How Do I Stop These Headaches?

The best part of being pregnant and nursing was having no wretched MONTHLY CYCLE.

If you’re a man, and you’ve just read that… you’re likely already running away while shouting “TMI, TMI!” But, if you are still here, you are excused at this time. This post is for the sisterhood only.

headacheGirls, my head currently contains a bowling ball bashing from side to side and I’m simultaneously depressed and raging angry at absolutely nothing. In fact, a particular curse word has been under my breath all day. (Oh, okay, it didn’t actually stay under my breath all day.)

The point here is I have a stay-out-of-my-way, but wait, I just-might-need-your-shoulder-to-cry-on case of PMS.

The worst of it is the headache. This absurd pain starts in my shoulders then forces its way up my neck and through my entire head to beat up on my temples and the inside of my forehead.

And this treat of a headache (I don’t know if it’s called a migraine or not) will be here for at least 4 days. Likely longer.

I admit, I complained when I was pregnant. I’m not a fan of being in that fattened up state. But what I did love was NURSING. The extra calorie burn, the oomph in my bra and the glorious lack of Miss Monthly Cycle. Well… at least for the first six months or so. Then, she started coming back. Slowly… not with a vengeance.

But, once my milk was dried and gone, her time came to haul me out back and beat on me in a most unladylike fashion.

I fought back with a prescription for The Pill which helps squelch some of her power, but it can’t combat these inhumane headaches. (And that dear sweet pill seems to be making it extra difficult to keep off unwanted poundage.)

So I’m left trying to fight this headache with over-the-counter ibuprofen and wondering if I should retreat again to the doctor to add yet another prescription medication to my overflowing medicine cabinet.

Girls, please tell me… do you have headaches with your monthly cycle? What do you do to treat them? Do you take prescription medication? What other treatments do you use to help ease your PMS symptoms?

Comments

  1. says

    Oh, yep…I get headaches. And a case of the bitchies – which sounds nicer than I mean – what I meant was that I have moments (PMS) when I am a raving, raging, sobbing mess. I treat it with over the counter pain meds…advil (and probably a bit more that the package suggests). That helps (but does not get rid) the headache and cramping. It does not do anything for the mood. I wrote about it…

    http://insearchofmeinmommy.blogspot.com/2010/03/released.html

    This whole monthly thing just plain sucks! And now that I am done having kids, it just seems pointless…
    Thanks for the post.

    • says

      I know what you mean about it feeling pointless once you’re done having kids. It really felt pointless to me when I was struggling with infertility for 3.5 years. I thought, I’ve gone through this crap every month for what? LOL

  2. says

    Ibuprofen x 4. It takes the edge off and makes me bearable to be around. (Note: 4 over the counter ibuprofen = 1 prescription strength. My mother’s Dr told her it was ok to take 4, so I do when I need to!!)

    Having this feeling I’ll be joining you today… back is already aching.

    • says

      Thanks Erica, that is good to know. I’m so paranoid about taking too much that I often only take one at a time. It’s nice to know that I have room to play. LOL

      • says

        Oh, I am scared of medicine, period. If the Dr hadn’t told mom that, and someone just told me about it, I wouldn’t dare try. haha

        I usually go with natural remedies whenever possible. I do have something called a Migra-Stick that I got at the healthfood store. It’s a rollerball with some essential oils and it works quite well. I tend to use it for lighter headaches, or to relieve the pain until the ibuprofen kicks in.

  3. says

    Hi,
    In my delightful (and I mean MISERABLE) efforts to have a child (both times) I suffered from miserable migraines induced by the amount of estrogen I was on. In my research I found that women who suffer from major headaches during Aunt Flo’s visit are actually suffering from a drop in estrogen.
    You mentioned you are on the pill. Have you spoken to your doctor about another brand that may have a higher dose? Or can he prescribe you estrogen just for the days you need it (rather than taking a pill every day)?
    Good luck!

    • says

      I think you’re right about it being a drop in the estrogen b/c it happens right when I stop my pill on the 4th week to kick start a period.

      I’m so sorry to hear that you had such bad headaches when trying to treat your infertility. That’s just kicking you when you’re down, isn’t it?

