Me and migraines go way back. For me, there is a scale of bad to put me out of my misery, but most true migraines in me, left untreated, will get quickly to the put me out of my misery stage.
I have 4 types of migraines: allergy induced, hormonal induced, sleep deprivation induced and just for the heck of it induced. I have discovered over the years that the only thing that works (for me) is aspirin. Quickly as possible, no waiting - no telling myself this probably ‘isn’t’ a migraine, and it will go away… and let’s see how it is in 20 minutes because I hate to take an aspirin…
Over the years I have learned what it feels like when it is “just a headache” and when it is the early warnings of a migraine. I don’t have some of the typical migraine symptoms, but often the night before I will feel a tingling sensation down my jaw line if I am paying attention.
Mine start between 4 and 6 am. If I am laying in bed, and feel that pounding sensation you describe, and if it is on one side, or in the center of my forehead, for me that is a migraine. By definition, if I am feeling it while I am still laying down, not only is it a migraine coming on, but it will be so much worse when I get up, stand up, move around and the blood starts circulating. During the times of my life when I had more of them, I would keep water and two aspirin laying next to my bed. If I woke up during those hours and felt the head throbbing, I took the aspirin. Period. No discussion, no talking myself out of it, since it takes 20 minutes to take effect. And, no turning on the lights or reaching into the fridge for a drink. A caffeine drink will speed that up (for me), so if hubby is awake he can bring me coffee or a diet coke. And then I pray I don’t throw up the medicine. My best chance of not throwing up is to NOT MOVE. Just lay there, breathe, relax and wait for the aspirin to work. It does thin the blood, most aspirins also have caffeine in them, and if taken early on, they will nix my migraines. I will still feel a little soupy for awhile, but I won’t be laying on the bathroom floor praying for death.
For me, the difference in a sinus headache and a migraine is just something I had to learn in myself over the years. For me, the migraine is more like my heart pounding in my head. Another test I can do is that if I have a sinus problem (even without a stuffy nose), and turn my head upside down, it will feel like I just got water up my nose… a burning sensation. So if I really don’t know for sure, I take the two aspirin. My migraine will respond to the two aspirin; my sinus headache will mildly respond. If after 2 aspirin and 20 minutes there is no change, then it is time for me to take a decongestant. Another difference for me, is that a migraine is not something that I can ignore or leave untreated and go to work. It will get progressively worse, and rather quick, especially with moving around and getting ready for work, and I’ll be back prone very quickly. A sinus headache I can still function, although not happily, but it does not progress to nausea. My basic only two symptoms of migraine are the headache itself and the nausea. I do have a slight sensitivity to light, but I don’t see ‘lights’ or get sensitivity to sounds. I feel better with a cool pack on my forehead while waiting for the aspirin to work; my sister on the other hand needs a hot wash cloth on the back of her neck. It is unfortunate that we had to learn what worked for us with experimentation, but I think to a certain extent that migraines, and how they affect us, are somewhat unique to each person. My mom has migraines with all the symptoms except the headache…
I used to take codeine for my migraines until I learned what it was for me that it felt like when one was coming on. Still, I have times when I talk myself out of it, and convince myself it is ‘nothing’ and it will go away, and I regret it every time. Once in a great while I will have to take a 3rd aspirin, but usually 2 will do it. But for some, aspirin does not work, and the good thing is that there are many other medication options to keep trying until one does work.
I feel for you - I’ve been there, done that, and sometimes I miss the warning and one sneaks up on me. Whether it is sinus or a migraine - it still hurts and it still not fun!