How to Manage Migraine Pain Without Doctors or Drugs

natural migraine relief without drugs or doctors

Many go through life migraine-free. But then, one night in middle age–bam! It’s like a screeching alarm clock through the brain. Whether you’re a lifelong migraineur or new to hypnic headaches, you can do something about your pain.

When we talk about managing migraine pain, we usually mean how to numb or eliminate pain. Many migraineurs already know, after decades of trial and error, that most pain management methods and drugs do not last, and rarely does medication eliminate migraines forever. So maybe the solution isn’t to try to stop the pain.

Maybe the best solution is to manage the pain. Rather than putting up a wall to keep it out (and failing because pain can jump), you treat it as an employee. You are the boss. You are separate and you are in charge.

Ignoring Your Pain (Is Not The Answer)

Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to effectively reduce migraine pain. But you’re probably thinking, I tried that and it didn’t work. Or, How the hell am I supposed to empty my mind when it’s on fire? Emptying your mind–you’re just not going to be very good at it.

Which is why we’re not talking about that!

The word meditate is from Latin. It means to measure or to contemplate.

Here’s how you beat a hypnic headache: Imagine you’re a boss and you have to decide whether or not to fire your pain. Obviously the answer is yes (!) but you know how HR is. You have to have cause, and you have to have documentation. So, when your pain comes, observe it like every single thing it does is a reason for its termination. Instead: focus on it. Contemplate it. Measure it. 

Visualize your pain. Where in your body are you feeling it? Is it everywhere? What about your right ankle–do you have pain there? What about the tip of your nose? So if it’s not everywhere, where is it exactly?

The key is to not think about you. For example, Oh my God. I’m going to die. My head is going to explode from the pain. Why is this happening? How do I make it stop? What if it never stops?  etc etc etc. That is definitely going to make it worse.

Describe it exactly. Where in your body it is (precisely), sensation, color, intensity. 

How to Terminate Your Headache Pain

For migraines and hypnic headaches, HR has a very specific form they need filled out.

  1. What is the sensation? Pulsing? Throbbing? Dull?
  2. If you had to draw a picture of your pain, what would the color be?
  3. What would the shape be?
  4. You have to make it out of clay. Do you use play-doh or fire it in a kiln?
  5.  Imagine touching it with your fingers. What does the surface feel like?
  6. How would you rate the temperature of your pain?
  7. If you could scoop the hypnic headache (or other migraine) out of your body, put in in a box and market it as an alarm clock, what would you call it? How would you market it? To whom? How much would you charge?
  8. If you had to describe it via gif, which would you choose? (You may do this once the pain subsides.)

Each time you feel yourself pulling out of the pain and into your emotional state (Ow this hurts! I’m in so much pain! I feel terrible! I can’t do this! How many hours has it been?), locate your pain in your body. Describe it. Get that sucker fired.

The Only Thing That Matters

We could link all kinds of research here but really it doesn’t matter what the studies say. Your experience is the only thing that matters. How effective was describing your pain?

Meditation is a practice, which means that it’s meant to be done over and over again, and to be improved upon over time. If you aren’t amazed by the results, try it again with non-migraine pain. Don’t focus on how you’re feeling. Focus on what the pain is like. You’re the boss. 

Don’t suffer through your migraines and hypnic headaches. Remember that the pain is real, but you are stronger and more powerful.  You aren’t going to quit until it’s gone.

Your Pain Demands To Be Felt

Man with head in one hand. the visible half of his face looks anguished

Do you know what the word refractory means? It’s from the latin word refractarius, meaning stubborn. It is typically used to describe things that are resistant–like the way an illness resists treatment, or a painful migraine resists resolution. It has to do with being difficult and unmanageable, making it an apt word for the migraine that won’t quit.

But the best use of the word may come from chemistry which explains a refractory material as one that maintains its strength even at high temperatures. Put another way, a refractory migraine can be thought of as more than simply resistant and difficult. No matter what treatment you throw at it or what medication you douse it with, it remains strong.

Debilitating Means to Make Weak, but Only the Strong Can Endure a Debilitating Migraine

We’re not going to pretend there is any virtue in suffering or value to sugarcoating it. Migraine is pain, and lots of it. And yet. Consider for a moment that you and the refractory migraine actually have something in common. No matter how excruciating the migraine is, how long it lasts, or how often it returns, no matter how exhausted you are physically and emotionally, you endure. It’s awful to withstand, and somehow you do it. Every time.

Often migraineurs themselves feel like they are difficult, resistant, stubborn. Nobody said that; they didn’t have to for you to feel its truth. There’s a terrible guilt one feels when down with a migraine. It’s a mix of hopelessness, helplessness, shame mixed with a bit of should and if only. Surely you must be doing something wrong. You should have done X or avoided Y. If only you could get up off this bed, or if only you could live your life like everyone else does. Why you?  It isn’t your fault. There’s a perception of weakness in American society—and many others as well—about those who show pain. Pain is not for displaying. It is to be hidden away in a dark room.

Anyone dealing with chronic pain knows what we’re talking about. You’ve felt that awful darkness, the heaviness, the personal humiliation at having to stop your life and to not only be rendered unable to care for anyone else, but to be entirely dependent on another person, and to miss out on fun, on family events, work, and a normal life.

It’s Not One You’d Ask For, but You Do Have a Superpower

With the refractory migraine, it is easy to see what you lack. Maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s energy, maybe it’s a sense of confidence in the day ahead. It’s hard to feel good when there may be pain waiting for you just around the corner. 

In focusing on the guilt and wishes and shoulds, you fail to see your own incredible power: You aren’t weak for having pain; you are strong for having endured it. You not only survive the crippling, humiliating, torturous pain, but you did it again and again. And every time, you look for a new solution, a new treatment, a new way to beat it. The reality of a life with migraines is unbearable, but here you are fighting, searching, always pressing forward.

Remember that. Next time you’re alone in the dark, paralyzed by the pain, thinking how you can’t bear it a moment longer—remember that you’ve done this before. Remember that this is a refractory migraine, not you. It feels all-consuming, but it can’t consume you. Because as the pain rises, so does your strength.

So do you.

Post title inspired by The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.