  4. says

    I think that’s a migraine – or a “menstrual migraine” which is slightly different and hormonally caused – but of course you’ll need to check with your doctor.

    Do check with your doctor, because from the doctor you can get Imitrex, and while it is expensive ($15 PER PILL after insurance on my health plan!!) it is AMAZING. I’ve had migraines my entire life, and just got Imitrex within the last, oh, couple years. And it’s a miracle. I would gladly pay double that (but don’t tell my insurance because they would gladly make me).

    It’s the strangest thing – you take it and you can feel the headache rising up and out of the top of your head. Very weird.

    Prior to Imitrex, a different doctor had prescribed taking huge doses of Aleve (as in “take 3″ even though the label says “take one”). I do NOT recommend this – it created havoc with my blood pressure (naproxen SODIUM – kind of a no brainer, right?).

    Meanwhile, since you probably can’t just drop everything and go to the doc, here are some things that work for me:

    Aleve – in normal doses – combined with another painkiller like Ibuprofen (please don’t take four ibuprofen unless your doctor tells you – it is one thing to take multiple pain killers because they all have different ingredients and work differently, so you can double up on Tylenol and Ibuprofen or Aleve and Excederin, but that doesn’t mean you should take lots of one kind, and DEFINITELY don’t take lots of Tylenol at once because it will kill you).

    Excedrin has a specific product for migraine (called, cleverly, Excedrin Migraine). It seems to be helpful if, for example, you have to be up and functioning all day. However, it contains caffeine, and sleep is really the only thing that helps me, so it’s counterproductive in my case.

    Sleep.

    Cold compresses to the back of your head and neck.

    A hot shower (I know, why do both cold and heat help? Who knows? I think the cold compress shrinks the blood vessels and stops the throbbing, while the hot shower helps relax the rest of the body, making it a little more bearable).

    I like to take a pain killer, then take a hot shower, then go to bed with a cold compress.

    Finally, CHEWING seems to really help me. I think it is massaging something from the inside. But if I’m chewing, it doesn’t hurt as bad (which explains my struggles with weight! LOL). You might have to try various things, especially if you get nauseated, because the last thing you want is Bubbalicious gum with a migraine. Maybe a plain bagel or something else bland a chewy?

    You also might want to look at your birth control. After my second child was born I got a Mirena IUD and I loved it. The insertion was no big thing (I’d just had a baby when I had it inserted, so my cervix was unimpressed by the matchstick sized insertion device… I’ve heard it’s harder if you’ve never had a baby vaginally, or if it’s been a while since you’ve given birth). The strings were annoying at first, but they softened up. It was great to not have to think about it, to have a small local dose of hormone instead of a larger system-wide dose, I stopped getting periods after a while which was wonderful, and I had NO MIGRAINES. I went off of it last April so we could have another baby, and the migraines came right back. :(

    So, there are my recommendations, from a lifelong migraine sufferer. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

    • says

      Wow Amy, thank you so much for all this helpful advice.

      You really are a migraine expert!

      I’m going to take a close look at all your suggestions and discuss with my doctor.

      Thank you again!

  5. says

    I’m delurking here, because I feel your pain. The headache part. I’m still BFing, so I haven’t had my period since I got PG, and BAM is 8 months old! Woo-hoo! But, my migraines have returned from their hiatus. I treat them with Excedrine Migraine. it contains aspirin and caffeine, and something else that I forget, but that means I can take ibuprofen with it. Two excedrine migraine and 4 ibuprofen (if i catch it BEFORE it’s full force) usually tone it down to a dull ache. Also, I took magnesium for about a year, and that helped cut down on the intensity and frequency. (my medical-ness is going to break through here) Low magnesium can trigger headaches, due to the muscles in the arteries not being able to constrict. (which is why pre-eclamptic women get headaches and seizures and are sometimes given IV magnesium).
    I realize that yours are connected to your period, but that gives you and edge- knowing about when they’re going to strike, and you can be a little more prepared at the first sign of one. the magnesium won’t start helping right away, you have to take it for a week or so, allowing your levels to rise.
    I hope you find some help!
    Krystina

    • says

      Thank you so much for delurking!!!

