Migraines: Overcoming a Lifetime of Throbbing Pain

by Kate Prince June 27, 2019

Migraines Overcoming a Lifetime of Throbbing Pain

An early diagnosis

Kate-Prince-pregnant-woman-lakeI was first diagnosed with migraine at 2 years old. As a toddler, I started to experience intense pain that was so skull-shattering, my mother had to stop me from hitting my head against the wall. After numerous visits to the doctors, we were eventually referred to specialists at the hospital. My migraines weren’t cut and dry – so little in life ever is. In fact, one of my main symptoms was so rare that no-one knew what was going on.

After the pain started, my right eye would begin to move independently, veering off to the left like a loose marble straying from the herd. The eyelid would droop a little more with each passing day, eventually closing altogether and becoming completely paralysed. Trying to get a diagnosis was beyond difficult. Seasoned specialists didn’t know what was happening, let alone the local GP.

Various medical terms were bounded around, from Bell’s Palsy to Tolosa-Hunt Syndrome, but no conclusions were ever made. At one point, I was prescribed 8 tablets a day at the age of 4. Eventually, doctors settled on the term ophthalmoplegic migraine. Two words for a condition that rendered me speechless for so much of my life.

What is a migraine?

What is migraine woman headacheThe common time-length of a migraine is anything from a couple of hours to three days, according to The Migraine Trust. Typical migraine symptoms include throbbing or stabbing pain, often situated on one side of the head. Some people find themselves with disturbed vision, sensitivity to light and in extreme cases, a loss of motor functions (known as hemiplegic migraine).

Unfortunately, mine would last anywhere from one week to four weeks. As the pain eased, my eye would gradually start to come back to life. The doctors, by this point, shrugged their collective shoulders and put it down to nerve damage. Once MRI scans confirmed there was nothing more serious going on, they proposed stitching the eye open when it was in a vegetative state, presumably to try and force it to work again.

My mother flatly refused. I’m forever thankful that I didn’t become a human pin cushion. As if puberty wasn’t hard enough, looking like Sally from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas wasn’t on the top of my to-do list (that fashion phase didn’t come until I was at least 14).

What can trigger migraines?

Yellow Lights Migraine TriggerAs the years rolled by, a pattern seemed to emerge. If I spent too much time in the sun, over-exerted myself or was particularly stressed for some reason, I would most likely come down with a migraine. Other triggers became prevalent, like Sunset Yellow food colouring and flashing lights. While the rest of the world was enjoying the Sunny D phase of the ’90s, I was avoiding it like the plague.
Attending birthday parties often came at a cost – go and run the risk of spending the next few weeks sick thanks to a disco-lighted boogie to “The Macarena”, or stay at home and have that deep-seated sadness that left out children feel so acutely. Other times, an attack seemed to come out of nowhere. I could be at home, reading a book and looking forward to the next day, when the waves of pain would start crashing in.

Looking for a solution to throbbing pain

Throbbing pain frozen mirror
Growing up, I experienced these episodes roughly two or three times a year. Each would start the same, with blinding pain on the right side of my head. Within an hour a two, I would be reaching into a bowl at my bedside while my mother prepared to be nursemaid for the next few weeks. The vomiting was almost as bad as the pain itself, earning me the household nickname Pukeahontas. The NHS specialists continued to make promises that they couldn’t keep, but like many, I was stuck in the system.

Consultants would read my file, look at the “eye-situation” with vaguely interested confusion and promise to see me when it happened again. Of course, we could never get an appointment when I was experiencing an episode. From a patient standpoint, I began to get increasingly frustrated with the NHS and the revolving door of doctors that didn’t understand. Now, as an adult, I appreciate that they were just doing their best with what little knowledge – and funding – they had.

Hospital Doctor Chemistry equipment glovesThe only doctor to ever fully appreciate my situation was my GP, Dr Jonathan Mercer. From the age of seven for the next 20 years, Dr Mercer guided me through various medications with an understanding and ethos that is so rare to find. With his help, I stumbled across Rizatriptan, which soon became my go-to medication. Taken in a small wafer form, it sits on the tongue and dissolves, but there’s a catch – it has to be taken as soon as you feel a migraine coming on. Miss that window and it’s as good as useless.

As my childhood years passed into adolescence, I began to cope with my migraines in the best way that I knew how. I would take the Rizatriptan as soon as I could, but while it was more successful than other medications I have tried, it didn’t always work. Like millions of other people, I felt like I had exhausted my options. Having explored every avenue offered to me by the NHS, I accepted that this was how my life was going to be.

