed headaches, then no more treadmill walking with incline, and now level walking is an issue. I am afraid it is getting progressively worse. At age 57 I look fine (most say I look younger than my age) but I feel so much older! This is NO fun.. Thanks for replying – Your English is very good! 🙂

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Cher273, that’s a very interesting question! The occipital nerve ends near the clavicle, so conceivably if there was some damage to your shoulder in the accident it may be irritating the occipital nerve. It would sure be something to address with your doctor, especially if you have lingering neck and shoulder pain. We also have an article you nay be interested in reading about physical activity as a migraine trigger.

    You also may be interested in reading Is it time for a new migraine doctor? and Hiring the Right Doctor for help in locating and choosing headache specialists near you.

    Thanks for being part of the community and for sharing your story. We’re glad you’re here! -Warmly Donna ( team)

  • Cher273 author
    3 years ago

    Thank you Donna! It was nice finding someplace to gripe where people understood! LOL 🙂

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