      Thanks for the Excedrine Migraine suggestion. I walked up to the pharmacy near me to try to buy some today, but they didn’t have it. I will go to a different store tomorrow and get some.

      Interesting about the Magnesium. I will look into that. Thanks again.

  6. says

    Ah, dreaded migraine headaches! I’ve suffered for years because of hormones and allergies. One of the above posters is correct…it is the sudden drop in estrogen that causes it. One of the first things I did was to wear an estrogen patch during the week of my cycle and that helped a little. I then started taking migraine medications (imitrex, I think) along with a step down estrogen pill. The next step was actually taking a high dose estrogen pill (ovcon 50) without a cycle, and then finally adding a migraine medication all the time (topapax). I probably have more extreme migraines than you do and the ovcon 50 would probably do you wonders (with a continuous cycle). Who needs a period anyway?

    I also take Excederin Migraine and another prescription med if they get REALLY bad.

    • says

      Wow, you really have it bad!!! I’m so sorry to hear. BRUTAL.

      I’ve wondered about those forms of The Pill that you take and don’t bother having a period… it seems so strange that it kinda scares me. But I think I may talk to my doctor about it.

      Thank you so much for your suggestions.

  7. ivy says

    I’ve been lucky that I haven’t gotten any migraines since I was in my 20’s, but I remember the agony. I get some headaches now, but for me the cramping is worse than it ever was before pregnancy and I find myself much more emotional. I abhor taking any sort of medication and will only do so when the pain is unbearable. (comes from having to take all sorts of meds as a teen to keep extreme eczema under control)

    Besides the hormone imbalance, you might think about giving a chiropractor a try. Pregnancy and birth do a lot to change the alignment of your spine (not to mention all the bending over the crib to lift, lower and just watch the baby), which could create some nerve impingement problems. For me, getting a chiropractor to adjust me in those early months of my DD’s life, made so much difference for me. The headaches lessened immediately and the hip and backaches went away.

    Seeing a chiropractor isn’t for everyone, but if you choose to, as with choosing any caretaker (medical, chiropractic or otherwise), make sure you find someone you are comfortable with. Some of them even specialize in neurology, which gives them a bit more understanding as to where you might need more attention in adjustments.

    Just throwing that out there for something else to consider.

    • says

      I have seen a chiropractor in the past and I do think it helps. I’ve been very close to starting to go back… my issue mostly is time and money. I find I need to go regularly and that takes both time and money… my two toughest constraints.

      If I had tons of time and money, I’d go to the chiro and a masseuse regularly.

  8. Aprille says

    I get hormonal headaches too.
    First, I recommend checking out “Migraine” by Oliver Sacks – he’s compiled a lot of data and observations about migraine sufferers that really helped me to see how other mood-swing stuff I’d been experiencing was likely the long-front tail of the migraine itself – and that helped.
    I’ve been on the pill for a while, lately Yaz, and that has some calming effect, but not much. And I don’t want to recommend maintenance meds for anyone unless they really need them, but I went on a Beta Blocker for a heart issue, one also prescribed for migraine relief, and it has kept the headaches from ever getting to the full blown stage.
    Excedrin Migraine is the pain reliever I turn to when they start, Ibuprofen never put a dent.

    In addition, lemon balm tea is good for headaches (though more for mild ones). And drinking water has been shown to lessen high-stress, low-tolerance type moods – which are in that front-tail for me.

    Hope that helps. The research I’ve done has shown that these aren’t fully understood, that many people get different spins on the same problem and solutions therefore vary in effectiveness. It’s also helped me to appreciate that I’m on the low end of the suffering scale for this ailment, as there are people who are legally disabled by it.

    Good luck!

    • says

      Thanks Aprille!

      That sounds like an interesting book. I’ll have to look into it.

      I’ve heard lots of great things about Excedrin Migraine and I’m going to buy some today. And maybe I’ll pick up some lemon balm tea while I’m at it.

      I also try to remind myself that I’m lucky my headaches aren’t as bad as some people’s. I know that some sufferers lives are totally ruined by migraines… I try to remind myself that I’m lucky that mine aren’t as bad.

