Thursday, December 4, 2008


I've been getting migraines since the 10th grade. Anyone who has ever had one knows that it's nothing like a regular headache - nausea, aversion to light and noise and throbbing, stabbing pain are symptoms unique to migraine headaches.

In the 11th grade I went through a whole batch of tests - MRI's, CT scans, the works. From these I realised that there were no other causes for my headaches except stress, certain foods, and temperature fluctuations.

It becomes frustrating dealing with migraines on a regular basis. You also get tired of the painkillers that knock you out and do God-knows-what to you liver and kidneys. So after high school, I spent three years studying holistic medicine, especially reflexology. Any kind of medicine that does not include needles or pills is my kinda medicine.

They don't get rid of the pain, but do help ease it for short periods of time. Migraines have played such a big part of my life that I chose it as my dissertation topic for my Anatomy and Physiology class. I thought I'd share...

Here are some natural remedies:
Aromatherapy: Peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender. (Peppermint gel works the best for me.)These can be inhaled, but are best when they're used for massage.

Reflexology: The best thing is to have regular reflexology treatments to detox and balance the body, and a qualified reflexologist will be able to tell you where there are blockages in your body and then adjust your treatments according to your ailments.
One of the great things about reflexology, or acupressure, is that you can do it yourself. Simply walking barefoot is a reflexology treatment in itself -the more varied the surfaces you walk on, the better the treatment!
For migraines and headaches specifically, the big toe (or thumb) is the area that should be treated. It represents the head and neck. So you can just massage or add pressure to these points, so that they are stimulated.

Homeopathic: Sadly, I didn't study homeopathy, but I am taking some homeopathic medication for my headaches. I really couldn't tell you what's in the stuff, but it doesn't taste bad, and it works! Good enough for me!

The most important part of migraine treatment is prevention.
  • If you know what your triggers are - the most popular being the 4 C's: caffeine, chocolate, cheese and citrus - then avoid them. Other triggers include yeast and MSG.
  • Exercise: Its probably the last thing you want to do when you're in the throes of a migraine. Some people claim that easing into some mild exercise (a walk or some stretches) helps ease the pain. Endorphins produced during activity are the body's natural painkillers. And it also goes along way toward prevention.
  • Daily doses of feverfew, a herb that is part of the daisy family, has also been found to help prevent migraines.
  • If stress is a trigger, then Biofeedback, a relaxation technique used for muscle tension can help. Yoga, or any method of de-stressing that works for you, is also good.
  • Vitamins: Riboflavin, magnesium, Q10
  • Diet: The following foods have headache fighting properties:

    - Cayenne pepper, Ginger

    - Foods rich in calcium: Spinach broccoli and kale

    - Foods high in Magnesium: Spinach, pumpkin and squash seeds, okra, whole grain cereal etc.

    That's all I can think of right now. And if all else fails, you can do what the Ancient Egyptians did!
P.S. I came across the painting at the top of this post when I googled migraines. Hoping to find something more medical looking, I came across this painting, and was struck by how eloquently it captured the essence of having a migraine. Which is why I used it. What I didn't know was that it was actually painted by a devotee, Jayadeva das. Thank you for allowing me to use it, prabu!


karunamayi said...

dear shyamesvari devi,

hare krishna!

I am sorry to hear of your migraines and happy to hear of the direction your studies led you in.

I have been studying auricula therapy, also called Mongolian acupuncture and from what we have learned, migraines are generaly from the liver and gall bladder being overtaxed and the bowel being sluggish, thus dumping toxins back in the system. This, of course, is very abbreviated, but the jist is still there.

In the true spirit of a devotee, I am offering you the CURE! for your physical malady.... lol

Please look at this chart and see if it is helpful to you:

Find the point in your ear which is related (and will be extremely tender to the touch) and stimulate it. You can use a pen, a finger nail, a mustard seed under a small piece of band aid, heat... anything to stimulate the point. The theory is the exact same as reflexology, the benefit to the ear is that it isn't used as much as the foot and hand is, thus very clear.

Good luck!

hare krishna, karunamayi dd

Syamesvari said...

Haribol Karunamayi!

I absolutely never imagined that the ear was like a mini foot, with all its pressure points! Thank you for that.

Interstingly enough, I tested it out, and all the spots that are a little tender/sore on my foot, correspond with the sore spots on my ear!

I'm definitely looking into this ear acupuncture stuff more deeply.

Good luck with your studies!

Jayadeva said...

Hey...what the...?! How did you get a picture of my painting?! My name is Jayadeva Das and I painted that some years ago! This is actually the painting in its unfinished state. The finished image has collage elements on it. I also suffer from migraines and this was me painting what they feel like. How did you find it? I mean, I don't mind that you used it, but it's just weird to see it out of nowhere.

Syamesvari said...

Jayadeva prabhu...that is SOOOO weird. I just googed migraines, and this came across this. I thought it was amazing, because it so eloquently described a migraine where words often fail. Never would I have imagined that it was a devotee who painted it! I will definitely give you credit for is a great painting (I would love to see the finished work if possible).

Devadeva Mirel said...

that is so funny...i didn't know that pic belonged to jayadeva! cool!!!

i know a devotee who's cure for migraines is drinking a mountain dew. apparently caffeine is good for migraines (i am sure the mongilian acupuncturist would disagree).

i am so sad that you get migraines...i have nothing worthwhile to say on the matter other then i send you my love!


Madhava Gosh said...