The long-lasting effects of a migraine

The long lasting effects of migraine
By the time I was in my early teens, we discovered that my eye had been left permanently damaged by the episodes. Usually, it would spring back to life in its own time once the pain had subsided. However, after one attack too many, it never regained full movement. If you weren’t looking for it, you may not notice it, but where most people have 5/5 movement, I have 4/5. I also developed anisocoria, a condition in which one pupil is permanently dilated. In simpler terms, I can’t look up without having double vision, and my right pupil doesn’t react to light. Movement becomes lazier if I’m tired.

My teen years passed, and I rolled into my early twenties, by this time despondent and resigned to my fate with a life limited by the threat of pain. Like many migraine sufferers, I found myself shying away from activities that might cause me to get “bad”. This feeling only became more extreme when I had my daughter at 24.

Finding a natural solution

Homeopathy Chinese herbsAs a single parent, I didn’t want to put my child through the strain that comes with having a chronically ill parent. I didn’t want to have to say, “Not today, darling, mummy is sick.” Not only did I start to consider the emotional implications, but the financial implications, too. As a self-employed freelance writer supporting two people on one income, I didn’t have the luxury of taking time off.

Spurred on by motherhood, I found a newfound sense of hope. I began to look at alternative therapies – purely by chance. I happened to post something on social media about my migraines, when a comment popped up from a cousin of mine, asking if I had ever tried homoeopathy. I hadn’t.

In fact, when I had mentioned any sort of alternative therapy to my neurologists previously, it was largely dismissed. If a doctor with all these fancy letters after their name poo-pooed it, then who was I to pursue it, I thought. Realising that they could be wrong was akin to having an Einstein-level epiphany in my mind. I started to research natural remedies for migraine.

Homeopathy vegetables and herbsAt first, it seemed to be too good to be true. How on earth could these all-natural things work for people? Surely doctors would tell you to try it if it could help?
With nothing left to lose, I began trying these remedies one by one. Not only did I look at homoeopathy, but other natural ways to treat my symptoms. Now, 18 months later, and my migraines no longer take out these huge stretches of my life. I’m not saying that I no longer get them; I do and probably will for the rest of my days. But what once was a terrifying monster permanently perched on the edge of my periphery has dwindled down to a wistful shadow in the distance. Instead of being laid low for weeks on end, my migraines go within a few days – sometimes even a few hours. If you would’ve told a younger me that this could be possible using herbal and natural remedies, I would’ve laughed and pointed you to my medicine cabinet.

In fact, I haven’t shunned prescription medicine altogether. I still use Rizatriptan, but as a last resort. By branching out and exploring alternative therapies, I’ve managed to reduce the frequency that I take the drug by over 75%. Not only that but by combining its usage with the following remedies, I’ve found it more effective.

Here's how I overcame a lifetime of throbbing pain.

The best supplements I’ve found for chronic migraine

High-Grade-CoQ10It seems totally bizarre to think that something as simple as a vitamin regime helped break a pain cycle that has lasted almost thirty years. I thought it was so silly that when I first read about it, I didn’t try it. I thought that something you could buy over the counter could never be as good as something you were prescribed by the doctor. When I did eventually get around to it, I was proved spectacularly wrong.

Perhaps one of the most widely used vitamins for migraineurs is magnesium. Studies have found that migraine sufferers often have low levels during an attack, while some may also have a long-term deficiency. Magnesium oxide is the most commonly used. I take one 500mg tablet once a day. I also found that this with post-migraine fatigue.

Alongside this dream supplement, I take 200mg Feverfew, 200mg Co Enzyme Q10, a B12 complex and 500mg Evening Primrose oil daily. All of these have had promising results in clinical trials. Bear in mind that it can take a few months before you start to see positive results.

A look at homoeopathic remedies for head pain

Miracle rainbow peace relaxWhen I first started looking into homoeopathic remedies, I was incredibly dubious. How could a little pill derived from the earth that costs just a few pounds have a better effect than prescribed medicine? Haven’t we advanced beyond that? Questioning natural resources was my first mistake.
I purchased The Complete Guide to Homeopathy by Dr Andrew Lockie and Dr Nicola Geddes. It’s a comprehensive encyclopaedia of remedies for almost every ailment you can think of. With the help of those pages, and the aid of a Facebook group ran by qualified homoeopath Anne Collins, I began to explore different medicines. It’s important to note that choosing a remedy is a process.