  9. says

    Oh Susan, I’m so sorry! I don’t get headaches with PMS usually, but (especially lately) have been struggling with horrible fatigue and major grouchiness every 3-4 weeks during my cycle. I miss the no-PMS part of being pregnant and nursing too. I hope you can get some answers and some relief!!

  10. says

    I get headaches with PMS also. Now I usually only get one and it’s gone after some OTC pain killer like advil. Here’s what I have discovered works for me. I see a chiropractor regularly. At least once a month. I always had chronic headaches, but once I started going to a chiropractor they became less and less. I also had horrible effects with my PMS. Depression, hungry all the time, etc….Then I started using a hormone balancing cream. I use Arbonne’s PhytoProlief. It’s plant based I believe and has literally worked wonders. I still have minor cramps, but the depression and irritability are extremely mild compared to what they were before I started using the cream.

    • says

      Wow Amy, that is awesome to hear your headaches have almost completely gone away. I really do need to get back to seeing a chiropractor… I think I will.

      I’d never even heard of hormone balancing creams… very cool that Arbonne makes one. I may look into that.

  11. says

    I have been a migraine sufferer since I was 14 years old – which makes it 30 years now… OUCH!! I always got one with my cycle, and even now that have had a hysterectomy, I still have my ovaries so I have the fluctuation with my hormones and get one every month around the 20th and need to take my triptan medication. I also take a daily migraine prevention medicaiton because mine are really bad.
    However when I was younger and menstruating regularly, my neurologist put me on a high dose (prescription strength) of naproxen for 8 days around my cycle – 3 days prior and 5 days during to help prevent the really bad effects of the migraine that I would get every month that would last for 3-5 days and be quite debilitating. It did work and I would only miss one day of activity every 2-4 months.
    You may want to discuss this with your GYN or see a neurologist. I really does sound like you have menstral migraines. I totally empathize with you and hope you get some help soon. I know how horrible they can be, especially when you have small children needing your attention. Good luck!

    • says

      Thanks Lorie.

      I can’t imagine suffering from migraines as a teenager… that would have been hard. Most teens don’t even know what a real headache is.

      My father used to get migraines and I remember as a teenager not understanding it at all.

      I agree having headaches when you have small children to look after is so tough. They just naturally are loud and I hate it when I say, “Shhh… Mommy has a headache.” It doesn’t even make sense to them and I hate asking them to quiet down when they’re not really doing anything wrong.

  12. says

    I, too, have monthly cycle-triggered headaches. My doctor confirmed that they are, indeed, migraines. I have found a lot of relief from going to a chiropractor — she is able to relieve a lot of that neck and shoulder tension before it creeps up to my head. I try to make my appointments line up with PMS on the calendar!

    I also use an ice pack. I place it around my neck, and sometimes on my temple (my headache is usually one-sided), and if I can, lie down in a quiet, dark-ish room with it for an hour. That sometimes, combined with simple Motrin, does the trick.

    My GYNOB wants to put me on the pill, but I am afraid of the side effects (and doubt it will help much). I’ve also been referred to the herb Black Cohosh, but I’m skeptical to take that, as well.

    This fall, at my regular checkup, I am going to ask for my blood hormone levels to be checked. Maybe that will provide a clue as to what’s deficient/too bountiful. Maybe there is a hormonal cream I can use to help.

    Good luck– I am plagued by this as well — sorry I don’t have too, too many answers to share.

  13. says

    Yep, I am in the same boat. Every month my head feels like it is going to explode for 5 ish days. Not cool. Unfortunately my thyroid issues cause me to have migraines other times of the month too but my PMS one is, by far, my least favourite because it also includes a hefty dose of miserableness. I am a real treat for my family those days let me tell you! :S

    • says

      One thing I find especially hard about having regular headaches is that other family members can tend to be like, “Oh yeah… I know…. you have a headache… again.” And I don’t get much sympathy. LOL

  14. Melissa N says

    I have a chronic migraine condition (it’s called pseudo tumor cerebri), and Im always battleing them or headaches. I’ve found the best stuff for mr is Tylenol 8 Hours – I pop two. Another is 2 BC Powders – it tkaes a bit to get used to it, but it works miracles as well. People talk about Exedrin, but I haven’t tried that yet.

