Mar 15, 2019

By Rachel Kealy

Before I can tell you about my breakthrough with migraine pain, I need to go back to where it all started. Back in 2008, not long after my baby boy was born, I had the Marina (IUD) inserted. I was hit with a lot of side effects that I thought were related to many other things such as, having a newborn, lack of sleep, exhausted etc. Life got pretty depressing and I could no longer handle it so after 2 years I started a series of tests trying to find out what was wrong with me as I knew what I was feeling was not normal. I’d never had an IUD before so it didn’t even occur to me that this could be the problem. On March 19th, 2010 I had it taken out. Within just 4 hours I noticed a massive difference. I headed out that night to an event and I actually felt awake and could hold a conversation with people, it was amazing. Within the next few weeks, I noticed that most of my side effects had disappeared, yet a few new ones appeared in their place, one being migraines. My hormones had been messed up so much whilst having the IUD that my body was now all over the place trying to adjust. I started getting what I thought were horrific headaches that I had never experienced before. After visiting the doctor, I found out that I had been experiencing migraines and this was the beginning of a new hell.

Over time the migraines became more frequent and I could start to pinpoint my triggers which were mounting up to be quite a lot. Not enough sleep, not enough water, neck pain, back pain, anxiety, driving too long, bright sunny days, too hot, too cold, too much talking and it seemed to go on and on. I started to get really depressed, constantly in fear of the next one coming along. I got so anxious around upcoming events as there was that possibility that it was going to be ruined by a migraine. I missed out on many birthdays, dinners, hanging out with friends all due to the onset of a migraine. I really felt like it was taking over my life.

When they did hit, it would be a race to get the drugs into me to stop the pain from reaching that unbearable, wishing I was dead feeling. Nausea would set in, I would have to lay down in a dark room, eye mask on, earplugs in and then a hell of a lot of praying for the pain to stop. Once the drugs kicked in, I would be out of action for the day. It always took a couple of days to get over it, waiting for the drugs to leave my body.    

In April 2015 I had had enough and wanted to seek some other alternatives. I went to see my doctor who wanted to put me on a prevention drug that I had to take every day. Once again there were side effects so I wasn’t having a bar of it. I didn’t want to put anything else into my body unless I absolutely had to. We then got onto discussing triggers and what makes the migraines worse. Food was one of them, this was something that I could control and so that was the day I gave up refined sugar and caffeine. I went cold turkey, which in hindsight I wouldn’t recommend. Weening off these would have been a much better idea. Three weeks of hell followed as I detoxed off the sugar and caffeine. I would normally have 2-3 cups of tea a day and definitely some form of chocolate. There was never a day that went by that I didn’t have chocolate so this was a major shock to the system. During these three weeks, my migraines were worse than usual which I knew to expect, plus I had the shakes which was strange as I didn’t drink coffee and thought that my 3 cups of tea a day really wasn’t that much.

Once this time had passed, I started to feel amazing in so many ways. I had fewer migraines which was great and they were not as intense. I was able to take half the medication I normally would and it would be enough to do the trick. My head actually felt clear, it was like a foggy feeling had left my body. Around this time, I also started seeing this amazing Chinese Doctor, Marina, who is actually Macedonian, from The House of Life Clinic. Absolutely love this chick. The acupuncture and cupping have also played a large roll in my pain management. I could go on and on about Marina as she has helped me with so many other things in my life too, I recommend her to everyone.  

Ok, so I will skip forward now to the bigger breakthrough and it won’t sound groundbreaking but it has been for me. I had always heard that exercise helped with migraines and I have tried a lot of different exercises but it is running that has been the best thing ever. I have to say I was never a fan of running (which is probably why I hadn't really given it a go) plus I used to have nightmares about falling off the treadmill. So, the difference between this and all of the other exercises I have ever done is the massive amount of sweating. I have worked out in the past and broken a sweat but nothing has been as good as sweating like a pig. I started running back in November 2018, 3x6km a week, trying to shed a few kilos. I actually didn’t go into this journey thinking about my migraines, but more to lose weight and this was just the best bonus that has come out of it. It took me a while to build up to running most of the 6kms but it has been worth it. I still hate the first 7 mins until I break that sweat but after that, it is go go go. Since starting in November, I have not taken any drugs for my migraines, WHICH IS AMAZING!!!!!!! I hardly get them now but when I do my body seems to be able to deal with them so much better and if I give myself half an hour break when I feel them coming, I can get through it without the drugs. It has been FRIGGIN AWESOME. I truly believe that getting the blood pumping for a decent amount of time in the gym really helps me to keep it circulating well when I'm not in the gym. So many wins as I also shed a few kilos too.  

If you are struggling with migraines and would love to give this a go, I would also recommend drinking plenty of water and stretching your body afterwards. I still have to work hard on my triggers, like dehydration and muscle soreness which usually result in a migraine if I don’t drink and stretch. However, I am finding my body is coping more and more as long as I keep running three times a week.

‚ÄčLastly, I really want to stress that I really disliked running, had a dodgy knee and feet which could easily have been used as an excuse not to try. So, starting off slow is the way to go. I found the muscles in my body got stronger over time and this helped me to increase my speed and reduce my duration.  Also, I chose running on a treadmill at the gym so that the weather was never going to be a reason as to why I wouldn’t go, plus it is better on your feet and legs. I hope this story helps you or someone you know that is struggling with migraines.

Rach x