Homoeopathy works on a like-for-like basis and is best utilised by undergoing a full consultation with a qualified practitioner.

With the help of Anne’s handy guide to headache remedies, I narrowed my choices down to three options. Sanguinaria (for right-sided migraines with bursting or burning pain), Iris Versicolor (for typical migraine symptoms with shooting pain) and Sepia (for hormonal left-sided pain). These are known as “acute” remedies which are taken when symptoms present. Homoeopathy can also help to prevent attacks too. A practitioner can help you prepare a treatment plan based on your personal circumstances.

Practising yoga to relieve tension

Yoga to relieve migraineMy migraine pain was so severe that I often found my muscles seizing up. My neck, shoulders and upper back would become incredibly sore and stiff during migraine attacks. In fact, even when I’m not experiencing an attack, this is where I hold my stress.

After I started looking at what I could take to lessen my throbbing head pain, I started looking at other holistic therapies. Having never attended an exercise class in my life – and frankly being too busy to fit one in – I happened to stumble across a YouTube channel called Yoga with Adrienne. I’m about as flexible as a frozen concrete block, so I always assumed yoga wasn’t something I could comfortably do.

However, these bitesize classes can be done on your living room floor and have helped me beyond belief. Adrienne offers her viewers a different type of yoga for a variety of physical – and mental – ailments. I personally focus on the episodes for beginners, but there is a brilliant video dedicated purely for migraines as they are occurring.

I’m still no yogi master extraordinaire. I can’t do a downward dog to save my life, but I do try and take at least five to ten minutes each day to focus on myself and loosen up my neck muscles. The overall effect of this has been overwhelming. Pain cycles are often mental as well as physical.

Yoga doesn’t have to be about bending yourself into an upside-down, topsy-turvy pretzel, but teaching yourself how to relax is a brilliant weapon to have in your arsenal.

Becoming open to the possibility of change

Kate Prince with her daughterAs someone that has lived in constant fear of pain for most of her life, becoming open to the possibility of change wasn’t easy. We often become trapped in what we have accepted as our “normal”. Anything outside of this is unchartered territory.

Encouraging yourself to take risks when you’ve already been through the ringer is akin to leaving everything you know to live in a foreign country. It’s inviting, perhaps even enticing – but it also comes with a sense of dread. What if it doesn’t work out? What if I pack up all my things, only to have to get the first flight back? How embarrassing. Is it even worth trying if the fear of failure is that overbearing?

Of course it is. My migraine journey is far from over but taking those first few steps turned into a leap of faith that has changed my life beyond measure. Just before I fell pregnant, I got a tattoo on my collar bone of a Peruvian proverb. It reads, “Little by little, one walks far.”

If only I’d known just how far I’d come.

Written by Kate Prince

Kate Prince is a freelance writer based in Swindon, UK. Kate contributes to over a dozen different websites including Buzznet and Moms as well as several YouTube channels. She has previously worked with ConsumerHealthDigest on topics such as anxiety and life as a single parent. Kate has lived with migraines since she was just 2 years old and is passionate about sharing her experience.
After spending a lifetime exploring all the NHS has to offer, Kate found a solution to her chronic migraines by combining multiple alternate therapies with prescription medicine. She now hopes to share her knowledge on the subject to help others in a similar position. You can follow Kate on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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References for How to Overcome Migraines

Tolosa-Hunt Syndrome. (2019, January 17). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1146714-overview
Gelfand, A. A., Gelfand, J. M., Prabakhar, P., & Goadsby, P. J. (2012, June). Ophthalmoplegic "migraine" or recurrent ophthalmoplegic cranial neuropathy: New cases and a systematic review. Retrieved June 25, 2019, from
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3562350/
More than "just a headache". (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/more-than-just-a-headache/
Hemiplegic migraine. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/hemiplegic-migraine/
Rizatriptan Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-8425-3051/rizatriptan-oral/rizatriptan-tablet-oral/details
What Is Anisocoria? (2019, May 15). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-anisocoria
Supplements and herbs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine/treatments/supplements-and-herbs/
Collins, A. (2017, August 02). Treat Migraines Naturally and Drug-Free. Remedies listed here. Retrieved June 25, 2019, from http://thehomeopathyclinic.ie/migraines/



Kate Prince
Kate Prince

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1 Response

Amanda Bohane
Amanda Bohane

July 03, 2019

What a Honest and heartfelt account from Kate about her condition. Kate what a positive attitude. The information provided is a great help. 🙂

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