Friday, 25 December 2015

Early Start

Merry Christmas to all of you reading this (assuming that you read it today, which most of you probably won't, so I hope that you had a nice Christmas, or are having a nice, pain free day).

Ahh the joys of waking up with a migraine.  It's my own fault as I had a migraine yesterday and after taking a triptan at lunch time and a paramol mid afternoon, I decided that it was sufficiently in the background to leave for the rest of the day.  Just before bed it started to come back, but I took the decision that a good night's sleep would do the job.

So I wasn't completely surprised that at 3:52am I woke up with a raging mig.  Cursing my bad judgement I tried for all of 3 minutes to go back to sleep, failed miserably and stumbled downstairs to dose up.  "Just give me the drugs man" is a phrase that is becoming quite common in our house, although it's me that says it the most, my daughter sadly has a need to say the same as she has recently started to get migraines.  She is 13 and we think that they are linked to her newly acquired womanhood (hey, I'm a bloke so don't expect details here!)  In a sad selfish way it is kind of nice to have someone else in the house who really understands what I am going through.  And it is also kind of nice to be able to offer support to someone else who has migs as I really understand what she is going through except auras which I don't get and she does.  Our docs are really good in that if we do the research and ask for a specific medicine, they will give it to us.  So she has some triptans of her own now which is kind of cute as her single box is nestled up against the dozens that I have!  Thankfully, she didn't get one last month and this month also seems clear so far, but being the old pro that I am, I made sure that she kept a diary of the previous 24 hours so we can hopefully find a pattern next time she gets one.

Ok I digress, even though it was an important digression.  So I stumbled downstairs, opened my box of tricks and took 2 drugs which contained pretty much everything I needed; paracetamol, neurofen, aspirin, co-codamol and caffeine.  Stumbled back upstairs into bed, put my earpiece in, turned on an Andrew Johnson MP3 and tried in vain to sleep.  Andrew Johnson is a life saver.  He has produced a huge number of apps and MP3s to help people relax, change and create.  I have about a
dozen of them and they have regularly saved me from a sleepless night.  Many a morning I have had to fish through the bedsheets to find my earpiece which has fallen out in the night.  I just wish that I knew what he said at the end of his MP3s as I rarely stay awake long enough to hear that far through them.

But this morning I didn't fall asleep as the pain was too much even for the gentle tones of the mighty AJ.  I am now awake with my boy and feeling the groggy after-effects of the drugs, mig and lack of sleep.  But, at least the pain has gone.  Next time I try to sleep a mig off, will you remind me that it is a bad idea!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Cefaly - at last

I have resisted buying the Cefaly machine for a long time as I have never been convinced by the lack of proper research into it's effectiveness.  There have been tests but they have not been clinical enough to be approved in this country (although it is available on insurance in America).  What we need are some proper double blind tests to prove beyond all doubt that it works.  The other reason that I have been resisting is that in America you can get your money back if it doesn't work whereas in the UK they don't offer the same policy and £250 is just a little bit too much to pay just to try something out.

But, my migraines have been getting slowly worse (I am currently getting 27 days of headaches per month with 18 being migs) so I decided that it was worth the expense to try and manage my migs (actually my mum helped with the costs so yay mum!)

It arrived yesterday and I eagerly unwrapped the boxes to see what it;s all about.

It comes in a cool case to keep it safe.  Quite sturdy and looks good.  The machine itself is disappointingly flimsy.  The battery covers are loose and seem to be gripping on by the skin of their teeth.  But, looks aren't everything, after all, I would gladly slap a piece of rusty metal round my head if only it would keep the pain at bay.

It is easy to put on. You put the plaster on your forehead and rest the machine on the protruding metal contact.
It doesn't click into place but just rests there.  I like to make a clicking noise as it makes it more fun, but that's just me.

Ok here we go... Two presses of the button for migraine preventative...
I am making these notes as I go so sorry for their brevity. 

