chronic illness

The Best Way To Explain Chronic Migraines

Today’s guest post is written by Dr. Mark Khorsandi who works with the Migraine Relief Center which has several offices across the nation that offer a variety of treatment options including surgery, injections, and alternative options. Be sure to check out his site for more information

Along with the pain and emotional side effects of chronic migraines, the last thing a person wants during an attack is to hear someone say, “I understand. I get headaches every now and then too.” Although this is said out of empathy and no harm is meant by it, you and all other migraine sufferers know that a migraine is not a typical headache.

Adding to the frustration, is the fact that migraines cannot be seen from the outside. Because of this, not only is the pain intensity and the accompanying symptoms difficult for others to understand, but it can also be quite challenging to convince them that you are even suffering from a migraine in the first place.

So how do you help others to understand? As with most education, it is best to start with the basics.

What Is A Migraine?

The first question a curious loved one may ask is, “How do you know it’s not just a headache?”

Although migraines do fall under the same category as headaches, their characteristics are much different. First of all, unlike most headaches which are normally felt on both sides of the head, migraines typically focus on one side only. They also cause severe, intense throbbing or pulsing pain which can last from hours to weeks.

To make the situation worse, migraines are usually accompanied by a wide range of unpleasant symptoms such as blurred vision, vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to lights, smells and sounds. They can also cause stress, irritability and depression.

What Causes Chronic Migraines?

Another question you may hear is, “Why do you get them so often?”

Chronic migraines are often associated with genetics, such as skeletal imbalance problems, issues within the jaw joint or environmental factors. Unfortunately, until the root cause is discovered and corrected the migraines will likely continue.

  • Genetic Factors: Any type of misalignment above the shoulders, including the skull, jaw or neck can cause unusual activity in the trigeminal and facial nerves. When these nerves are irritated, the surrounding muscles experience unusual and chronic contraction. This leads to abnormal blood flow in the brain and ultimately to migraines.
  • Environmental Factors: Although genetics are likely the main cause for most sufferers, migraines can also be triggered by several environmental factors. A few of the main culprits are stress, dehydration, poor sleep, diet, lights, smells and hormones, such as menstrual cycles and menopause.

helping-explain-chronic-migraines

Types of Migraines

Occasionally you may hear statements such as, “My friend has migraines too, but she never complains about nausea.” 

That very well could be true, but this is the perfect time to let them know that there are actually five different types of chronic migraines. Furthermore, each of those types comes with its own unique pain sensations and symptoms.

Basilar Migraine

This is one of the few migraines that can be felt on both sides of your head, as well as on the back. Along with the severe stabbing or throbbing pain, many sufferers also experience visual disturbances, confusion, balance loss and an inability to speak.

Ocular/Retinal Migraine

With this type of migraine, often the first symptom is partial or full loss of vision in one eye, which can last up to an hour and occur as early as 18 hours before the migraine strikes. The rhythmic throbbing or pulsing pain is usually accompanied with sensitivity to light.

Hemiplegic Migraine

Frightening stroke-like symptoms often precede the severe throbbing pain of a hemiplegic migraine. These symptoms can include loss of consciousness, nausea, confusion, dizziness, numbness and slurred speech.

Transformed Migraine

The transformed migraine, although typically less intense than the others, can occur daily. The steady ache, throbbing or tension sensation felt from this migraine is often accompanied by symptoms such as light and sound sensitivity and nausea.

Silent Migraine

Since this type of migraine strikes without pain, it can be more difficult than the others to self-diagnose. However, the symptoms are the same and can be just as debilitating. With a silent migraine, you will likely experience visual disturbances, sensitivity to sound and light, confusion and nausea.

 

Migraine Treatments

The final question is one that almost every migraine sufferer has probably heard. “Why won’t you just take an aspirin?”

Unlike normal headaches, migraines do not always respond to standard over the counter medications. Instead, many migraine sufferers must take prescription drugs to relieve their symptoms. Others look for relief in home remedies, massage, Botox and for the most severe cases, surgery.

Friends and loved ones ask questions out of both curiosity and concern, but finding the right way to answer them is sometimes difficult, especially during a migraine attack. Fortunately, now you will be more equipped to explain to others exactly what you are experiencing. Better yet, you can lay your head down, put an eye mask on and say, “Here. Read this.”