I just got this email today from a discussion group of senior devotees:

Samba (das) (Mayapur Masterplan) wrote:
>> Sorry decaf coffee lovers....your days of "smelling the coffee" are over:
> Hmmm.
> I have suffered from sporadic headaches since I first joined ISKCON as a
> teenager. As a dependent bramachari, I often just suffered due to the
> unavailability of pain killers. Then later, because I didn't want to consume
> "chemicals". But as time went by and I assumed services that had deadlines I
> decided it would be better to take a simple pain killer rather than be
> knocked out for 24 hours or more. As I experimented with pain killers I
> found that the most effective were those that contained paracetamol with
> caffeine. If taken before the headache really set in, I could be pain free
> and cheerful again within half an hour.
> Some time ago I heard of a devotee who just drank a cup of coffee and that
> would cure their headache. So that got me thinking, maybe I dont even need
> the paracetamol!
> So far I have baulked at the idea of drinking a cup of full strength coffee,
> but I do have a large stock of paracetamol/caffeine tablets.
> Maybe this makes me a "devotee in bad standing" ? ;-)
> Any thoughts?
> Your servant
> Samba das
meds with caffeine can be very effective for migraine but if taken too often can increase the frequency of the headaches.

I recently talked with a sannyasi GBC who drinks green tea three times a day which has completely eliminated his migraines.

Green tea has much less caffeine than regular tea, but it does have some.

Another sannyasi I talked to over the summer takes paracetamol and
caffeine (panadol) for his headaches.

My understanding is that medical use is different from intoxication, though we should be careful and avoid whenever possible.

your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Madhava Gosh said...

The original point was that decaf coffee still had some caffeine in it.

Syamesvari said...

Thank you devadeva :)
Madhava Gosh prabhu, thank you for that...I think I will be trying green tea 3 times day. I actually can't stand the stuff, but if it's preventative, might as well give it a shot!

Jayadeva said...

Haribol Syamesvari,

Thank you for giving me credit for the painting in your post.

Send me an email and I'll send you an image of the final version that you could use to replace the image that's currently on your blog:

After I saw my painting on your blog I decided to do a Google image search for "migraine" and I found my painting on two other sites/blogs! But I've since gotten them to remove the images. Crazy.

In regards to migraines, I also struggle with them, but only about once or twice a year. I have no idea what triggers them. It's really just karmic. I had such severe nausea during one attack that I actually had to go to the hospital, because I was vomiting and "dry heaving" every 10 minutes. Terrible stuff. I decided to get an MRI of my head to make sure I didn't have any tumors or anything growing in my brain. It turned out negative, so it really is just bad migraines. I also get the migraines with aura. In other words, before a migraine hits I'll see flashing lights or a blinking, fluttering blind spot. As soon as I seen that I know I'm in for trouble.

More specifically in regards to caffeine, my doctor said that to take caffeine everyday as a preventative approach is a bad idea. I never drink or consume caffeine and a couple semesters ago I was drinking coffee to make it through my late night classes at school. After about a week I got a massive migraine. I'm pretty sure it was the caffeine that triggered it.

Anyway, the bottom line is that different things work for different people. My doctor gave me samples of a triptan called "Relpax":

I was very scared and nervous to try it, because as with all triptans there's a risk for heart attack and stroke, even in people that have no history of heart problems. Anyway, one day I started seeing the flashing light and my boss at work convinced me to just take it and said if anything happened at least I would be at work with other people who could call for help. So I just went for it. At first it didn't seem like it was doing much, but then after a couple hours I went home and took a nap. When I woke up I felt perfectly fine and normal! No headache, no nausea, nothing. It was pretty amazing, actually.

Fortunately I don't get migraines that frequently, so I don't have to take medications everyday. But it's good to know I have something that will help when they strike out of nowhere. Oh, and I've also found that lack of sleep or extreme changes to my sleeping pattern possibly triggers my migraines, like if I get too much sleep or not enough or go to bed at a later time or wake up at a later time.

Migraines are so annoying, aren't they? I guess it's just one of the three-fold miseries that we have to deal with. At least we know we're not alone. :^)

Syamesvari said...

Jayadeva prabhu, I'm sorry to hear about your migraines. Fortunately though you only get them twice a year or so. But still, a migraine is a migraine and it sucks no matter how often you get them, especially if they're accompanied by nausea and vomitting.
I get them about twice a month, but not as badly as you do, with the aura, or nausea. I pretty much inherited them from my mom, who gets them as bad as you do.

I've kinda learnt to live with them I guess - but probably ony because I'm still a student and can take 3 days to sleep it off. Its a totally different story for people who work, or have kids.

As far as caffeine goes, I try to avoid the stuff. Firstly, because I'm not used to it, the smallest dose will have me bouncing off the walls. And I'm one those bona fide 'struggling' devotees (no humility intended whatsoever), and so anything *pakka* that I can do, I try to do.
My mom's a pharmacist, so I've been ignorantly taking whatever she gave me. But now that I'm married, and living in a country where only IBUPROFEN has the same name, I'm struggling to find something that works. At the same time, I'm also hesitant to try something too strong . So, I'll have to see how that goes.

I pretty much figured out what my triggers are - changes in temperature, strong cheeses and citrus. I try to avoid them as much as possible. I tried a sauna out once, and then had a 2 day migraine after.
It definitely has moments of being annoying. On my own, I can take it. But now it affects my husband and his life sometimes, so that kinda sucks.

I hope that yours go away, or if not go away, get less intense. :)