My migraine episodes always begin with a small blurred sparkly point of light to the side of my central vision. Over a period of a few minutes they slowly grow to occupy a visual space about the size of my hand held at arm’s length. This area is made opaque to my normal vision and is filled with colorful dancing bars of light. These effects are called a migraine prodrome and many people get them occasionally. Mine usually don’t enter into my central vision, so I can keep doing normal activities, except for reading. I can read, off to one side, but it’s difficult. I don’t think I have ever had one while driving a car, but if one came on, I would stop within a minute and wait the fifteen minutes, or longer, for it to go away.
Today I had a migraine episode, so I applied the techniques which have been posted in the three previous years and avoided any pain. They are:
Over these years I have explored various ways of coping with the prodrome and the headache. It was reported by someone having a prodrome while doing an MRI brain scan that there was abnormal blood flow in the visual centers located at the back of the head. With that as a clue, the next time, and ever since, at the very first sign of a prodrome I start vigorously tapping the back of my head and upper neck with the flats of my extended fingers. The idea is to gently stimulate the blood flow to return to normal. It seems to work for me because my prodromes only last for five minutes now, and years ago they would go for almost an hour. Also, if I start right away with the tapping, before the prodrome grows to palm size, I don’t get a headache. Fortunately, my headaches have never been very painful.
I experimented a bit with today’s episode, because I noticed my left arm, which felt normal, wasn’t in its proper place in my visual field. My right arm was perfectly normal, but my left arm, where the prodrome had previously been, but was gone, seemed visually displaced a couple of inches from where I felt it should be. It was sort of macabre fun moving my arm about as if it were attached to a zombie rather than me. The arm felt just fine, but it wasn’t really part of me. Very strange!
I am comfortable with strangeness while having these migraine episodes so it wasn’t frightening. The first time I had a prodrome, many years ago, it was very scary because I thought it was a stroke, and so I went to the emergency room. Now it’s just an annoyance that must be coped with, like having to change a flat tire, or wash dishes.
I am writing this about three hours after the events. Trying to remember unusual and painful events a couple of days later doesn’t work well because the brain somehow filters the remembrance of the events to be the way you want to remember them, rather than the way they were. From that point of view, I should have written this blog post even sooner, while I was still suffering the visual sparkly crud.
To get the facts right, write while the events are happening.