Acupressure Update

As I write this, I am on the tail end of a migraine.  However, I am eager to update what I am finding to be helpful with acupressure.  In the last two days, I have found a modified use for a technique I posted here and here as well as a new product that has been beneficial.

Originally, I had posted that I used a scarf, a small washcloth, and a rubber ball to apply pressure to the daith region of my ear.  I no longer use the washcloth because it just hasn’t been necessary, and I find it easier to get the ball in place while I’m struggling with pain.  What I found during the migraine that is now ending is that there may be a better location for me than the daith.  Last night, I palpated my skull around the back of my ear and found an extremely tender spot.  Rubbing it with my finger felt strangely comforting, so I tried placing the ball at that location with the scarf and went to sleep.  After a few hours, I woke up with much less pain!

My other acupressure find is this ball which I originally purchased to relieve pain in the arches of my feet.  It definitely works for that, but I have been using it the past couple of days to relieve pain due to my migraine as well.  When I have a migraine, the muscles in my neck and back get increasingly painful as the migraine wears on.  I find myself attempting to rub them with my fingertips or seek massages from family members.  Both are difficult to do.  It is a struggle for me to use my fingers long enough to do any good while I’m in so much pain anyway, and family members aren’t always available.  However, I easily rolled this ball back and forth over my neck muscles with the palm of my hand while resting in bed. The nubs are firm and get into the right places, even more so than fingertips do. I also relieved my upper back pain by rolling over onto the ball.  This doesn’t make the migraine go away, but my overall suffering is reduced!

I would love to know if any of you have found acupressure to be helpful.  Please feel free to comment below.

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Preservatives Strike Again!

For a while now, I have been using personal products that have been developed for people with allergies. For instance, my shampoo and conditioner are free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, protein, parabens, formaldehyde, and other preservatives.  I began using these after I started experiencing skin burns over my upper body while using other products. As soon as I made this change, those problems went away.  When I switched my toothpaste from Crest to Xyliwhite, the swelling in my tongue and rash around my mouth went away.  I didn’t realize that I was experiencing a benefit neurologically as well….until now.

As treatment for a sensitive tooth, my dentist recently recommended a product called MI Paste.  I was hesitant to try it due to the long list of ingredients with long names.  However, the pain in my tooth was pretty intense, and there were no other treatment options beyond what we had already tried.  At first, I tried just a touch of the paste to see if I would have a reaction.  Since I didn’t, I used the prescribed amount the following day.  Within 8 hours, I was in full-blown vertigo like I haven’t experienced in 2 years.  I didn’t have a migraine, but my vertigo, migraine, and skin allergy triggers seem to overlap.  Therefore, I want to share this information on this migraine-focused blog with the hope of benefitting you.

Apparently, the hydroxybenzoate preservatives in the MI Paste are in the paraben family and can have an estrogen-like effect on the body.  In addition, the National Center for Biotechnology Information has recommended that these preservatives be re-evaluated for human safety.  All of this serves to reinforce my commitment to be careful with what I eat and products I use.

Chlorine and Vitamin C – Who Knew?

Earlier this summer, I returned home from an only-one-hour-away-migraine-trigger-controlled vacation desperate for a relaxing shower.  When I turned on the water, it smelled like a pool.  The same was the case at the clothes washer when I started washing the family’s laundry.  Within a couple of hours, I had a blasting migraine that wouldn’t go away.  The only thing that had changed was this chlorine smell that was permeating our house.  I felt so awful that I couldn’t process thoughts regarding what I should do until this had gone on for most of a week.

Our city water department’s website indicated that the city periodically runs different forms of chlorine through the water system, and the one it was running at the time was particularly strong.  And – they were planning to run it for the months of June and August!  My migraine-induced fog brain had to function long enough to do some thinking and praying, because this was a little overwhelming to consider.

My research revealed something that I want to share with you not just because it might work but because it did work for me.  Evidently, vitamin C neutralizes chlorine.  Some people put it in bath water for this purpose.  I decided to put it straight into me for maximum benefit!  Once I started taking 3000mg of this in a glass of cold water 3 times a day, the migraines stopped even with the continuing chlorine smell during my showers and while doing laundry.  Note that I have been drinking Ice Mountain bottled water for a long time.  So, I was not (and am still not) actually drinking the city’s chlorinated water, but the chlorine in the air was enough to cause problems.  I know that 9000mg of vitamin C may sound like a lot, but I had a doctor at one point in my life who had me on 13000 to 20000mg for a long time.  At the time, she said that if it was too much, I would get diarrhea.

