[Update May-26-2012 Please try this new migraine treatment. I created it last month. It is based on induced artery dilation and let me know how it works. It cured my prodrome in a minute or two, whereas the ice-pack and finger tapping treatment described below has been taking ten minutes to half an hour. That's better than just going to bed untreated which takes an hour, but the new method linked above was the best yet.]
Recently I had a migraine aura attack which responded well to an ice pack placed at the back of my head. The migraine problem is reported by about one quarter of people at some time in their lives. Over the years I have experienced them occasionally and they generally last about half an hour. The event usually begins when I am reading a magazine or working on the computer. The very first symptom is a fogginess of the word that is being looked at as my eyes scan along the text. After about a minute that expands to an area about the size of my little fingernail held at arm’s length that starts glowing with a middle gray quality. As it becomes difficult to keep reading or writing with this problem floating around in the center of my vision. I will go into my darkened bedroom and lie down on my back and just relax with my eyes closed and idly watch the aura grow into colorful dancing hodgepodge of lines flickering in a rainbow like arc around my central vision similar to the illustration above. As this rainbow grows in size it moves out from the central area of vision and I can see moderately well again there in the central area but the area where the dancing rainbow is located is totally blind to the world beyond. The rainbow is as opaque as if it were a solid object held in front of my eyes. By shifting my eyes about it is possible to see almost everything beyond the rainbow but it is difficult to read. About thirty minutes after first noticing the blurriness the rainbow has usually expanded to the periphery of my vision where it lingers for a while and by that time the central vision is normal again. After forty minutes the episode is usually gone. During this whole event I could carry on more or less normally with some work if there was no reading required and could probably convince most people that nothing unusual was happening to me. I avoid driving at this time, not because I couldn’t do it but because of the possibility of something happening well off to the side which should be attended to but which wasn’t seen because of the opaque rainbow blocking the view. This blocked vision problem is equivalent to the post between the cars windshield and the door. I get these events a couple of times a year usually in the late afternoon or early evening while reading.
In the current Scientific American there was a report on migraine headaches. It said a brain scan was being done on a person while they had a migraine event. It showed increased blood flow at the very back of the brain in the visual areas during the attack. A few days after reading that article, when I had a migraine coming on, I decided to conduct an experiment by cooling that part of my head with the hope that constricting the blood vessels would slow the blood flow and stop the migraine attack. I used an ice pack which was already stored in the freezer. The pack was applied to the back of my head about two minutes after I first noticed the migraine coming on just about the time the dancing rainbow was forming near the center of my vision. I lay down in bed with the pack between the back of my head and the pillow. It was too cold being directly on my skin so after a minute I put a single layer of wool sweater between it and my head and rocked my head slowly back and forth over the cold spot. That seemed to be about right for the maximum tolerable cooling. I just lay there as usual but with the back of my head being chilled while I watched the rainbow dancers. I tried to observe if anything different was happening.
The rainbow dancers soon turned into gray dancers and the arc expanded outward in the usual way but noticeably sooner than expected. The whole event was over in about ten minutes rather than the typical thirty or forty minutes but it didn’t seem possible so I lay there for the usual forty minutes. Having nothing much to do I started putting the ice pack on the bald spot on the top of my head to see how much cold pain there was in doing that. Actually there was quite a bit of pain but because it was under my control it didn’t seem intolerable. However, if it were not controlled or very long lasting it would have become very painful and very annoying.
The results from this single experiment seem to be that the cold did affect the migraine and it did go away quicker. As they say, further funding is needed for further research. There is a possible down side to the experiment because I did get a mild headache an hour later which seemed to be caused by a stiffness in the back of my neck. This report is a bit loose and anecdotal because it is just a recalling of the event after it happened so the next time it happens I will take the MP3 recorder and do a voice recording of the entire event as it happens. That way after this migraine aura happens there will be a more accurate description of the events, their timing and exactly what I am doing at any given time.
The blog World thru my eyes at wordpress has a list of 10 tips to fight Migraine. One suggestion I would have would be on tip # X where, “All you need is a package of frozen peas wrapped in a towel.” This is a flexible icepack, better than the rigid one I used, but rather than, “placing it on the forehead” as recommended in that blog, the new research mentioned at the top of this current posting says the weird excessive blood flow is at the very back of the head and so the results would probably be better if applied there rather than on the forehead. That is what I did and it seemed to work.
If you try this and it works or doesn’t work leave a comment as it may be found to be helpful to the billions of other migraine sufferers. Another option that might influence blood flow at the back of the head is to tap back and rub of the head and neck vigorously for ten seconds with the flats of all of the spread out fingers. Do this once a minute when the migraine is first noticed, at the very beginning of the episode. Keep doing this tapping procedure for as long as the aura or prodrome lasts. Please let me know if this works as it seemed to help today as it appears that I am having a migraine swarm but this tapping seemed to stop it and nothing happened. Maybe nothing was going to happen and I just thought it might. If several people test this out maybe we can discover if it works or not.
Personal comment: One month later. It appears that a migraine swarm was in progress when the original post was written and over the course of the ensuing month there were several times when an aura appeared to be starting. The icepack procedure wasn’t attempted again instead what was done was the tapping on the back of the head rather vigorously with the outstretched finger pads for about fifteen seconds. That appeared to be sufficient to improve the blood flow from what ever it was that was causing the migraine but there were none to report. Once again this was limited to personal experience and needs to be corroborated by others so please send a comment if you have some experience either of it working or of it not working.
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