  • Immediate migraine over right eye.
  • Eyebrows feel like they are standing on edge.
  • Then feel like they are trying to fly off.
  • Migraine then over both eyes.
  • The fuzziness creeps up my forehead.
  • Goes into my head.
  • Right back to my crown feels fuzzy and numb to the touch.
  • Ouch.
  • Ouch.
  • Ouch.
  • It feels like a hammer above my eyes.
  • If I raise my eyebrows up the fuzz stops but the pain increases.
  • Ouch.
  • No pain no gain.
  • Ouch.
  • Pins and needles in forehead.
  • I think it's reached it maximum now. It does that after 12 minutes.
  • Did I say ouch???
  • My eyes are vibrating.
  • It feels like my forehead is climbing down over my eyes.
  • My eyes are bloodshot now.
  • If I close my eyes my forehead stings.
  • My teeth are aching but I think that's because I am tensing them.
  • Do you know I said it had reached its maximum, I think I was wrong.
  • My forehead feels like it is made of sand.
  • My skull is completely numb to the touch.
  • Ouch.
  • Ouch.
  • This feels like a bad migraine over both eyes.
  • At least I know this pain won't last more than 20 minutes.
  • I hope the timer works as I've forgotten what time it started.
  • It's like a mig without the side effects.
  • I was hoping to be able to do things whilst using this but I'm not so sure now.
  • I can't see now as everything is wobbling.
  • Either I'm getting used to it or the intensity is decreasing.
  • And it's over
  • Wow release
  • My forehead is aching slightly and head is numb a little.
  • Slight ache in forehead and it is red in the shape of the electrode sticker.
Wow I feel a bit drained after that.  You can stop the intensity increasing at any time by pressing the button again, but I was determined to leave it and cope. No pain no gain.
I tried it again this morning and just as my forehead started to go numb after nearly 5 minutes (I remembered to time it this morning), the batteries ran out.  Slightly disappointing as they are meant to last a month, but I was actually relieved to avoid the pain again...  Still, it won't stop me, I just might press the button before the full 12 minute build up next time!

Nurofen Price Cheats

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but there hasn't really been much to post about.  My migs have been getting steadily worse and there are no other cures on offer.

It seems that the news has at last caught up with my previous post stating that headache drugs are a rip off!  Nurofen are currently in the spotlight as they have been caught in Australia offering the same drug in different packets at different prices (again, see my previous post stating just that).  But as I found, Nurofen are certainly not the worst offenders.  That prize went to Migraleve Yellow tablets (32p per tablet v's 3p for exactly the same unbranded tablet).  The rest of the industry should be worried as fingers need to be pointed in all direction.

The general advice (as per Radio 4 this morning) is that you are safe to take generic medication over branded alternatives.  They are put through the same tests, the same safety and will act in the same way.  If in doubt, ask your pharmacist.

What my previous post did help with is finding a new tablet.  My new favourite drug is Anadin Extra.  The pound shop near me sells them for £1 for 8 which is pretty good so I stock up whenever I go.  They don't seem to mind me buying multiple packets at once.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Over the Counter Medicines Compared

As nothing was working for my migs, I decided to start an investigation of over the counter medicines.  It was initially in pursuit of something stronger, but ended up being rather an interesting comparison which clearly shows that if you purchase the wrong brand, you risk paying way over the odds for something simple.

The worst example that I came upon is Migraleve Yellow tablets.  They are marketed directly at people with migraines and we are a desperate lot so will quite eagerly try anything.  24 Migraleve tablets have an RRP of £6.38* which is 27p per tablet.  The active ingredients are 500mg of Paracetamol and 8mg of Codeine.  For 84p you can get 32 unbranded Co-codamol tablets with exactly the same ingredients in.  That's 3p per tablet.  Shocking!

I searched the internet for the cheapest comparative price for the same item and chose the cheapest option for each.  So if buying 32 tablets was cheaper than 16 of the same brand, that's what I list.  The prices are as at April 2015 and some sites add postage so prices should only be used as a guide.  The chart is sorted by price per tablet.  All prices are in £ GBP.

(Click on the chart to see it full size)

Let me know if I have missed anything (other than more duplications of the same) and I will happily update this blog post.

* Migraleve Yellow can be found at a discounted price on some sites.  The cheapest I found was 5.59 which is 23p per tablet.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Coincidence or Truth

This is a link to a new blog that I am starting to write.