Stock photos by Turquoise & Palm
chronic illness

Ending Summer With A Bang (Despite Chronic Illness)

I am so excited to introduce fellow endo warrior and blogger Kenya! As if being a warrior isn’t enough, she is also a practicing doula and advocate to end violence against women and girls! Definitely be sure to check out her sites after checking out how to make use of the last official weeks of summer!

There are a couple more weeks of summer left before the glorious transition of autumn begins. If managing endo or chronic illness has kept you from enjoying the warmth of this season, you still have time to take back control of your illness and soak in some healthy rays of vitamin D. Sometimes dealing with the heat can exacerbate the fatigue, exhaustion, and pain I feel from having endometriosis, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time indoors this summer.


However, it’s not over yet and I’ve vowed to make the most of these last several weeks. It can be challenging at times to feel confident making plans far in advance, given how my pain and other endo-related symptoms vary, so the summer is a great opportunity to be spontaneous. Listed below are seven things you can do to end the season with a bang:

1. Go for a drive or a bike ride to an undetermined destination.

Let the windows down or hop on your bike and just go in the direction your mood takes you. This is a wonderful time to let your thoughts roam free, explore the landscape of an area you may not have traveled before, and feel the wind on your face.

2. Take an overnight trip.

Haven’t had the time or money for a full-scale, luxury vacation? That’s alright. You can spend less than that amount on a fabulous staycation. Pick a destination that’s about three hours away, by car, bus or train, and stay overnight at an upscale hotel—sleep-in, order room service, enjoy the luxury toiletries, be a tourist!

Remember to bring any comfort measures and medications used to manage your illness and practice being comfortable taking your time and resting when needed. I live in the DC area and plan to take a trip down to tour Monticello in Virginia. I hear the grounds are beautiful and the experience is powerful.

3. Practice yoga outside in nature.

Try out yoga alá Yoga Rocks the Park or this simple routine from Whole Living. After my cycle ends, my insides feel completely twisted and weak, like they’ve been wrung out to dry. Beginning to move again and stretch/lengthen in this area helps me get back in touch with my body and gives me a sense of being in control of how my body recovers. Many yoga centers host outdoor sessions all throughout the summer; simply Google “outdoor yoga classes” with your city and you’ll see a variety of options.

Yoga In Nature - Ending Summer With A Bang

 

4. Have a swim in the lake or the pool.

I love to just float in the water, on my back, feeling the warm sun and breeze on my face. I will spend hours in the pool feeling weightless and free from all the worries of the day (or week or year! Lol). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “water-based exercises can help people with chronic diseases” by improving the use of affected joints and muscles and decreasing pain.

Swimming also doesn’t strain your back or involve jolting, jerky movements, which can help lower pain symptoms. The relaxation and meditation that many swimmers experience from deep, focused breathing and rhythmic stretching movements as they swim is an added bonus.

5. Enjoy a delicious gelato made with summer fruits, or a yummy water ice, and an intriguing, brain stimulating book (whatever that means for you).

There’s a new little café near my apartment that offers the most delicious mango gelato. Did you know there are health benefits to gelato? It’s gluten free, low in fat, has half the calories of ice cream, and generally contains very little artificial flavoring or ingredients. I plan to grab a couple scoops and take some time to work through my summer reading list.

So far my list includes Ballet Beautiful: Transform Your Body and Gain the Strength, Grace, and Focus of a Ballet Dancer by Mary Helen Bowers and The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body by Cameron Diaz.

Summer Reading List
What’s on your current reading list? Let us know in the comments!

6. Work on that new summer hairstyle (color, cut, or style) that works best under the hot sun.

The impact endometriosis and other chronic illnesses have on our bodies—unexpected weight gain, frequent bloating, always being on edge before our cycle starts, surgery scars and the like—can be hard to control and may have a negative impact on our self-esteem. One part of our bodies that we can play with, with little regard for the effect to be permanent, is our hair! Trying a new hairstyle or treatment can work wonders to raise our spirits, give us a new attitude and change our perspective on a situation. It’s all about seeing the same thing in a different way.