    For my migraines I have a RX for Imitrex, and I pop 1 Naproxen with it if it’s really bad, and I’m good to go.

    • says

      I’m so sorry to hear you suffer from such bad headaches. What terrible suffering.

      I used to have a rx for Naproxen, I maybe should try that again. I’m also going to try Excedrin.

      Thanks.

  15. says

    Have you considered trying acupuncture or seeing a chiropractor? They can do wonders for this type of thing, med-free.

    Or I’d head back to your doctor. If these headaches are as bad as you say, you should get something to help. No one should have to have headaches like that.

    • says

      I may try returning to the Chiro… I know it does help some… but since I’m pretty sure the headaches are hormonal, I don’t think it can take them away.

      I’m going to try the Excedrin Migraine that some here have suggested. Otherwise, I’ll have to go back to the doctor… and I may discuss some of the other suggestions bloggers here have had.

  16. says

    I’ve suffered from migraines ever since I was a teenager. It sounds like that is what you are dealing with, especially if it coincides with your cycle. ibuprofen probably will not work very well for that type of headache. If you think you may need a prescription then talk to your doctor. You could also try using progesterone cream. Although I haven’t tried it yet I have heard from friends that use it that it works wonders on migraines. Good luck! I hope you find something that works for you. I know exactly how you feel. Having a headache that lasts that long really stinks.

  17. says

    Oh, I feel your pain! I know how debilitating these can be. Here are my two cents:

    Headaches are typically classified on an ark… they can start out as being “tension type” headaches and then morph into migraines. That sounds like what is happening to you, especially if the headache pain is predominantly on one side of your head (like behind one eye or in one temple).

    As shared above, the sudden drop of estrogen is probably the culprit with what is triggering your headaches and menstrual migraines are very common. The acute migraine medications would certainly help (a class of drugs called triptans ie Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, etc). But if take the Over The Counter meds at the first sign of shoulder tightness that can also help nip it in the bud.

    However, if they are really bad and persistent, I would recommend that you schedule an appointment with a Neurologist. I tried all of these things after suffering from daily migraines for almost a year, but when my Neurologists gave me a combination of meds (Magnesium, Feverfew and Vitamin B) it really solved the problem. And neurologists are going to be much more informed about therapeutic options than your primary care or OB – it’s just not their specialty!

    Hope that helps!

  18. says

    I get them too – and today I have one. It is non-typical, I usually get them before my cycle, but I’m about 3 days in. I used to take imitrex, but my neuro said NO more because of family history with heart issues and that I’m 40. So I take firocet, mostly 2 of them will help, sometimes, like today I had to sleep it off for 3 hours and miss part of work. :( I so feel your pain. I *wish* there was a miracle cure for all of us!

    • says

      I’m sorry to hear you get such bad ones too. I had to sleep a bunch today too… luckily I work for myself so I don’t have to get approval from a boss. LOL

  19. says

    I’m sorry to hear about your, and your readers’, headaches. In their book, Heal Your Headache: the 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain, by David Buchholz and Stephen G. Reich M.D. state that all headaches are variations of the same thing. We’ve just decided categorize them into different headings based on how they manifest themselves.
    Although they’ve had great success altering diet to fix headaches, I’ve had great success at correcting musculoskeletal causes of neck pain and headaches. It turns out it’s quite simple for most people. This is outlined in my book, Fixing You: Neck Pain & Headaches.
    Because of this and other items I’ve read, I believe that headaches are a threshold phenomenon. What I mean by this is above a certain threshold of stress, we experience headaches. Three of the stresses that can cause us to break this threshold are dietary, musculoskeletal, and psychological.
    Some people are more sensitive to certain stresses than others. Keeping any one or all three of these stressors under control seems to relieve all types of headaches. I’ve also posted two tests for neck pain and headaches on YouTube if you’re interested.

