A year ago I was *finally* being seen by a doctor who I had some extremely high hopes for. I’d been accepted into the headache program at Froedert Hospital and was scheduled to see my first ever Headache Specialist.
I would soon come to realize the dangerous path I was on with taking medication every single day, sometimes multiple times a day in hopes of breaking away from my migraine pain.
But, how does one break away from migraine pain when the use of the migraine abortive medications specifically comes with headaches as a side effect?
Last May I went through an incredibly awful string of appointments where I was informed I was not just overusing my medications, but that I’d have to detox and stop the use of these medications.
This left me with a failed week long cycle of DHE infusions and two medication abortives. The first abortive would be discontinued and removed from the FDA approved drug list within a month, and the second abortive was simply a jacked up form of Aleve.
Needless to say I spent the next three months using medication incredibly sparingly and never stopping my migraine.
The last few months I’ve reverted back to the abortive that caused the medication overuse on a very limited basis. I didn’t respond to three new treatment options (Aimovig, Botox, and Cefaly) but have an entire new approach for my care and the future of my health.
With the help of the MENT Protocol (the 18 week lifestyle program), I’ve identified so much more of my migraine and headache types, found ways to improve my diet, and found myself adapting to stress and responding to life and pain in a dramatically new life.
Fast forward to today and it has been exactly one week since I’ve taken a pain medication.
Last Tuesday, I tried to get ahead of my pain and took my abortive at a much lower pain level than I normally would have. I’d consistently been at a level 6 pain for a few days and I felt the pain slowly increasing so hurdled over my fear of actually using the medicine I have available to me and took it. To my surprise, the medicine worked and reduced my pain to the point where I believe that migraine attack had ended.
Except, Wednesday night I felt that familiar sensation slowly returning and woke up in agony on Thursday.
I’d taken medication when my pain was at a level 7 and suddenly the migraine slipped out from underneath the band-aid and was back, with a vengeance and pain at a level 8.
All I wanted to do was reach for more medication, but it’s incredibly clear that my medication only ever acts as a band-aid and doesn’t truly fix anything.
I’ve had the lingering thought since the end of December that I was rebounding again. My doctor insisted that the low amounts I was taking and the time difference between the migraine “ending” and the next one starting was long enough that he could rule out a rebound effect. Maybe he missed that the half-life of my abortive is 36 hours, so the timeline of 24 hours for where he’s looking for me to rebound isn’t quite as accurate.
So what did I do differently on Thursday?
I let the pain run it’s course. When I realized later that night that I truly couldn’t breathe all that well, I took a low dose of Sudafed. Not only did the migraine break, but it was over 3 days before any of my pain went even reached a level 7.
I can’t say if the migraine broke because of the Sudafed or not, but the Sudafed didn’t have a rebounding effect.
Aside from the occurrence of migraine pain returning more intensely, I’ve finally found the migraine-gut connection I’ve been looking for.
Since mid-March I’ve been picking apart every part of my diet and replacing different meals with better foods while trying to stop the severe abdominal pain that had landed me in urgent care.
I had no luck and wasn’t finding any foods that clearly pointed to being problematic. I was convinced I had IBS and would have to simply live with it – especially since the medication they gave me made me sicker, and no foods seemed to make things better or worse.
I sat back and relayed all the foods so far this month and compared day of and day before to days where I was in lots of pain and unable to defecate. Then I compared it to my head pain levels, and finally noted when I took medication.
Every time I took medication I would be backed up and in tremendous pain within 24 hours.
This isn’t IBS.
This is a case of an already dehydrated individual taking medications that further dehydrate me, not adding in more fluids, and in turn being backed up.
That seems like a clear enough indication that the pain medicine I’m taking for my migraines, that isn’t really doing my migraines any favor doesn’t deserve to have a space in my life.
My goal: natural therapies and less days where I need to even want to reach for a therapy.
The first step for me is to really sit back and pay attention to any medication I consume, which does include decongestants like Sudafed. This also had a negative impact on my digestive system. Going forward, I’m going to be paying an incredible amount of attention to how much water I’m consuming.
I am always dehydrated, can’t seem to escape it, but maybe I haven’t tried hard enough. If I can start drinking more water, especially with any medication I may need, I’ll have a balanced amount of water for all my systems to use properly.
My second step is to really narrow in on when my head hurts – the location of the pain, the associated symptoms, and factors that lead up to it. By doing this, I’ll be able to really track how I respond to different treatments.
No more abortive medication. No more emergency 800 mg Ibuprofen.
No more being afraid of my medications because why should I even consider using a medication that I know hasn’t worked time and time again?
No more thinking that the pain I wake up with will live with me through the day, because I’ve woken up every day this week in intense pain and told myself that I will feel amazing once I get up and start my day – and what do you know, I did.
No more hiding behind thoughts that keep me stuck in pain.
No more allowing people into my life that aren’t also focusing on healing or self-improvement.
Disclaimer: None of this information should be taken as medical advice. I am not a doctor. If you are interested in stopping your medications or would like to change the approach to your treatment, consult your doctor prior to making any decisions.
If you would like to learn more about the MENT Protocol you can check them out on their website.
One thought on “A Permanent Abortive Break”
Wonderful blog Alex. I love following your journey. I can’t wait to read the next. 🙂
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