Migraines — Back with a Vengeance

I’ve suffered from migraine headaches most of my life. They started in puberty, though they weren’t immediately recognized or diagnosed. I can remember days in high school when I could barely focus because the pain was so strong. For years I thought that these episodes were shoulder and neck tightness, it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that a doctor suggested that I pay close attention to where I first noticed the pain (in my temple) that I discovered that the stiff shoulder and neck were part of the migraine.

No drugs have every worked with these headaches — at least not long term. Over the years I’ve tried all manner of remedies ranging from over the counter NSAIDs and Acetaminophen to prescription drugs such as Imitrex, Zomig, a cocktail of Reglan, Benadryl and NSAIDs. When I was in high school, the theory was that migraines were caused by constriction of capillaries in the brain, and so I was prescribed a drug called Inderal that I took daily which was a vasodilator.

Sometimes these have provided minimal relief, but they’ve never addressed the issue. Most of the relieve came as a result of being knocked out by the drugs and sleeping for a while. That meant that they really weren’t an option unless I was at home and could afford to take a nap.

The only thing that kills the pain is sleep. But even that is not a sure fire path to relief.

Several years ago, I started going to regular acupuncture appointments to treat these migraines. Astonishingly, a weekly treatment of needles in my feet, ankles, and ears seems to provide a great deal of relief and protection from the migraine. Over a period of about 6 months, the frequency of these attacks faded from at least one per week to maybe one every three months. A dramatic improvement.

So dramatic, that I stopped going. And the problem did not manifest itself again for several years. Until, that is, I quit drinking.

Since I quit drinking in September, I’ve had migraines with increasing frequency. This is, understandably, troubling.

I am confident that the frequency of the migraines is tied to the fact that the chemistry of my brain is normalizing. I’m confident that this is all for the better and that drinking isn’t going to solve any thing here. But it is troubling.

I’ll be making a point of scheduling regular acupuncture appointments starting this week. I’m hopeful that they will help.

I’m curious, if you’re a migraine sufferer, did they get worse when you got sober? If so, how did you manage them? Did they get better over time?

Please drop me a note in the comments if you’ve got suggestions.


— Damien