  20. says

    You’ve gotten loads of good advice.. I didn’t read through it all, so I apologize if I’m repeating..

    If you normally take Ibuprofin for pain, switch to tylenol/aspririn, etc. Over time, your body builds up a tolerance and you have to take more and more to get it to work. I used to only ever take Motrin (4 at a time) then one day took 2 Aleve.. and pain was gone.

    Also, water, lots and lots of water.

    Perhaps switching to a different type of pill. I don’t know what you are on, but I found that a low-dose pill always worked best for me with minimal side affects.

    I hope you get through it and find a resolution soon. It is no fun to be miserable with little ones running around!

    • says

      Thanks for the suggestions Michelle.

      I never thought about my body building up tolerance. I do usually take Advil, but tomorrow I’m going to buy some Excedrin Migraine thanks to the suggestions here.

      And I’m also going to drink another glass of water right now. Thanks. LOL

  21. says

    I, too, get “monthly migraines.” I asked my doctor for a prescription, but when I took it to the pharmacy, they wanted more than $100 for just a few pills! (And that was with insurance!) The only thing I’ve found that helps, as others have mentioned here, is Excedrin Migraine. Take it at the first sign of a headache. (If you wait too long, it’s too late!) Even if it doesn’t completely take away the headache, it seems to take the “edge” off so you can at least function. I got a big bottle of it at Costco!

    • says

      Crazy that those pills cost so much. I couldn’t afford that either.

      I’ve asked my hubby to pick up some Excedrin Migraine on his way home from work. I walked up to our local pharmacy yesterday to buy some, but they didn’t have it.

      Thanks Susan!

  22. Maureen says

    I think it’s already been recommended but I second/third the Excedrine Migraine – the key thing is to take it right as you first start feeling the headache come on. Works best that way. I’d suggest taking that along with Advil or something along those lines to help with the aches/PPMs type symptoms. The Excedrine Migraine will only cover the headache part.

    Also, if it is super consistent, talk to your doctor. They have prescription medication for migraines that really help. I took some for a few months and now I get my headaches a lot less frequently and can just rely on the Excedrine Migraine. If yours always come on at the same time, they may be able to give you a prescription that you just take a few days starting on a particular day of your cycle so the symptom never ever show up.

    Lastly, maybe try the magnesium (as suggested) and also Omega 3s gel tabs. Those seem to help as well with the mood swings. Good luck… I really feel for you.

  23. says

    Ugh. I had monthly headaches for years. They made life miserable. Have you tried having your hormones tested? My headaches turned out to be a combination of low blood sugar and low progesterone. Natural supplements keep the headaches mostly under control. If you can find a good doctor who specializes in natural medicine you get the benefits of a medical doctor who understands which natural treatments will work for you the best. Good luck. In the meantime – try those beanbag eye covers that you can heat in the microwave and find in the drug store.

  24. says

    Yes, I had migraines with my period. I took prescription medicine that helped a lot, but then due to medication restricitons with my job I couldn’t work for 36 hours. I was burning my sick leave like crazy. My gyno put me on the pill…every day. I didn’t take a break each month and I had no period…ever. It was the best thing I ever did to control the migraines. I still have an occasional migraine (after a hysterectomy) and use a prescription medicine.

  25. says

    Girl! Let me tell you! I KEEP a headache! NO lie!!! I have a headache daily, usually! I was taking Midrin, a prescription medication that has a sedative and a mild pain reliever. It’s non- narcotic so it was nice, but it would make me sleepy.

    Usually I take Excedrin a couple of times a day. If my headache is PMS-related (which I can never tell anymore), I take a Pamprin that relieves headaches.

  26. says

    All I can say is I can empathize! Mine usually occur afterwards, not before but with the same intensity!! I have just started using Excedrin PMS and it’s great, helps me sleep better at night too. have a tiny bit of stomach upset but that’s easily remedied with milk or food. Feel better!

  27. says

    Many, many recommendations regarding how to stop migraines….from taking caffeine (yes, I’ve seen that recommended several times) to aroma therapy to riboflavin and, my personal favorite, magnesium. Like magnesium for its double wammy, good for migraines and cramping muscles!

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