Please do your own research, but vitamin C is definitely my friend, and I want to share this info with you.

Anti-Perspirant, but NOT Anti-Migraine

Besides the obvious huge benefit of painlessness, a side benefit of having my migraines under control is that I can isolate a trigger if I do get a migraine.  In the past few months, I have had very few, but I want to share what I have found with the hope that you might benefit.

Antiperspirants trigger migraines for me.  I had been using Milk of Magnesia (more on this later), but recently needed to have the more reliable stick on some days that required me to go longer without a shower than normal.  Not knowing that this would end up being a trigger, I didn’t really think about the pain impact; I just used it.  However, I started noticing a pattern.  Every day after I used it, I had a migraine. Once I noticed this pattern, I quit using it, and the migraines stopped.  I now use only Milk of Magnesia no matter what my shower schedule is.

When I originally started having debilitating migraines, I tried everything I could come up with to make them go away; I’m sure many of you can relate.  Included in “everything” was using Milk of Magnesia as an anti-perspirant based on a passing comment from a friend.  It worked for me, and I thought, “I could use extra magnesium to fight this pain anyway.” At that time, I really didn’t know how much (if any) of an impact this was having on reducing my migraine severity or frequency since I had so many other triggers actively affecting me.  However, now I know.

From a practical standpoint, I’m sure you’re thinking, “what a mess.”  Milk of Magnesia is a mess, but I have figured out how to make it less of a mess, and the lack of pain from it is worth it.  Here is what I do:

  1. I buy unflavored Milk of Magnesia (MOM).  Scents bother me anyway, but who really wants to smell like wild cherries, strawberries, or mint?
  2. I fill the little cup that comes attached to the bottle with MOM and place it uncovered in my medicine cabinet.  The water evaporates slowly which leaves thicker MOM in the cup.  I dip a couple of fingertips in and apply it like a lotion.  As the MOM gets thicker, it is even easier to apply and faster to dry.  Once it is dry, I just add more MOM and stir it gently with a finger to blend in the drier clumps.
  3. When I need to travel, I do step #2 in a container that can be covered with a lid or pour MOM into a small travel bottle with a pop-up lid.  This bottle eventually gets pretty messy and has to be replaced, but these are inexpensive, and I really don’t travel much anymore anyway.
  4. I budget “drying time” into my schedule.  This is really only a few minutes, but it is longer than a stick.  It is also dependent on how thick your MOM is.
  5. MOM does leave a white residue which may be disappointing to those of you who like to wear no-sleeve shirts.  I either am really careful about how I apply it on no-sleeve shirt days or just don’t care and do it anyway.  Once again, the lack of pain is worth it!

Note that Milk of Magnesia as a replacement for standard antiperspirants may not work for everyone.  My kids are at ages that involve a higher degree of perspiration and odor, and it is not effective for them. However, they don’t have migraines either.  Therefore, they aren’t as motivated to make it work for them. I’m interested to know if this is effective as an antiperspirant for any of you suffering from migraines.  You might not feel an immediate impact on your migraines if you have other active triggers, but it might be part of the solution.

It’s Chemistry!

It’s been a while since I posted, but I do have some updates that I hope are helpful to someone.

I am still on the diet that I have been following while posting here with the following exceptions:

  • I have successfully added almonds back into my diet as indicated by some of my later posts.
  • I have eliminated Craisins because I was finding that my migraines became more frequent when I ate them (see modification of this granola recipe).

As I’ve noted previously, my migraines decreased in frequency and intensity with my diet changes, but they were still debilitating enough to make a major impact on my life.  So, I kept trying to figure out what else to do.  Some of my attempts are noted under the “Thoughts” portion of this blog.  None of these was a complete solution though.

My research indicated that more women have migraines than men, and that women on synthetic hormones (hrt and birth control) tend to have problems in this regard.  I have been on synthetic estrogen for 15 years and decided that it was time to stop.  Getting off of hrt is not an easy task, and the withdrawal can actually induce migraines if it is done too quickly.  While it was difficult, I noticed a gradual reduction in migraine episodes while I was decreasing.  In fact, even though I didn’t take my last dose until the first week of December, I hadn’t had a migraine since the first week of November.  And I still hadn’t had one until the last 3 days…….

Both of these last 2 migraines were caused by exposure to chemicals in the air.  The November one was due to a Glade air freshener, and this second one was due to a very strong cream someone near me was wearing.  By eliminating the food triggers and the hormones, at least I was able to tell that fragrances seem to be my remaining issue.  I have had no migraines associated with weather changes as I had previously considered.  I have also been able to tolerate more light than I had been, but I still do use my clip and visor at times.

