I had never heard of painless migraines before I decided to do research for this article. I get intense pain with my attacks. Migraines are typically associated with excruciating headaches, but pain is just one part of the process.
In truth, pain is just one phase or part of a migraine attack.
Most migraine episodes have four stages: pre-headache or prodrome, aura, pain, and resolution or postdrome.
The end stage, resolution, has lingering symptoms like: headache, depression, and or fogginess. What I call hangover.
Some of us experience the pain phase and some do not. It is possible to have different patterns occur within different migraines. Although I have never had a migraine without the pain phase, I have had many changing migraine symptoms and patterns over the years. The symptoms change, the intensity changes, and so do I! For many years each migraine felt different.
The migraine classifications that are painless are silent migraines and ocular migraines. You can still get all the other symptoms associated with classical migraine.
The pre-headache or prodrome phase, can last for hours or as long as days, before the migraine actually starts. The typical symptoms include fatigue, depression, food cravings, stiff neck, diarrhea, and irritability. I also get sore eyes. The next stage is the aura stage, which typically lasts less than an hour and can be very frightening.
With a silent migraine, in addition to the visual aura symptoms, you might expect to experience such symptoms as hallucinations, dizziness, tingling or numbness of the face, confusion, groping for words, and temporary difficulty with hearing.
Dealing with painless migraines can be difficult. Understanding the symptoms is essential so that you will be able to understand what is happening to your body.
The diagnosing of these migraines can take longer because of the fact that they are painless and physicians often look for other problems.
Don’t be surprised if you get put through a battery of tests to rule out more serious causes.
Once you are diagnosed it can be a relief. Now there is a known reason for some of the unusual symptoms you have been experiencing. Dealing with such things as confusion, loss of memory, and difficulty speaking, can be both frightening and frustrating. Serene Branson, the news reporter, comes to mind.
If you don’t know the story, Serene Branson, is a KCBS news reporter, who experienced a painless and terrifying complex migraine attack during a live report at the Grammy's. Her co-workers thought she was having a stroke. So even though it's painless, it could still be scary. Just FYI !
Here are some common symptoms to watch for:
• confusion, difficulty speaking
• euphoria, irritability or depression
• wavy or jagged lines, zig zags
• flashing or shimmering lights
• dots or spots in your vision
• blind spots or tunnel vision
• problems with hearing
• auditory or olfactory hallucinations
• numbness, pins-and-needles, tingling sensations
Dealing with painless silent migraines is no different than dealing with classical migraine headaches. Once you sort it out, you can allow yourself to have the best life possible. I suggest developing and following a migraine treatment plan that you and your physician decide upon.
One of the latest treatments that is being tried is Botox (Botulinum toxin), for patients that have been unsuccessful in treating their migraines with other methods. There are several other effective preventive medications available and new ones being invented all the time. Your doctor is the best resource for this.
Don't be afraid to ask the pharmacist questions too. They are a wealth of information when it comes to medication and side effects. But confirm everything with your doctor. And I mean everything right down to what supplements you are taking.
St. John's Wort, for example is great for lifting depression, but interacts with a number of medications. So just a note here to always be cautious.
Some experts say that people who experience migraines should avoid caffeine and certain medications, in addition to following a healthy lifestyle.
You might like to read our article on caffeine and migraine to form your own opinion on that. The great caffeine debate!
Common triggers, such as fatigue or stress can increase the frequency and even the severity of the attacks.
Make the attempt to avoid as many of your triggers as possible. I know you can't control the weather, or your hormones, but stress is a killer! It effects our bodies in so many ways. With the busy fast paced lifestyle we have today, it is hard to avoid stress. But you can learn new ways to change how you deal with the stress.
A simple place to start is by getting plenty of rest and plenty of sleep. Eight hours a night is what the research says is optimum. Form a night time sleep routine.
Reducing your physical stress will help your overall body to relax and will help you face the stresses of the day. Keeping a regular routine around meal times and including exercise will help you to avoid your triggers.
Don't smoke and decrease the amount of alcohol intake if you drink. Increase drinking natural spring water, clear and clean for your body to use and stay hydrated. Dehydration is a well known migraine trigger.
You might also like to learn to meditate, I love these, give them a try:
Once you know your painless migraine patterns, your symptoms and your triggers, you are well on your way to controlling the unusual attacks.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and you think you may be having painless migraines, consult with your physician. Go in for testing to rule out other serious conditions. Some of these migraines can be prevented and treated successfully.
Ah but to dream of a pain free life. And for many of us it's possible. There are more new and promising treatments available today than ever before. Don't give up until you turn your painless migraine into a non-event.
Subscribe to our free periodic e-zine called Surviving Chronic Migraine to learn more about pain management strategies and becoming resilient. You can live well despite the migraines.
Until next time, be well and be pain free,
• Vestibular Migraines: Not So Common
• Turn Your Painless Migraine into a Non-Event
• Visual Migraine: Acute Self Care Tips
• Cluster Migraines: The Definition of Suffering!
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No one told me that the light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train.
- my adaptation on Charles Barkley's quote