Friday, November 16, 2012

The Agony of a Migraine, and the Joy of Water

So, about that sinus headache...

It turns out I was wrong.  It wasn't a simple sinus headache that I had when I wrote my piece for yesterday... it was the beginning of a full-blown migraine.  The worst of the worst.  Public enemy number one in the world of headaches.


stick figure using a jackhammer on my head as I lay on a pillow, crying.

Here's what happened.

After my overwhelmingly long, hot shower, I felt better.  Sure, I still had a bit of a headache, but it was more of an annoyance than anything else.  When that happens with a sinus headache, I simply ignore it.  It goes away within a few minutes, as long as I keep my activity levels low.

Only that didn't happen this time.

Instead, I had a very low level headache for about half an hour.  I ignored it.

Then it got worse.  A lot worse.  Suddenly.

Then the nausea started.

And the light sensitivity.

And the sensitivity to sound.

My critical thinking skills were in a complete disarray, and I was angered by just about anything that happened within the room I was in.  No sound was too minuscule to escape my notice.

Angry Me Stick Figure: "You don't think I hear that stomach growling? Mocking me?! Make it stop.  Now!!!" Confused Stick Figure Daughter: "Ok, mommy....?"

There was no doubting that it was, in fact, a migraine.  I laid out, flat on the couch, trying desperately to find that one position that would lessen the agony.  As anyone that has ever had a migraine knows, however,

nothing works. 

I was in agony.  I broke down and used painkillers, but as I mentioned yesterday, they don't work.

After a while, though, a brief glimmer of rational thought came into my head.  The answer, yet again, was water.

I hated that I was using even more water.  Being from the desert, I have a personal knowledge of just how precious that commodity is.  Water is not to be wasted.  Water, after all, is life.

My internal discussion was starting to make me feel like a character from Frank Herbert's Dune novels...

Water, though, was still the answer. 

Just like it is with basic sinus headaches.  The difference is in the way you use it.  I couldn't avoid it.  I needed water.  Specifically, hot water.

Here's what to do.

  • Fill your tub halfway to where you want the level to be at.  You're going to be in that tub for quite a while, so you need room to continually fill it.  

  • Make sure the water is as hot as you feel comfortable with.  You don't want to scorch yourself, but you do want it to be hotter than usual.  You're going to be in the tub for quite a while, so you need to be sure there's enough room to add more water.  You don't want it to cool too much.

  • Get into a position that seems to alleviate some of the pain.  Once you're sitting in the hot water, you'll notice definite differences in how your body reacts to your position.  More so than if you're laying on a couch.  

One important thing to note is that laying back may not be the right position.  It depends totally on your body.  Listen to what it says...  even if that means sitting with one leg straight and the other resting on the faucet while your neck is wrapped around your knee.

Ok, hopefully that won't happen... but you get the point.  Listen to what your body is telling you.  In my case, I was sitting cross-legged with my head hanging forward, so low that my forehead was nearly touching the water.

Now for the hardest part:

  • Try to relax.  See?  I told you it was hard!  This is going to take some serious effort.  You'll notice that some muscles are clenched that you hadn't even noticed before.  Coax your muscles into letting go.  It'll take time.  A lot of time.

  • Add a little bit of hot water every 15 minutes.  Only a slight amount.  You want just enough that the tub stays hot.  If you do this at roughly the 15 minute mark, you'll use less water - the water in your tank will still have heat, and the water inside your bath will still be above your body temperature.

  • Stay in the bath until the pain is entirely gone.  I do mean entirely.  Even if there's only a slight bit of discomfort, that's enough to give the migraine a foothold back into your body.  You need to resign yourself to being in the bath for so long that your skin shrivels and you look like a raisin.  Don't worry... it's worth it.

In my case, I was in the bathtub for almost 2 hours.  When I got out, though, I felt as though the migraine had never been there in the first place.  No pain... and my energy was almost as good as normal.  That's something that doesn't occur if you take some pills and lay in bed!

Why does it work?

Well, for starters, the water vapor helps drain your sinuses, just like with a sinus headache.... but that's not all.

The heat from the bathtub helps your muscles to relax, while the buoyancy of the water itself keeps you from having to use your muscles to the same degree as you would if you were, say, sitting on the couch.

Using a full tub of water to relieve a migraine may not be the absolutely most environmentally friendly option out there, but it works, it's natural, and it sure is better than loading yourself up with pharmaceuticals!

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