My conclusion is that chemicals that get into my brain are the cause of my migraines.  The tyramine in foods, synthetic hormones, and fragrances (or associated tag-along chemicals) are the culprits. Eliminating exposure to these has been helpful for me, but it is not always possible.  In fact, my life is becoming lonelier as I am having to refrain from being around people with fragranced cream, laundry detergent, shampoo, hairspray, etc..  Unfortunately, this includes most people unless they make their own or use products that are TRULY fragrance free.

I have found magnesium supplementation to be helpful when I do start having head pain.  However, it works best if the exposure to the fragrance is limited to a short time.  Once a migraine is full blown, magnesium dulls the pain, but doesn’t completely halt the migraine with all of its other symptoms.  My main course of action in these cases is to clear my schedule for a couple of days, hunker down with ice packs and ear plugs, and trust God.

I have not found stimulating the daith region of my ears to be of much help, and I’m glad I was able to determine this before having the piercings.  I get temporary minor relief by massage of the area, but it is not significant and does not consistently work for me.

I don’t plan any diet changes as this point.  Someday, I may be able to add more foods back in, but I simply want to enjoy having more pain-free days for now.  My hope is that, over the next few months, my body will adjust to the lack of estrogen and the migraine days will be far between.  I’ll post updates as I find out!

Controlling the Vision Superpower

Those of you with migraines probably have experienced extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smell, etc.  I’m not sure if these superpowers are the causes or the effects of migraines, but it seems that they can be both.  It just seems to be all wrapped up together when the “beast inside is awakened.”  The desire to avoid the triggers at all costs is as intense as the misery they cause, limiting my involvement in work, leisure, church, and social gatherings.  However, the desire to figure out how to be able to participate is also strong.  As a result, I have spent much of this summer trying to figure out how to wrestle with the Vision Superpower.

So, how do you block the light enough to be able to think past the sensory input but still allow enough sensation in to be able to see what you are doing?  Axon Optics and Theraspecs propose that blocking a certain wavelength of light is the key issue for migraine sufferers.  Eager to explore the option, I ordered an indoor pair and an outdoor pair of lenses to try over my current prescription glasses.  I found that the indoor pair did help to reduce the intense feeling of light from the sun coming in the window, computer screens, and headlight glare on the road at night.  The outdoor pair did not help AT ALL when outside.  The sun was still simply way too intense; I needed major light blockage of more wavelengths to be able to survive outside.  Both pairs were extremely heavy and uncomfortable to wear over my prescription glasses.  Axon and Theraspecs do not offer refunds for glasses with prescription versions of their lenses.  I have a complicated prescription, and my optometrist always works with me to get the lenses correct before I complete payment.  So, I turned to him next rather than end up with a non-refundable pair.

For the outdoor glasses, I tried 2 different pairs of prescription sunglasses.  The first was a wrap version that is commonly used for sports, like biking.  These felt fantastic, because the gasket material that is used to block sweat for bikers served to seal out all light from the top, bottom, and sides for me.  The glasses were also very dark, blocking a high percentage of many wavelengths.  The problem for me though was that the distortion of the bent prescription lenses was so severe that I felt like I would kick into my migraine-induced vertigo with the slightest movement of my head or eyes.

Next, I tried safety glasses with prescription sunglass lenses.  These weren’t as ugly as you can imagine; they were actually very sporty.  The great part was that it appeared as if a major portion of the light from the sides would be blocked by the side panels.  In the trial pair, the lens portion was as flat as my regular glasses giving me the impression that I had finally found something that would meet my needs.  I was surprised when I tried on the pair with my prescriptions though.  Evidently, prescription lenses are thicker than sample lenses which caused the frames to bend in a way that they wouldn’t even stay on my ears.  I gave up on prescription sunglasses at this point, went back to my old Jonathan Paul Fit Overs, and decided that I would do my gardening in the evening rather than the bright afternoon sun.  BTW – the Jonathan Paul Fit Overs, are lightweight and block a good portion of light, but they just seem to be too big for my narrow face.  It’s the best I’ve got for now.

