‘Ears to you

9 02 2013

When I get a massage — something I try to do monthly — I always wish there was a little more time for the therapist to spend on my ears. According to Eastern medicine, ears have all sorts of pressure points that can be portals for pain relief in other parts of the body. Western medicine may not espouse such literal connections, but it certainly recognizes the many nerve endings within the ear that may be relaxed through massage.

During a 50 minute massage, pressing needs in my neck, head, jaw, and shoulders typically take up the entire session. Poor, neglected ears. What’s a lobe to do?

A massage therapist once showed me a simple exercise involving my ears that I could do myself. She said to hold my ears, then gently pull them down while I reach the back of my neck up. Repeat a few times. She said it will help relieve tension in the eyes and open my ears.

Another massage therapist told me to try simply sticking my index fingers in my ears, then pull back gently towards the back of my head. This is also meant to open the ears and relieve tightness in the temple.

There are loads of books and websites about reflexology. But if you’re looking for something simple to get you thinking about the connection between chronic pain and your own ears, check out the Livestrong website.


Peppermint oil

4 02 2013

Here’s a nifty remedy that helps me with dull sinus pressure and migraines as they’re coming on: pure peppermint oil. I tap a small amount on my forehead on the exact location(s) of the pain and it tends to loosen things up. Even the muscles seem to relax a bit.

It reminds me of times when I was a kid and had a cold. Mom would jab Vicks Vapor Rub under/in my nose, despite my protests. I hated the invasion, but it invariably helped.

And the peppermint oil smells better than Vicks.

If you try it, tell me if it worked for you.

A little delicate

29 01 2013

What’s your slang of choice?

My dear Aunt Flo
Sally came to visit
On the rag (variation: on the blob)
I’m feeling delicate
Crimson wave (variation: red tide)
Time of the month

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – just a typical woman – to tell you that during a menstrual cycle, hormones get kicked up. In fact, recent scientific research shows that hormonal levels and activity can trigger migraines.

While I feel like saying “no duh” to these research findings, they do help explain why migraines are three times more frequent in women than in men.

But here’s something new (at least, news to me): I used to think that migraines were caused by constricting blood vessels in the brain and that somehow, during menstruation, this process worsened and caused pain. But research shows that migraines are neurological – that is, electrical in nature – and can be triggered by a number of internal and external factors. This explains the variety of symptoms in addition to the pain – auras, stabbing or numb sensations, etc.

Here’s a news story that explains this way better than I can. Because right now, I’m feeling a little delicate.

Progression of a migraine

22 01 2013

Clouds roll in.
Twisting in forehead.
Skin stretches.
Squinting indoors.
Twinkling lights in peripheral vision.
Turn off overhead light.
Medicine of choice, Dose #1.
Jaw stiffens.
Sharp stabbing over right eyebrow.
Shut off computer.
Sunglasses on.
Dizzy drive home.
Medicine of choice, Dose #2.
Ice pack.
Stomach churns.
Neck stiffens.
Shoulders tighten.
Skin doesn’t fit any more.
Medicine of choice, Dose #3.
Sinuses fill.
Time passes.
Medicine of choice, Last Allowable Dose.
Time passes.
Stomach settles.
Muscles loosen.
Throbbing subsides.
Skin contracts.
Clouds roll out.

Carpe diem vs caveat emptor

19 01 2013

This is the same, genuine, magic, authentic crystal used by the priests of Isis and Osiris in the days of the Pharaohs of Egypt… in which Cleopatra first saw the approach of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony… and… and so on and so on.

— Professor Marvel, The Wizard of Oz

A friend told me about a “miracle cream” that’s supposed to knock out migraines and other chronic pain by simply applying it to the afflicted part of the body. She had seen a TV news story about it. They can’t keep it on the shelves.

The doctor who was interviewed in the story said that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I have the tendency to think this way too. After all, Professor Marvel didn’t buy what he himself was selling … whether he was traveling through Kansas or the Emerald City.

Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

But I’m opening my mind up lately because, unfortunately, there are no ruby slippers that can safely and once and for all take me away from chronic pain. So I have to keep trying new things – in consultation with my doctor, of course – because there are a multitude of triggers that cause my migraines so why shouldn’t there be a multitude of remedies. I want, I need, I deserve to have the healthiest, best day I can have each and every day. We all do. And I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen.

As soon as the miracle cream is back in stock, I’m going to get some and try it (progesterone cream, as it turns out). Have you ever tried it? Does it work for you? I’ll let you know if it works for me.

Carpe diem. Seize the day.

Dear diary

17 01 2013

I am, by nature, a late adopter of new technology. I come by this honestly. My parents were probably the last people in the country to replace their black and white TV with a color one. I still remember my delight in seeing the Land of Oz revealed in color for the first time … “The yellow brick road IS REALLY yellow!!”

And then came the iPad. More specifically, apps. Most specifically, headache diary apps.

I’ve been keeping a headache diary for fifteen years. Fifteen years. You’d think I’d be a pro at it by now, but honestly, I’ve been getting pretty lazy these last, oh, four or five years. My rating scale has always been 1 to 5, I’ve noted onset time of day, and that’s about it. My record-keeping gives me basic facts, but it doesn’t really help me figure out WHY.

Enter: headache diary apps.

Now I’m obsessed with filling in MyPainDiaryHD with every last detail – time of onset, location, medication taken, weather conditions, and possible triggers. Today, a friend suggested I start chronicling what I eat too, and I am going to jump all over that starting tomorrow (I had to eat a second cookie tonight and wasn’t ready to see that in writing).

I’m not making a product recommendation here, although I do like this app better than others I’ve tried. I am simply acknowledging that a routine is only as good as the commitment level to it.

And I’m glad that my headache diary routine has gone from black and white to high def. In high def, you can see things more clearly.

Good intentions

14 01 2013

It’s hard to rely on my good intentions
When my head’s full of things that I can’t mention.

Good Intentions by Toad the Wet Sprocket

I always have a plan.

Plans to see a great movie on opening weekend or go to friends’ houses for their annual (select one) New Years / Superbowl / Homemade Pizza / Pool parties. Plans to catch up on paperwork or organize my photos or clean the baseboards (Mom would be proud).

And sometimes I do. But sometimes I can’t. Because sometimes my head and I have to sit this one out.

For years, I beat myself up about postponing date night or putting off the filing for another day. I’ve cried as I insist to my husband that he go to our friends’ house without me, making it all the more difficult for him to do so and to have fun.

But as I get older, and can look back over years instead of days and months, I can now see that I have experienced much more than I’ve missed.

So I will keep having good intentions to do things that make me feel happy or relaxed or productive or connected. Because intentions are built on hope, and I’ll never give up hoping that if I make plans today, I’ll see them through tomorrow.

Because I do love a good Superbowl party.