Migraines aren’t just another pain…
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Okay, my first story seemed well received, so I’ll write another. I also apologize for the bad spelling and grammar in any of the stories. It used to be far better before the migraines.

Okay, so here’s another thing about migraines. I’ve had chronic pain several times. I’ve had knee pain so bad that I literally couldn’t walk or sleep for a week. I’ve had back pain so bad where the only way I wasn’t in pain was standing. I’ve had sciatica so bad that it actually negatively affects my ACT and SAT test scores PLUS I couldn’t walk. I’m not knew to the whole “chronic pain” business. No, I’m not a hypochondriac. My body just literally hates me.

But here’s the thing with migraines. It’s not a real physical pain. I mean, you feel it as if it were one, but in truth it’s not. For my sciatica, I could explain to you what was wrong. Pressure in my L4-L5 spine was pressing on my sciatic nerve, causing pain to go down my right leg, and standing was the only way for the inflammation to not put pressure on that nerve.

The thing with migraines, or any headache disorders, is that you CAN’T explain it. Your brain doesn’t have nerve receptors in it. For all intents and purposes, your brain can’t feel pain. The pain in your brain literally doesn’t exist in the way that most pains do. It’s LITERALLY all in your head.


Which is the weird thing. You body creates endorphines and that’s a natural pain reliever. You can do something to take your mind off of the pain. You can sit in a different way to lessen the pain. You can take x.y, and z drugs to make the pain go away. Ibuprofen helps with inflammation. Acetaminophen blocks pain receptors. Heat reduces inflammation. Ice numbs it. That’s how those work! You figure out what kind of pain you’re in. You take the medication or do the thing for that kind of pain. You avoid the things that make it worse or do things that make it better. You’re all patched up. You can manage it.

The thing about migraines is, it’s not a real pain. X,y, and z drugs don’t work. Your doctor can run tests all day, but for all intense and purposes, there’s nothing a doctor can measure to tell you that you’re having a migraine. It’s not a literal pain like it is when inflammation in your back presses on your sciatic nerve. It’s literally caused by something in your brain (doctors don’t know what yet), so you can’t take your mind off of it, ignore it, or forget it. There’s no receptors sending these messages to your brain to ignore! It literally originates and ends in your brain!

I don’t mean to be depressing about it, obviously most of us can go to a doctor, get prescriptions, and that’ll work. The issue is that outsiders need to understand this. Migraine pain feels different than normal pain. It worse worse in an arbitrary way that can’t be explained. I’ve been through pain so bad I couldn’t walk. I’ve been in pain so bad I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been in pain so bad that I could do nothing but sit there and cry. So bad I’ve needed intense drugs for it. No matter how bad a level 10 (worst pain ever) physical pain is, a level 10 migraine will always be worse! I know it’s useless to go to a doctor and say I’m having a level 11 migraine, but that’s literally what it feels like. It literally feels like a pain worse than the worst pain ever.

I can’t put into words how this is different. How a migraine is different than a regular pain. How it FEELS different, but it is. The best way I can explain it is there’s nothing you can do to ease it without going right to prescriptions. The pain literally feels different. It’s a pain entirely in your head, but it’s not like you’re making it up. You literally feel it. It’s a pain that through medical research, probably shouldn’t exist because there’s no cause found beyond a few genetic components. Simply speaking, no one knows why we have them.

Plus knowing all this. Knowing that it’s a pain entirely in my brain and that brains literally can’t feel pain. Knowing that there’s no real cause of pain occurring that can be measured with modern science, that in it’s own sick form makes it feel worse. Because it doesn’t make sense. It sounds like being a hypochondriac. IT sounds made up. It sounds like a mental illness, and you know what? It might just be that.

Which is why as a migraine sufferer, I feel so weak. I don’t have a super high pain tolerance, but I’ve been through enough intense chronic pains to where I could be like, “You know what? Yes, I hurt and it sucks, but it’s not going to ruin my life.” Migraine pain is inherently different from that, and it makes the sufferer feel weak and helpless when they can’t just shrug it off with those few words.

And that’s not to undermine other pains that make a person unable to function. It’s simply to say migraines are part of that group. It’s not just another pain, it’s something inherently different that is unbearable and explainable. It’s something that just hurts in a way you’d have to feel to understand. I’ve been through a lot of physical pains on a level 10, but migraines always inherently felt worse than any of that.

Stories posted on Migraine.com solely represent the personal points of view, experiences and opinions of their authors.
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5 comments on “Migraines aren’t just another pain…

  1. Profile photo of Luna Luna says:

    The brain itself is not sensitive to pain, because it lacks pain receptors. However, several areas of the head and neck do have pain receptors and can thus sense pain. These include the extracranial arteries, middle meningeal artery, large veins, venous sinuses, cranial and spinal nerves, head and neck muscles, the meninges, falx cerebri, parts of the brainstem, eyes, ears, teeth and lining of the mouth.[8][9] Pial arteries, rather than pial veins are responsible for pain production.[5]

    Headaches often result from traction to or irritation of the meninges and blood vessels. The nociceptors may be stimulated by head trauma or tumors and cause headaches. Blood vessel spasms, dilated blood vessels, inflammation or infection of meninges and muscular tension can also stimulate nociceptors and cause pain.[9] Once stimulated, a nociceptor sends a message up the length of the nerve fiber to the nerve cells in the brain, signaling that a part of the body hurts.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headache

  2. Profile photo of Luna Luna says:

    P.S.
    Migraines aren’t just another pain…
    Definitely not just another pain. They are a whole body experience.

  3. Profile photo of JOJ JOJ says:

    Thank you!
    There was a wonderful multi-page article in the New Scientist magazine, 7 March 2015, summarising international research on migraines then. The graphics were outstanding, and showed the feeling of my kinds of migraines (from the inside looking out). And pretty much the summary would be ‘your brain isn’t a computer so any analogy on those lines is false. But if it were, and it was overclocking then freezing then needing to reboot, then cascading again, that might be like a migraine’.
    The article explained about the kinds of pain (thanks, Luna!), about memory and learning also shape the way our brains respond to both the pain experience and medication, and how non-medication strategies can help us cope.
    Migraines are biological, not ‘in our heads’ 😉

  4. Profile photo of Luna Luna says:

    Tried to access that article but could only read a little before needing to subscribe. Oh rats. But it reminded me of something I read long ago.
    “We know that migraine brains react differently than non-migraine brains. The brain of a migraineur is hyper-excitable. It responds differently to stimuli (in other words, we’re not saying a migraine attack is caused by eating the wrong things or being in a stressful situation – there is something about the brain of someone with migraine disease which is fundamentally different, even when an attack is not happening).” http://headacheandmigrainenews.com/what-is-migraine-the-scientific-story/
    Then from your article.
    “Migraine is often thought of as an occasional severe headache, sometimes accompanied by strange visual effects and nausea. There’s a feeling it isn’t really serious because once the headache is over the person goes back to normal. But these bizarre and disturbing aura symptoms alone should tell us there’s far more to migraine than meets the eye. Over the past decade, research has been building a picture of a condition which is much more serious than many give it credit for. It shows that migraine is caused by real structural and functional differences in the brain, and that people who experience migraines…”
    That has spurred me to do more research on the newest findings. Thanks.

    “the brain of someone with migraine disease which is fundamentally different, even when an attack is not happening).” This statement helped me immensely. I have always been a little different. I am rambling so guess I’ll go ….

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