Chemistrie ClipMy indoor option hasn’t been as difficult.  I now have new prescription glasses with tiny magnets in them that match to magnets in rose-colored clip lenses from Chemistrie.  The Theraspecs website states that all rose-colored lenses aren’t necessarily blocking the correct wavelengths for migraineurs.  However, my own logic tells me that there is probably a wider band of wavelengths that could help as demonstrated by the fact that Axon’s lenses are pink-ish and Theraspecs lenses are orange-ish.  I have found that my Chemistrie clip lenses (rose-colored) have reduced my pain when shopping in big box stores with flourescent lights, working where glare is present, looking out the windows of my house, and worshipping at church where the chandeliers can cause problems for me.  I do note that they do not work with my computer screen, because I basically just see rainbows.  I don’t think that I had this problem with the Axon Over-Rx during my trial of them.  However, the Chemistrie tinted clip is amazingly easy to put on, take off (leaving me with just un-tinted prescription lenses without the clip), and store in a slim sleeve for the next use.  It is also helpful in many situations that used to cause me problems.  They are darker than I had expected (block around 50% of the rose wavelength), but I am actually finding that I like it this way.  When I need the blockage, I’ve got it!  When I don’t, I can get rid of it quickly and easily.  An added bonus: the clips are much more attractive than the Over-Rx:)

Visor and clipI saved the best for last.  The least expensive and most helpful tool for conquering the Vision Superpower is this visor from Scala.  Wow – this thing blocks light in EXACTLY the way that I need it to.  It is much much more effective than any hat or visor I have tried yet.  The band is very soft so that I don’t initiate any head-squeezing-migraine-coming-on kind of feeling. I find myself wearing this……..all……..day………long……..sometimes, because it blocks the direct light from bulbs overhead without preventing me from having enough light on my tasks.  My recommendations are to purchase the navy blue so that you don’t have reflection from a lighter color and to remove the “lovely” bow that is attached to the back by a few simple stitches:)

 

Migraine Control: Fragrances

Several weeks ago, I had one of my worst migraines following a visit to a doctor’s office.  A Glade Plug-in was running in the waiting room, and I smelled it the instant I entered.  I requested to be taken back to a different waiting room with the hope that I could avoid the pain that these little tormentors have caused in the past.  This fast escape wasn’t fast enough or far enough though.  Even though I spent less than 5 minutes in the waiting room, I had a migraine that lasted for the next 5 days.  Evidently, people had smoked in the waiting room since I had last been there, and the doctor didn’t want the room to smell like smoke.  This thought just blows my mind!  Isn’t smoking inside a public place prohibited?  Why not deal with the root cause of the problem rather than just cover it up with neurotoxins and carcinogens.

Seriously, air fresheners contain formaldehyde (which is a known carcinogen), xylene (a neurotoxin), toluene (known to cause kidney and liver damage), etc.  In this article, manufacturers claim that the levels of chemicals that are emitted by air fresheners, laundry detergent, fabric softener are “not known to cause any problems.”  Well, let me testify – it’s a problem for me!  Other migraineurs also have this problem as reported on migraine.com.

Lavender growing in my garden

Lavender growing in my garden

Lavender wands

Lavender wands

There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about the world outside of my house with regard to fragrances, but here are 3 things that I do at my house.  First, I enjoy natural scents such as lavender.  I enjoy growing it in my garden and using it to make lavender wands to bring inside my house.

Secondly, I use shampoo, conditioner, and cream from National Allergy Supply.  These products have no fragrance or masking fragrance and have the double advantage of not causing allergic reactions or migraines for me.

Lastly, I make my own laundry detergent so that I’m not carrying a migraine-inducing fragrance around with me all day long.  The recipe for the laundry detergent included below does include borax which is noted to cause skin and respiratory irritation for some people, but I haven’t had these problems.  The amount used is so minimal per load, and it is washed out by the washing machine.  I also try to minimize the amount of time it is heated on the stove by making sure that the water is already simmering before I add it.  And – there’s rarely a perfect solution to a problem.  We just do the best we can.  Here’s the plus side:

In the same way that water tastes like nothing, my clothes smell like nothing:)

It Smells Like Nothing Laundry Detergent

1 cup water
1/4 bar grated Kirk’s Fragrance Free Castille soap
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/8 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

  1. Fill a 2.75 qt. (or so) container (like a pitcher) 3/4 full with hot water.
  2. Heat the water in a small saucepan until simmering.
  3. Add the castille soap and stir until completely dissolved.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely dissolved.
  5. Remove from the heat and add to the pitcher.
  6. Fill the container the rest of the way with tap water and allow to cool.
  7. Note that the detergent will thicken over the next few days, but not completely turn to get as with other similar recipes.  This is already thinned so that I pour from my pitcher into the machine.  I use 1 to 2 Tbsp. per load depending on the load size.
  8. When your clothes are finished, smell NOTHING:)