“I created this post as part of a campaign by Teva Pharmaceuticals. I received an American Express gift card for participating.”
The thing with a chronic problem is that it starts small. You have something that isn’t right with you occasionally, infrequently. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. The frequency increases so gradually over time that all the sudden one day you realize it’s really having a negative impact on your life. . . but you can’t really tell exactly WHEN it got so bad.
Migraines were like that for me.
You see, I had always suffered from occasional headaches. I always had all my tension concentrate in my neck and shoulders. I was that gal in college who would always be begging someone to give me a backrub–because my shoulders were always in a knot.
After college I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army, was stationed in Germany and then sent to Bosnia as part of the initial force (IFOR). . . During that time I started getting what I described as really bad muscle spasm in my shoulders and neck. They would tighten up like a rock, I’d get nauseous and eventually the pain would get so bad that it would give me a headache–right behind one eye on the side where the muscle was spasming. Over the years the frequency slowly increased–eventually it got to the point that I would have this happen in a cluster for a period of a couple of days about every 3 weeks or so.
Right around this time (2004) was when all the world wide deployments were ratcheting up. I realized that I didn’t know if I’d really be able to wear the gear that would be required if I were to be deployed. A kevlar helmet, a kevlar flack vest, an m16 slung on your back, the LCE (harness) with a couple of ammo pouches filled with heavy magazines. That’s a lot of weight to carry around. I had done it in Bosnia for 10 months, and just thinking about doing it again made my neck hurt.
I went to my boss and discussed my concerns, and we started the process to have me medically evaluated. I saw multiple doctors, had scans, x-rays, even a nerve test (which is not pleasant!). At the end of one of these appointments I was yet again telling the doctor (a Kinesiologist) about the muscle spasms, the nausea, then the headaches. He said in an offhand manner “Oh, what you are describing is a Migraine.”
That’s it. That’s how I was diagnosed with migraines. In an offhand comment. When I went back to my primary care, I mentioned it to them. When they treated me for migraines, my symptoms were managed.
I was still released from military service at 11 years by a medical board. That’s right, after 11 years of active duty service, I had to leave the military for migraines. The US Army actually has me rated as 40% disabled entirely due to “non-prostrating migraines”.
The problem was, like so many people, I misunderstood what migraines were. Since the headache wasn’t the main symptom, I didn’t realize it was important. I thought it was just an effect, not the cause. Actually it really isn’t the cause, because migraines are not just bad headaches. Migraines have a variety of components, and they can be completely different for different individuals. Symptoms can be as wide ranging as headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual auras. And they can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours.
Migraines are one of the top 3 of the worlds most prevalent medical conditions. They affect nearly 36 million Americans (about 18% of US Women and 6% of US Males). Now that I am under a doctor’s care for migraines they are far less disruptive to my life. In the past there were days I had to leave work early due to the pain, or where I felt so terrible that just making it through the daily tasks of living felt like running a marathon. These days if I watch my lifestyle a bit and catch things early migraines rarely cause much disruption in my life.
If you or a loved one seems to be suffering from migraines, educate yourself at MoreToMigraine.com with tips for managing migraines, information on triggers, things to discuss with your doctor, lifestyle tips and more.