During the summer, the heat helps my curls coil and dry in the most attractive way and the humidity adds volume that styling products could never achieve. It’s hot out and I’m in/out of the water a lot anyway, so why fight it? I’m planning to get a curly cut and try this gorgeous twist out, Channeling Corrine Bailey Rae, during my downtime this month. I may even add a touch of color just for fun. No matter what we do to it, our hair will grow back or grow out, so take a risk and be adventurous!

7. Check out that outdoor concert, art/music fest, or athletic event.

While I don’t think I’ll regret not having children, I will likely regret not having gone to the Beyoncé Mrs. Carter World Tour or her On the Run Tour with Jay-Z. I tend to be exhausted by crowds and hours of standing/walking but with a little pre-planning, excursions like these can become the highlight of the summer. Be sure to bring water and light snacks, wear comfortable, supportive walking shoes, a blanket and small pillow so you can rest in a shaded area when needed, and a camera to capture the memories.

Summer Fun - Ending Summer With A Bang

 

Use these ideas to generate some of your own, but most of all, have fun and let loose! What plans do you have to make the most of these last weeks of summer? Share your strategies to manage endo during the warm summer months in the comments section.

 

Guest post written by Kenya Fairley (www.kenyafairley.com), an advocate to end violence against women and girls. As Senior Director of Capacity Building and Education for the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (www.nrcdv.org), Kenya oversees the technical assistance, training, and resource development components of the organization, including its online presence and social media engagement. Additionally, Kenya is a practicing doula (www.kenyathedoula.com) with experience, knowledge and education related to childbirth and supporting survivors of abuse.

chronic illnessholidays

Keeping a Holiday Budget (And Your Spoons)!

Our second guest of the week is TiaMarie and she will be sharing her wisdom on creating and keeping a holiday budget with chronic illness and saving your spoons in the process! 

Christmas Holiday Tips

The holidays can be stressful for anyone on a budget. For those of us who also need to manage our energy levels, the idea of holiday shopping is daunting. Huge crowds can be nearly as overwhelming as the hefty price tag on many of this season’s must-have toys.

In my battle with RA, I’ve found that being proactive instead of reactive can make all the difference. So I’ve gathered together some tips to share with you to make this holiday shopping season as manageable as possible. I hope they help!

Set a budget. Stick to it.

Before you even start shopping, take a few moments to decide how much you can really afford to spend. Be realistic. If this is a tough year for you, maybe sending cards instead of gifts to extended family is the way to go. It really is the thought that matters and many of your family and friends will understand if you can’t afford to buy a gift for everyone.

Make a list. Check it twice.

Once you have a solid budget, check out the people on your list. I like to note a few ideas next to each person’s name. If I have ideas of what to look for, it makes for less wandering around the stores.

Shop online. Scope out deals.

Before hitting the stores, check to see if any items can be ordered online for a cheaper price. Many stores even offer discounts on shipping this time of year which saves the shopper a lot of energy. And with sites like Etsy and Storenvy, you can find some unique gifts for those hard-to-shop-for folks on your list.

Plan ahead. Be prepared.

For any shopping that must be done in person, make a plan. Rest up for a day or two before. Plan your shopping for a day with no other obligations so you can take your time and rest afterwards. Rushing and pushing yourself only leads to more pain. Remember your list so you’re not wandering around the store using up spoons needlessly.

Be kind to yourself.

Many of us forget to take care of ourselves during this busy time of year. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and the next thing you know, you’re flat on your back in the middle of a flare. Spread out your shopping instead of trying to cram it all into one outing. Take advantage of mobility aids and help offered by loved ones.

Most of all, remember the reason for the season. Focus your energy on spending time with people you love. For spoonies and those who love us, this can be the best gift of all. Last year my fiance and I mailed out Christmas cards to everyone on our list and had a scaled back celebration with a few close friends. By cutting out a lot of shopping, travel, and long days, I was able to enjoy the holiday instead of being laid up in pain.

I hope these tips help you enjoy this time of year with minimal impact on your body. From my home to yours, Happy Holidays!

TiaMaria is the founder of Spoons 4 Spoonies and can be found writing about her life with chronic illness at http://becominneurotic.wordpress.com/ and tweeting at https://twitter.com/BecominNeurotic.