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updated July 2018
Often those in our families and workplace notice things about us that we miss ourselves. It took about 15 years before my husband picked up on “the tell” in my behavior to accurately predict an oncoming migraine. I could not stop yawning. Migraine signs, like yawning, warn you an attack is coming.
Watch for Migraine signs so you can try to stop an attack before it starts.
Migraine attacks often begin with a premonitory phase. According to a 2012 report published in the medical journal Cephalalgia,
Up to 87% of patients with migraine may experience premonitory symptoms, although some studies have provided estimates as low as 33%. In selected patients, premonitory symptoms may be relatively reliable predictors of a migraine attack to follow. Both naratriptan (like Amerge) and domperidone (like Motilium) have been reported to be effective when given during the premonitory phase (https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102412437390 ‘>1).
Prescriptions aren’t your only option to stop a migraine attack in the premonitory phase when you first notice the migraine signs. For some, our emergency can’t-believe-I-forgot-my-meds CHILL method can work. No formal research study has been done on it, because we’re not funding an expensive double-blind placebo test out of our massive (ahem) profits. And it’s free.
Here are the subtle migraine signs to warn you an attack is coming, or to help your child know that one is coming. Ask family members to help you notice them.
7 Subtle Migraine Signs to Warn You
1 – You’re Yawning
This may be the easiest clue for others to catch. Unless you are really sleep deprived or it’s late at night, yawning is a wide-open sign that your brain is craving more oxygen because it’s not getting enough. No, honey, you’re not boring me – a migraine is on its way.
2 – You’re Exhausted
Is it life or is it a migraine? We all seem to live in a perpetual state of exhaustion. Those women who have lived through pregnancy know how to feel the difference between ordinary tiredness and inexplicable exhaustion. If you can’t explain it another way, this could be your first clue.
3 – You’ve Gotta Go – Now
Lots of things cause you to want to urinate like now, such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, UTI’s and certain medication. It’s also one of the migraine signs of an oncoming attack. If you have this symptom plus a few others, pay attention.
4 – Your Neck Aches
A prevailing myth in migraine circles (perpetuated by every chiropractor who wants to fix your migraines by adjusting your alignment) is that neck pain is a trigger for migraine pain. It’s not, according to Dr. David Buchholz, author of Heal Your Headache.
It’s just one of the migraine signs that starts in the premonitory phase. Sure, it could be from sleeping wrong or craning your neck, but it could be your first migraine clue.
5 – Light Bothers You
Sunglasses and a hat are not enough – that light feels blinding to you, and just ordinary to those around you. Unless you’re a celebrity hiding from the paparazzi in a grocery store, any need to wear shades indoors should be a clue to you.
Fluorescent bulbs inside grocery stores and big-box retailers suddenly feel irritating. (Some people find migraine glasses like Theraspecs or Axon Optics helpful to filter out irritating indoor and outdoor lights).
6 – You Can Smell Like a Bear
Yes, it sounds like a cool superpower. You ask “can’t you smell that?” to those around you, referring to the gas fumes, food aroma, garbage odor or cleaning products that suddenly overwhelm you.
7 – Noise Echoes in Your Head
Like the conversation that travels along the concave roof lines of Grand Central Station, you can hear things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to hear. Or maybe the music on the radio or sound on the TV feels thunderous to you and ordinary to those around you. After these things happen, a migraine can proceed into the aura phase in about a third of patients.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, “The most common type of aura consists of visual migraine symptoms such as seeing flashing lights, squiggly lines, or losing vision in small areas of the visual field. The aura may also be associated with tingling/numbness on one side of the face and hand, and difficulty understanding or expressing speech (American Migraine Foundation. Americanmigrainefoundation.org. ‘>2).”
Share this article with the people closest to you so they can help you notice your earliest migraine signs.
Noticing migraine attacks as early as possible is your best bet to catch the enemy by surprise – before it catches you.
Comments? What Migraine signs do you experience to warn you of an attack?
- The premonitory phase of migraine and migraine management. Werner J Becker. Cephalalgia.Vol 33, Issue 13, pp. 1117 – 1121. First Published February 15, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102412437390
- American Migraine Foundation. Americanmigrainefoundation.org.