Many people ask me how I can exercise even though I have chronic migraines.  This isn’t a simple question.  My ability to exercise depends on the day.  Frequently I wake up with the intent to do a full Beachbody Insanity workout, but due to my migraine or predisposition to one that day, my plans may change.  Getting fit and staying fit when you suffer from any sort of chronic pain is no small task.  You have to be committed AND resourceful.  I have an array of workouts that I can pull out from day to day so I can keep as fit as possible despite the migraine.  In the rare case a migraine keeps me from doing ANYTHING physical in a given day, I try my best to add that workout to the next day, but NEVER go beyond adding 1 workout or 1.5 to the next day or it will risk becoming overwhelming and you won’t finish.  My personal tips for staying fit despite a migraine are below:

1) Listen to your body.  Sometimes I get in a groove and I WANT to reach a certain goal.  I’ve been out running at midnight with no flashlight because I couldn’t run fast enough due to my headache to get done with my allotted miles before dark and NOTHING was stopping me.  Unless you want to end up on the side of the road or on the floor with a raging headache, I’ve learned LISTEN to YOUR body and I have also been on the side of the road before, having made a poor choice to push myself!  Learn from my mistakes and f you wake up with a migraine that pounds when you move too fast, then don’t move fast!!!!  This means most likely no running, Insanity workouts where you’re going from standing to on the floor quickly, or any strenuous cardio.  This doesn’t necessarily mean sit at home on your butt!  It just means you need to move more responsibly!

2) Don’t just sit around!!  When your head hurts, if you can get out and move then DO IT!!  Even if your plan was Turbo and you can’t do that, then go for a walk.  If you’re going outside take a friend or cell phone in case you get in trouble, then you can always call for help.  I always tell the guys my migraine status and where I’m going just in case I need them to perform a roadside rescue!  I know this sounds crazy, but if you can get moving there is a chance you WILL FEEL better.  At the very least, you won’t feel as though you were just a lump on the couch all day and will be less likely to be discouraged at your lack of exercise when your migraine passes.  I read a great article from someone else who has found that exercise helps their migraines, check it out at: http://www.relieve-migraine-headache.com/headache-and-exercise.html.

3) Eat right!  I don’t know about you, but the biggest issue I have with migraines is that its difficult for me to eat right.  Its simpler to get something pre-packaged or from McDonalds.  If my stomach is acting up then salty or sweet foods beckon to me.  Sometimes its nearly impossible to resist the draw of eating unhealthy, but I find that if I keep some easy to prep healthy foods readily available then I’m less likely to stray.  Good options are berries, Shakeology (this has been a life saver!!), whole grain crackers, and mineral water.  I mineralize my own water, which makes it taste a bit salty and helps when my body thinks it wants salt.  I’ve found that certain food plans seem to affect my migraines, not that food triggers them, but rather that a strict diet seems to decrease the intensity/frequency just a bit (more on this later).  The biggest thing to remember is that if you mess up and eat a bunch of junk, it is NOT the end of the world.  Don’t figure you’ve messed up your eating and look at it as a free pass to eat badly.  It isn’t!!!  Start right back where you left off as soon as possible and don’t let it get you down.

4) Avoid sit-ups and crunches.  I don’t know about you, but even when done in perfect form this exercise quickly tenses my shoulders and neck leading to a migraine.  If you’re doing a workout plan that calls for this exercise and you have migraines, I would skip it.  There are many other exercises that you can do and still get awesome results (such as the hover).  I would avoid any exercises that put unnecessary weight on the neck or shoulders.  This wouldn’t mean you can’t lift weights, but it does mean no squats with the bar across your shoulders.

5) You’ve seen me mention this multiple times already, but DO NOT give up.  Even if you’ve been off healthy eating and exercise for 5 days or a week, its NOT TOO LATE to start again.  Remember, you ONLY FAIL when YOU STOP trying!

If you have any tips for how YOU keep fit despite your personal hardships, please feel free to share.  I’ve been a migraine sufferer for over 12 years and the above five suggestions are just based off of my personal experience.  I hope you are enjoying your summer and that your migraines are being better behaved than my own.


This morning we are in the ER with a migraine.  This time it actually isn’t me on the bed, but its rare I’ll consent to an ER visit.  I don’t appreciate being treated like a pill-popper.  The first/last ER visit  was in Gladwin, MI and their PA was so nasty to me he made me cry.  If you know me, then you’ll know that I DON’T cry!  I’ve had to take the kids in to their ER from time to time since and I always ask if that PA is there.  Never to I fail to inform them that he is an ass and if he is there or comes in during our visit NOT to send him into our room.  Not that I’d remember what he looks like because my headache was so bad the day I saw him, BUT I have the paperwork with his name on it and I will NEVER forget his name.

