Today’s post is one that is very personal and important to me; today we’re talking about Migraines and how essentials oils and natural remedies can help. Since June is National Migraine Awareness Month, I wanted to share my journey with migraines, educate those lucky people who have never had one, and offer encouragement to those of us who do.
I started getting migraines regularly about 10 years ago, but they became very frequent and more severe about 5 years ago. They became so frequent that I was getting around 15 a month (diagnosed as chronic migraine, at my lowest point), and each time I got one I was down for the count. Laid up in bed, lights off, black-out curtains closed, no sound, asleep all day. If I happened to get a migraine during the week, I often missed work, and missed a lot of events on the weekend. They’re awful! Having a migraine is much more than just getting a bad headache. A headache is simply that – an ache in your head. A migraine can be much more than that. My symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, sensitivity to light and sometimes sound, with extreme pain in my forehead. Well, more than just my forehead; I’ve described my pain to my doctor like this,
“It’s like having a sub-woofer in my forehead, and also like a sharp blade is going from my forehead directly into my eye ball.”
Excruciating. And since the pain in often in my eye, and I get so fatigued, I typically sleep all day long when I have an attack. Seriously. I’m not talking sleeping in, I’m talking fast asleep until dinner time. Wiped out!
So what are migraines?¹
- “Migraine” is a neurological disease with extremely incapacitating neurological symptoms. It’s typically a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head, but in about 1/3 of attacks, both sides are affected.
- Attacks are often accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms: visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. (I have had very few that make me vomit, but several that have made me nauseous.)
- About 25% of migraine sufferers also have a visual disturbance called an aura, which usually lasts less than an hour. (I have never experiences this, thank goodness!)
- Attacks usually last between 4 and 72 hours. (Mine are typically 20 hours.)
- Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world, and is the 6th most disabling illness in the world. 18% of American women, 6% of men, and 10% of children experience migraines.
- Migraine tends to run in families. About 90% of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine. (Thank you, Mamaw Pierce!)
- While most sufferers experience attacks once or twice a month, more than 4 million people have chronic daily migraines, with at least 15 migraine days per month.
- More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine. (Shoot me now!)
- Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12. Migraine has even been reported in children as young as 18 months. Recently, infant colic was found to be associated with childhood migraine and may even be an early form of migraine. (I started getting them regularly when I was 16. I did have colic as an infant – I don’t know if it had anything to do with my later migraines or not.)
- A child who has one parent with migraine has a 50% chance of inheriting it, and if both parents have migraine, the chances rise to 75%. (To my future children, I AM SO SORRY! I know how to help you now!)
- Medication overuse is the most common reason why episodic migraine turns chronic. (Yep, yep, yep. That was me!)
- Although 25% of sufferers would benefit from preventive treatment, only 12% of all sufferers receive it. (That’s right, only 25% would benefit from preventive treatment! I am not part of that percentage. I tried and tried to no avail.)
Here’s the deal. Migraines are hard to treat. Everyone’s body responds differently to them, everyone has different triggers (things that may cause migraines, such as a change in barometric pressure [my biggest trigger], alcohol, strong smells, change in hormones [such as around your menstrual cycle; seems to be another one of my triggers], bright light, or a hundred other things). For me, it’s also biology. I get migraines. Period. My great grandmother suffered from them, my cousins suffer from them. No amount of drugs is going to change the fact that it’s a disorder I have that won’t go away, but it can be treated.
So, what did I do to help my migraines? It would be shorter to tell you what I didn’t do. I’ve been on birth control, taken different types of preventative medications, had extra-strength migraine meds for when I got one to make it go away, altered my diet, used essential oils, added supplements and vitamins to my daily routine, tried heating pads, tried ice packs, routinely saw a neurologist, and have seen a chiropractor.
What worked and didn’t work for me?
