What I Did To Get Out Of Pain
At my worst point with chronic headaches, I was an otherwise healthy, thirty year old girl who happened to get migraines 5-6 times per week. I was working closely with a neurologist who had me on blood pressure medication, anti-seizure medication, and a continuous birth control that eliminated my periods. In addition to all of this, I still took Imitrex a couple times a week to help with the pain.
And you know what? I still got headaches more days than I didn't, along with a ton of troubling side effects that disrupted my sleep, energy, mood, appetite, and cognition. It was awful, and each time I went back to my doctor, the only thing he could offer me was more medication. He never discussed with me any alternative solutions or lifestyle alterations that might help.
I knew I had to do something different. Things had to change. I wanted to live my life, write a book, have a kid- and I couldn't do any of these things if I didn't take a new approach to my chronic headaches.
It's been seven years since that difficult season. I'm happy to say that I've tried a lot of things, and many of them have actually worked.
Here is an overview of the changes that stand out the most, but I want to stress one important thing. My greatest lesson through this journey is that headache prevention is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. These changes are not like individual prizes in a box you can pick at random and use independently of the others. The body is a network of inter-connected systems, and the process of health and healing needs to be integrated and holistic.
- Nutrition. The first major change I made was eliminating gluten and soy from my diet. I put myself on a strict elimination diet for one month, during which time I ate only what I cooked myself. It was a challenge, but I felt a million times better almost overnight, and was able to safely wean off of my medications. One of the easiest ways to do a similar elimination diet is Whole 30, which I highly recommend. You will feel amazing and gain a much better understanding of what substances might be causing your headaches.
- Exercise. I've always been an active person, but my commitment tends to wax and wane with the tides of my life. I quickly learned, however, that in terms of managing my migraines, exercise is non-negotiable. Even further still, quality matters. I need to exercise my whole body. I had to try a lot of new types of workouts that were outside of my comfort zone before I fell in love with Pilates. Finding a whole-body workout that works for you is key.
- Sleep. I am a chronic insomniac, so this area has been a challenge for me. Poor sleep is a guaranteed headache for me, so I've had to get really serious about my sleep routine. This has meant things like no electronics an hour before bedtime, practicing relaxation techniques, and diffusing soothing essential oils in our bedroom at night. It takes concerted effort to make sure that I get enough quality sleep to sustain me.
- Essential Oils and Detoxifying My Environment. Along the way, I have discovered that the products I use in, on, and around my body have a major impact on my health. The more toxicity that surrounds me, the more headaches I have. Period. This has meant finding natural, non-toxic alternatives to the products I typically use, including over-the-counter medications. The good news here is that things like essential oils work REALLY well, and actually improve your health instead of compromising it further.
All of this change can leave you feeling pretty overwhelming, but the plus side is that there is a huge amount of things that are actually within your control. You have an enormous impact on your own health, and an equally enormous ability to alter it for the better. What works for you might look different than what worked for me, and we will continue to break down each of these areas one at a time. Pretty soon you will have a customized plan to get out of pain that will work for you.