With my aversion to Emergency Room visits and hardcore pain medications coupled with the tendency for the less intense medications to just randomly stop working, I’ve found a few things that help me in my times of need.  My 3 favorite things to do in the event of a horrible migraine are:

1) Find someone who will listen to me and massage me as needed.  I have them sit behind me on a couch, floor, or bed.  Then I lay between their legs (on my back) and put my head on a small pillow.  Having them rub the back of my neck with my head laying back really helps.  Plus, I find massaging the scalp from the back to the front, down my forehead and across my sinus is just wonderful!  Sometimes doing this in a completely dark room is enough to make me fall asleep and ease my migraine.  The biggest pains for me are on the right side and usually we find a large knot under my right shoulder blade.  I’ve found this same knot on many of my friends who also get migraines.  I don’t know why this knot exists, but I’ve found its best to just leave it alone.  It comes back no matter what you do and just leaves you unnecessarily sore the next day.  With my experiences with this specific style of massage and my migraines as well as my friends’, I’m planning on looking into Indian Head Massage.  I just read about the other day and it sounds similar to what I’m already engaging in, only with someone who knows what they are doing versus someone who just listens to her body and makes it up as she goes.  To learn more about Indian Head Massage check out this link: http://www.articlesbase.com/alternative-medicine-articles/indian-head-massage-for-migraine-prevention-888329.html

2) Soft, bendable feather pillows.  Some say use socks for your neck, or a sock with tennis balls in it, but that has never worked for me.  We lived at an apartment once where the arm of the couch was perfect.  I would just lay back, rest my neck on the arm of the couch and ah, sweet bliss.  I wish I could have taken that couch with me or stayed in that apartment forever!  But in lieu of the therapeutic couch arm, I find that my ancient feather pillow can provide relief (and comfort) in ways that even those expensive pillows from the chiro never could.  I just put part of the pillow under my shoulders and ball a chunk of it up for under my neck…lay back and hope for the pain to subside.

3)  The Chiropractor.  A good chiro along with some muscle relaxers and my life is about as near to bliss as possible, meaning it takes the edge off and allows me to think/sleep.  IF the chiro can get the couple of spots in my neck popped along with the one between my shoulder blades, I feel somewhat better.  However, usually i feel worse for about 10 seconds and dizzy for a minute or so.  A good chiro might also try some aromatherapy on you as well as pressure points or reflexology while they treat you.  These have never helped me very much, but the pleasant smell of whatever they put on my hand and head is pretty awesome and I come to equate it with feeling just a BIT better. I was reading an interesting interview with a chiropractor at: http://www.relieve-migraine-headache.com/chiropractic-and-headache.html.

There are many other little tricks I might try if I have a bad migraine, including the tanning bed, but these are my top three!  I was in an accident when I was 11 and broke a couple of bones in my face.  The X-Rays at the Chiropractor still show whiplash in my neck.  So, I’m going to guess that these injuries are the main reasons my migraines are so relentless.  In fact there is a good article on migraines as a result of head trauma at: http://migraine.com/migraine-causes/neck-or-head-injury/ .  Check it out if you’d like to know more.  If you have any tricks that work for you and your headaches please feel free to e-mail me  at pmili@up.net or post them below in comments.


I’ve been suffering with migraines for about 12 plus years.  When I first found out what they were, I was in highschool.  At first they just let me be, but then the testing started.  MRI’s, CT scans, heart monitoring, blood pressure checks, glucose checks, you name it they did it.  It wasn’t fun.  The first medication they put me on was Firosette, it was terrible.  I would take it, sleep fitfully and in pain, then wake up with a worse headache and super groggy.  The worst thing EVER!  I have many friends who tell me this is a great pill, but not for me.

I’ve been to Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin and they poked me, prodded me and pumped me with medication that made me faint when shopping.  I went to the neurologists in Marquette, MI and they gave me meds that did the same thing, plus swelled my eyes shut.  I even saw a Neurologist down here and he was nice, but the nerve block didn’t work very well and was super uncomfortable.  Most medications that worked, especially Tryptans like Imitrex and Zomig either don’t work now or cause such nasty reactions I just can’t take them.

A few years ago, I found that Tordal could get rid of a lasting migraine.  Probably once or twice a year I would get one of these shots.  However, the last two didn’t work so I think that my time with that medication has already run out.  I’m not going to let it get me down though. 

Years ago, I watched an acquaintance with migraine bascially put his life in suspended animation because of the headaches.  I decided there was NO WAY I was living this life.  Migraine or no migraine, I run…I play basketball…I watch movies.  Sometimes I do things I have NO BUSINESS doing with a headache, but I’M LIVING Life one day at a time.  I believe I’ve developed a certain amount of pain tolerance to them over the years of “ignoring them.” 

I was in an accident when I was 11 that broke my right cheek bone.  I’m sure as I get older and arthorits sets in the migraines will be triggered heavier and harder, but I’m going to enjoy every moment of “Normal” living I can until then.  I’m considering exploring accupuncture (one of the few treatments I haven’t done yet) and I read today about this O2 theapy that I’m going to research further into. 

I think that  the migraine pain is REAL.  The debilitating pain is REAL.  It affects my cognitive thought processes and my ability to do certain things, but am I going to let it rule my life?  NO!  I am a Bellydancer, Independent Team Beachbody Coach, Lab IT Analyst, Painter, Mother, and Palm Tree Marketeer.  Migraine Sufferer will not be part of my byline in life.  I don’t want to be remembered as “the migraine sufferer”.  If anything I want people to be amazed that I’m a headache walking.  I get 2-3 per week and they can last multiple days at a time so statistically if you meet me, I have a headache.  Do I want you to know that?  Heck no!  I’ll greet you with a smile and a joke…then turn around and lose my keys!  To all my migraine friends… I LOVE YOU…Rock out EVERY DAY…like the Headache doesn’t matter!   TAKE BACK YOUR BRAIN!  🙂