There are many books out there quoting stories from people's lives where so called coincidences happen.  They provide you examples of how Hashem (G-d) is in our lives all of the time and all you have to do is look and you will see.  The problem is that most people don't look and if you don't look, how can you expect to see?

I love to look.

I love to see.

If you look.

You will see.

Now, the problem with most of these books is that whilst the stories are very nice, you can't quite bring yourself to believe that all of them actually happened exactly as the story makes out.  This blog is different.  I can personally vouch for each and every one of there stories.  How?  Because they happened to me.

My Rabbi keeps on telling me to write these stories down and I kept on saying that one day I would, but then I never did.  But the other week, just before Pesach, something happened that made me change my mind about noting them down.  I even told the story in Shul one week when the Rabbi wasn't in.  I like to get up every now and then to speak.  I am not pretending that I am an halachic authority on anything.  But we are only a small Shul so I can get away with it.  In fact as these stories unfold, you will see that I was once very secular and am now bal-tshuva.  After telling this story in Shul a number of people came up to me afterwards to tell me how amazing the story was.  So I thought that it was about time that I did start to write these stories down and here they are, starting with the aforementioned story.

I hope you enjoy the stories.

Monday, 19 January 2015

MRI at last but Neurologist Gives Up

Let's have a recap... I am 44 year old man based in the UK who has been having migs for about 30 years but only diagnosed for the last 9 years.  I get 20 to 25 headaches every month of which about 10-15 are migs.  Over the years I have tried many things to try and prevent my migs and most of them you can read about in the pages of this blog... There were preventative meds, which mostly made me feel awful or didn't touch the migs at all.  I have tried botox, occipital nerve block, physio, chiropractor, massage, acupuncture, allergy tests and diet changes and a hand full of alternative meds such as Q10, feverfew, magnesium sprays etc.  None of them have touched my migs.  I have searched high and low for triggers and the only one that I have found is the cold wind on the back of my neck.  I know of no others.  I don't get aura and thankfully most migs go within a day.  I take triptans, paramol, midrid and a cup of coffee to cure my migs once I get them.  Oh, not all at the same time!  I keep a diary to make sure that I don't overdose on any one of them.

Last week I had my regular 3 monthly appointment with my neurologist and he told me that he had run out of ideas, and that he wasn't going to make any more appointments to see me.  That was a real jaw dropping moment.  He had nothing for me.  No more meds, no more injections (not that I really wanted either but it would have been nice to have been asked). 

He said "Carry on researching and if anything else comes on the market, ask your doctor to refer back to him again."  To be honest he has never been the most proactive of specialists.  Our appointments tended to be so quick that I could park, register at the reception, see him and get out again, still within the 20 minute drop off time for the car park.  So the good news is that I didn't have to pay any car
parking fees at the hospital.  If I suggested something to him, and if it was available on the NHS then he would approve it.  But for now it seems that I have reached the end of the line.  No more options are available to me, nothing, zilch, zippo.  I felt empty and dejected.  He did at least try to look sorry for the inconvenience, but fell a little short of the mark.

So.... um.  No actually that's it.  I tried getting referred to another specialist a few years ago and all they could offer was what I already had tried.

"But what about that exciting new neurologist that you mentioned at the end of your last blog?" I hear you all cry.  You have read my previous blog haven't you?  Haven't you?  It's ok, we can wait...

Well he was a fabulous guy.  It made a real change to be seen by someone who took some time to think, and to ask, and to look and to touch.  He booked me in for an MRI scan, which he was amazed had never been suggested to me before.  He also suggested physiotherapy as he was sure that at the very least it would alleviate the symptoms.  The MRI found nothing conclusive.  There is always stuff that you can see on an MRI scan and mine was no different, but as nobody seemed too worried by the results, neither did I.  The physio appointment finally came through, three months later.  He gave me some neck stretching exercises to do.  Half of them I do already, I mean who doesn't stretch their neck from side to side when you have a mig?  I will give them a go, but as the appointment was only a week ago it is too early to see if they make a difference yet.