- Birth control – birth control did not work for me. I went on the pill when I was 15 to help with lady issues and acne (around the time I started getting migraines. Coincidence? Maybe.) and stayed on it nearly 10 years. I changed which “pill” I was taking probably 5 times to see if adjusting the hormones would help with the migraines I had begun having. It did not help even a little bit.
- Preventative medications & neurologist– My former employer made me go see a neurologist because I was missing so much work and she wanted to see what could be done for me. My neurologist put me on a preventative medication (Topiramate²) that helped for a short time before my migraines actually grew worse.
- Topiramate is an anti-seizure medication that is also used to prevent migraines, but not to relieve the pain of migraines when they occur. It works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain (sounds odd to me, considering migraines are not in the brain, they’re in the nerves). Topiramate has too many side effects to list here, but you can check them out by following the citation at the end of this post. What I experienced when I first went on this drug was INTENSE! Topirimate can cause memory problems, which my neurologist warned me about, and I, in turn, warned my boss. I went in to work one day and suddenly couldn’t remember my computer log-in. A log-in I had used daily for months. I went to my boss, almost in tears to ask for help, we called IT, it was a whole thing. I had trouble forming words, and difficulty concentrating; this lasted a couple of months and made me feel so dumb and incompetent – very frustrating. I also experienced a loss of appetite so severe during the first two weeks of being on it that I almost hospitalized myself because I was so worried. I called my neurologist who wasn’t that concerned, and just powered through. I tried to make myself eat, but the thought of anything literally disgusted me. I think I survived by forcing down granola bars. Another fun side effect is… headaches! In a migraine prevention drug?! I can’t even. I experienced a lot of side effects, but those were the worst. My migraines did improve (but did not disappear), for a while, and then they came back with a vengeance and were worse than they had ever been. I stayed on Topiramate and also sought other treatment.
- Extra-strength migraine meds – prescribed my neurologist as a backup medication in case I got a “break-through migraine” to kill the pain. I was to take my Topiramate daily and the other prescription as needed. These never worked. Not once.
- Vitamins and Supplements – it is difficult to say whether these have worked as I have always taken them in tandem with either my migraine meds or while seeing my chiropractor. However, by general practitioner, neurologist, and chiropractor all made sure I was taking magnesium citrate (I use Solgar) and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin. I use Solgar). Magnesium and B2 are great, natural ways to prevent migraines. I’ve been taking both for at least two years.
- The chiropractor – my saving grace! My hero! My answer to prayers! I (finally) started seeing a chiropractor almost two years ago and it was life-changing. My chiropractor spent so much time with me the first time we met (at least an hour, whereas my neurologist talked to me for legitimately five minutes and handed me a prescription). We talked about my symptoms, what I had done before to try to prevent migraines, etc. He also did x-rays of my head and neck (something my neurologist never did despite me asking to have imaging done) and found what may be the biggest cause (besides biology) of my migraines. He told me that since they run in my family, I was most likely predisposed to get migraines, but that the head traumas I have suffered most likely made them more often and severe than they otherwise would have been (I had a tooth knocked out when I was 7 or 8, and had a very serious concussion at the end of junior year of high school [I haven’t wrestled with my brother since; I still love you, Andy! 😉 ]). He said I was all out of whack and that he could fix me. He literally said to me, “I can make your migraines stop” to which I choked back tears and just stared at him in disbelief. I began seeing him three times a week and am now down to once a month. At first my migraines got slightly worse as he began fixing the issue. After a month or so I began to wean myself off of Topiramate (hallelujah!). I can now proudly say that I am 56 days migraine free (thank you to the Migraine Buddy app for keeping track for me)!!!!
Yes, I am crying as I type this. If you haven’t experienced a migraine, and especially if you haven’t suffered chronic migraines, you cannot understand the relief, pure joy, and gratitude that comes with being able to say that. I used to be laid up in bed, unable to function, and in immense pain almost 50% of the time (at my lowest point), and now I am migraine free!
