Navigating chronic migraine is not easy. Yes, there are medications to take and things to do to help manage, but it's tricky. Because of our journey with wanting to grow our family and going through fertility treatments, my options are limited. The triptans I take at the onset of migraine pain can only be used 9 times a month... and I have 20+ migraines in a "good month". Also, as I have talked about before, during the 2 week wait I am off all meds. Today I am going to share with you some of my methods for pain management without medication. A lot of what I do is trying to shift my focus away from the pain in a calm and gentle way. (The following are things I do in addition to traditional things like ice, dark room rest, sleep etc.)
* Hot Tea
- Sometimes at the onset of pain, a small amount of caffeine from a cup of tea helps to level out the pain and keeps it is check for a while. I have to be very careful about caffeine, too much and too little can be a trigger or make an ongoing migraine worse. My body is fussy and I have learned to walk that line carefully.
* Prayer or Rosary
- I feel like I am in a constant, quiet conversation with God. I have learned a lot about myself and my faith through my journey with chronic migraine. If my head can handle it I love to read the devotional I have by my bed. They are very quick reads, so they are not usually going to make my pain worse by reading for 5 minutes. I can do one and then close my eyes and reflect and pray about what I read.
- I have several rosaries to pick from, but I usually hold the one my grandma gave me when I was young. Before she ever gifts a rosary, she prays on it for months beforehand. It is such a precious gift and it makes me feel embraced in multiple ways. I do not pray my rosary the traditional way. I usually can't put coherent sentences together let alone remember the words and orders of prayers (even ones I know by heart)... I hold each bead and slowly work my way through it by thinking of a person or prayer intention I have, one per bead. It is a way I put a purpose to my pain and feel connected to those I care about.
* Body Relaxation
- This is a trick my mom used on us when we were little and couldn't relax at bedtime... and now I have Nathan do it too. You lay very still and think about each part of your body, starting at your toes, and try to get that part as relaxed as you can. You slowly move up your body, and I have probably never made it past my legs when I am tired. It helps me to out all my energy and focus into a different part of my body besides my head.
- Okay, this one is a weird quirk that I started when I was really little and picked back up again when I was pregnant with Nathan. I have always loved the feel of soft things, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. I eventually figured out that I liked to rub cotton balls between my fingers (pointer and middle) to relax. There used to be a mountain of cotton balls under my bed when I was a kid and family would love to tease me about it. So telling the world that this is one of my secret tricks to cope with pain is not easy...
Well, when I was pregnant, in so much pain from riding out migraine after migraine without any meds I was in serious need of a distraction...I used a couple left over cotton balls from doing my nails and I realized it was actually helpful. Now I keep a few in my nightstand and use them when I am in pain. The action of rubbing the cotton and the softness gives me something to focus other than wishing I could scoop out my brain. When you cannot use any medication sometimes you might be driven back to childish/childhood habits out of shear desperation, but if they actually work and are not harmful to you then who cares?
- If you have been here, following along with my journey, you know that I am a big fan of gratitude for the big and the small. So on days when I am in so much pain, you'd think I would take a break from that focus. I actually lean into it more, it helps me wade through the fog, pain and misery. There is always something to be thankful for, even on our darkest, most painful days - and it is totally fine if the gratitude you focus on is for ginger ale, crackers and darkness.
- I have never really been into podcasts in the past, but omg I love them now. Seriously, why did I wait so long to jump in? Over the past year I have found so many awesome ones the listen to while I lay in bed. Somedays I can't handle the sounds, but when I can it's so nice to have. Guys, chronic migraine can be SO boring and lonely. Podcasts have helped me to pass the time, distract myself from the pain and ride out the storm.
Here is a list of my favorites to listen to... Some are good for a mom-boost, a religious-boost, or just to be entertained.
- The Renew You Podcast - Quinn Kelly
- Get Real with Caroline Hobby
- Mom Brain - Daphne Oz & Hilaria Baldwin
- Bobbycast - Bobby Bones
- Whine Down with Jana Kramer & Michael Caussin
- Milk and Honey - Amaris Beecher & Lindsey Maestas
- Goal Digger - Jenna Kutcher
- Cup Full of Hope - Caroline Harris & Jessica Satterfield
What are some ways that you manage pain without medication?