Other than that dear reader, I really am not sure what to do.  I will continue to search for the elusive cure and I will continue to post my findings here when I find them

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Occipital Nerve Block for Migraines

I have worked my way through a lot of preventatives to try and cure my migraines and none of them have worked.  In fact most of them had an adverse effect on me.  I heard about the occipital nerve block a few years ago when it was being trialled in Leicester but didn't manage to get on the trial.  But now here it is, available to all and sundry (via a referral of course).  Thankfully, my neurologist seemed happy to tick the box and sign on the dotted line during the 5 minute consultation that I manage to get with him or one of his team every 4 months.  Not a lot is ever discussed, so I am lucky that he is prepared to sign me up for pretty much anything that I suggest, as long as it is available on the NHS.

So what is an Occipital Nerve Block?  Let's start by describing the occipital nerves as that is what we are planning to block.  Without going into too much medical technogigery, they start in that nice massageable part at the back of your neck.  They then work their way up through the back of your head, branching out multiple times, until they reach the top of your head and above the ears.  Think of it like painting a tree on either side of the back of your head and that is pretty much it.

The theory behind blocking them is that you stop the pain temporarily and that will fool your body into forgetting about the headaches.  Reprogramming your mind.  The question is, will your mind be so easily fooled?

I get 80% of my migraines on the right and 20% on the left, so the neurologist suggested that I have both sides injected.  The more the merrier as far as I was concerned!  So off I trotted (after waiting for the appointment to come through which, to be fair, was remarkably quick) to the local hospital, ready for anything.  Needles aren't my favourite thing in the world, but it's amazing how a round of botox (approx 30 injections given in about 5 minutes) can help you overcome your fear.  The nurse advised me that I should start with one side and then maybe make another appointment to get the other side done.  The side effects would be numbness in the head, which didn't sound too bad.  But as the neurologist had suggested doing both sides as the same time I persuaded her to go with that option.

The first injection was done in the bottom of my head on the right side.  I always get a rush of adrenalin when pierced with a needle which make my hair stand on edge.  But other than that, it wasn't too bad.  The second injection went in the top of my head and that hurt a bit more as there isn't any fat to absorb the needle up there.  But on the whole it wasn't too bad.  I did start to feel a bit wobbly, but a mig had started to appear so I put it down to that pre mig feeling that nobody every talks about.  The nurse suggested again that I only have the one side done, but my male bravado kicked in.  Of course I was ok, absolutely nothing wrong at all.  On with the show and inject away!  The bottom injection on the other side hurt but I grinned and bared it.  The top injection also hurt, a lot more than any of the others which is when the bravado started to slip slightly.  I cringed away from the needle.  But the nurse wasn't having any messing around.  Almost in defiance of my male preening she made sure that the needle stayed in for the maximum time to make sure that every ounce of local anaesthetic got into my head.

To be fair, the nurse was very nice and told me to sit down for a few minutes until I felt ok to go.  There was no need to see her again unless I needed to.  The mig was trying to win.  I could feel it on the inside, but strangely not on the outside of my head.  So maybe it was working already.  My head did feel a bit strange though, sort of cold and clammy.  But other than that I felt fine, so after a few minutes I shrugged my shoulders and got up to go.  As I rose I placed a hand on the top of my head to see if I could feel it (either the hand or the head)...

And then I sat down again rather fast as the room started to spin at an alarming rate.  My head was going numb, that's for sure and boy was it a strange feeling.  What seemed an eternity later, but was probably only about 3 or 4 minutes, the nurse walked by, so I called out to her to explain that I was feeling rather wobbly and perhaps leaving now wasn't the best thing to do.  She escorted me to a nearby bed and very kindly told me to rest for as long as I needed.  They tested my blood pressure which was understandably a bit low, but nothing a few minutes rest wouldn't cure.

By this point the whole of my head was numb including the all of my hairline and even the back of my tongue had started to go numb.  About 20 minutes and a glass of water later, I was able to sit up without the room spinning.  I gave it another few minutes just in case and then was up and back to work!

So did it work?  In a very simple word.  No.  Not a thing.  Not an ounce of difference did it make.  Of course, that was just for me, so don't be put off trying for yourself and do let us all know how you got on.  But for me, I think that is it for injection based treatments.  Botox and Occipital Nerve blocks are not for me.  Time to wait for my next 5 minutes appointment in a few month time and boy did I have a surprise waiting for me (ok, to lessen the excitement slightly, it wasn't a cure but a new enthusiastic neurologist)!