I firmly believe that my chiropractor isn’t the only reason my migraines have dissipated. I believe it was ALL GOD! A few months ago I was anointed and prayed over at church (this was after going to the chiropractor for over a year) and I know that healing has come from God! Through the power of prayer and using the resources God has given me, I have found healing.
I truly believe that God has given us everything we need to be healthy, combat disease, and aid in recovery from afflictions that cannot be prevented. That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and place for medication; God has gifted some very special chemists to concoct things to help us when needed, but there are so many drugs out there that do more harm than good, and/or that have outrageous side effects. In nature, God has given us an entire multi-purpose pharmacy at our disposal; we just have to learn how to use it (or let Young Living teach you, like I did).
Young Living has a lot of terrific products to help us migraine sufferers, and there are some products I use daily because I know they help my migraines, some I use when I go to/get home from the chiropractor, and some I use when I feel migraine symptoms coming on.
Sulfurzyme & Copaiba Vitalityessential oil – both are great for irritation!* My chiropractor told me to start taking something for irritation, and since certain meds are hard on your kidneys when taken over time, I opted for a natural route. I take two capsules of sulfurzyme twice daily (1 hour after lunch & dinner), and a full capsule of Copaiba Vitality before bed.
Super Cal / Super Cal Plus – I am almost done with my last bottle of Super Cal and then I’ll be trying the new Super Cal Plus. Calcium has been used for a long time in the treatment and prevention of migraines, and Young Living’s has a little bit of magnesium in it (like I mentioned before, also used in migraine prevention), and Vitamin D, which is necessary for your body to absorb calcium.
Valor – it wouldn’t be compliant for me to tell you the common nickname for this hard working powerhouse, so you can look that up on your own. 😉 I use Valor after I get adjusted at the chiropractor (before, too, if I remember), because it can help you get adjusted more easily, and can help you stay adjusted longer.* I put it on the back of my neck, my brain stem (since that is where I whacked my head and received my concussion), and the bottoms of my feet. It’s one of the most popular oils used in massages (at my chiropractor’s office you get a massage after your adjustment. Swoon.).
M-Grain – Last but not least, M-Grain! The only thing the YL website says is that it “has a cool touch when applied along the neck and shoulders.” However, many people rub it into their neck and shoulders to help with discomfort.* I make a salve out of it.
One thing I love to do after the chiropractor (or whenever the mood strikes), is to soak in an Epson salt/essential oil bath! It’s heavenly, and so relaxing. It helps you detox which is important after being adjusted and/or getting a massage. I like to combine 3/4 a cup of Epson salt, 1/4 cup baking soda, and essential oils galore. I let the salt soak up the oils for as long as I can stand it (ideally more than 10 minutes) in a mason jar (anything glass or metal will do**). Then just dump in the tub while it’s filling up. Do it; you’ll thank me.
For those of you in Tennessee, when I lived in Franklin I saw Dr. Gil Kentof. He is amazing! I was so worried I wouldn’t find a comparable chiropractor when I moved to Knoxville, but Dr. Gil recommended Dr. Conrad Vaughn at Apple Health & Wellness, and I LOVE going there! Dr. Vaughn is very attentive, and like Dr. Gil, his goal is to get to the root of the issue and solve the problem. He also talks to me about my overall health and wellness (hence the name of the practice) before sending me across the hall for a massage. If you are in either area, I highly recommend both doctors and their practices.
Do you suffer from migraines? What have you found helps you? Leave me a comment, or contact me; I would love to hear your story and help you in any way I can!
Want to purchase the Young Living products that help me? You can do so, here!
Striving for wellness and a chemical free life, one oil at a time
*These statements have not been tested by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or to cure any disease.
**Some essential oils are detoxers, so using them in glass or metal only is the way to go since if they are put in plastic, they will begin pulling the toxins out of the plastic and you really don’t want those getting into your system.
¹Information found on migraineresearchfoundation.org
²Information on Topiramate found on medlineplus.gov