'It feels like an ice pick is stabbing into my brain' (2023)

Although the term "migraine" is often used interchangeably with "headache," it's important to realize that they're not the same thing. are not fairincredibly debilitating migraines, but they are also big time wasters.

A normal, or "tension-type headache," is a milder pain that most people can overcome, while migraine pain is typically more severe, he saysMalathi Rao, DO, neurologist at Rush University Medical Center. "The pain is very intense and usually occurs on one side of the head, while a common headache can affect both sides," she explains.

Unfortunately, migraines are accompanied by additional symptoms in addition to headaches, notes Dr. rao Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound are often associated with migraines, but some people also experience auras or blurred vision 30 minutes to an hour before a migraine attack, she says.

"Auras usually serve as a warning sign that lets a person know that they may be in pain later," she explains. Depending on the person, auras consist of visual or neurological symptoms such as flashes of light, blind spots, and floaters in extreme casesTingling or loss of movement in the limbs.

If the migraine symptoms aren't bad enough, they'll last longer than a year.typical headache" says Dr. rao "The attack can last anywhere from four to seventy-two hours, sometimes even days," she explains. Sometimes resting in a dark, quiet room, putting an ice pack on your neck, or taking over-the-counter medications like Excedrin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol can helprelieves pain and relieves symptoms, but it's also important to talk to your doctor if the ongoing pain becomes overwhelming, emphasizes Dr. rao

And the truth is that migraine painit isoften immeasurable. Read on for vivid details on what migraines really are like.

"Everything seems to require twice as much effort." 🇧🇷Danielle, 22

"My migraines feel like someone is using my brain like a drum. They occur on one side of my head, like migraines, and make it difficult to see, concentrate, and sometimes even speak. Everything seems twice as tiring when I have a migraine.

"A few weeks ago I had migraines for three days. It's the kind of pain that keeps you from doing literally anything. I couldn't think, read or watch TV. The only thing that would help was sleep because I couldn't. i could feel it I went to sleep with a migraine and prayed it would be gone when I woke up. It's the worst feeling waking up from a migraine.

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"A migraine feels like someone is trying to pick out your brain with a rusty spoon." 🇧🇷Anna, 23

“A migraine isn't just a regular headache; they are a neurological disease and do not deserve to be dismissed. A migraine feels like someone is trying to pick out your brain with a rusty spoon. Your head feels really heavy with pressure building in your eyes, sinuses and temples. Sitting down or changing height is excruciating. Getting auras is like staring into a light for a long time. Everything seems brighter and gets louder.”

"The pain is constant and throbbing." 🇧🇷Jasmin, 29

"When I have a migraine, any environmental stimulus such as light, smell or noise is perceived as a sharp pain in the crown of my head, above my eyebrows, behind my eyes and in my temples. The pain is constant and throbbing, and areas such as the face, neck, and jaw feel very hot. In extreme cases, the pain is accompanied by nausea.

"It's hard to describe just one case of migraines because my migraines are chronic and accompanies every day of my life. Not a day goes by that I don't think about or deal with my migraines and I think that's the hardest part. My work schedule, travel and plans with friends are always planned around my migraines because little things like sleeping on a bad pillow or spending too much time in the sun can trigger a migraine that lasts the rest of the day.

"I think one of the worst parts of chronic migraines is that people don't really talk about the impact they have on the people around you. There's a constant fear that you're going to let people down or disrupt their lives because everything a sudden you can't keep to plans or tidy up simple things like the dishwasher. I think that's why it's so important for people with migraines to have understanding and patient people in their lives who don't make them feel guilty about something they can't control."

"A/C cycles sound like little hurricanes." 🇧🇷Adam, 23

"You never think about the sounds of the environment until you get a migraine in a public setting. If you're sensitive to noise, you'll hear things that don't normally register. Air conditioning, lights, birds, traffic. Everything makes noise. When I get a migraine in the supermarket, I can hear everything. The air conditioners whirl like little whirlwinds and the sound of old lights pierces your eardrums. I run to the register and throw everything in the register, pay and get in the car. Nothing beats silence in your car.

I usually feel deep, throbbing sensations emanating from the center of my forehead. The pulsating feeling radiates through my whole body and sometimes my fingers and toes tingle. Depending on the day, I am sensitive to light and/or noise. Sometimes I can't even walk and I have to lie down immediately.”

"It feels like pressure and pain are building up." 🇧🇷Jordan, 22

"A migraine is like this: Imagine a person is trapped in a closet, they have no room to move, and they're pushing against the walls, creating tremendous pressure. Now imagine this wall being your skull. It feels like a built up pressure and pain that needs to be relieved.”

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"It ranges from a dull throb to a piercing, vise-like grip."Jeffrey, 49

"Migraines suck. They affect every aspect of your life, causing you to withdraw from the world, become more irritable with friends and family, and less able to engage properly or enjoy even the most basic of activities.

For me, a migraine ranges from a dull throbbing in the back of my head above my neck, to a piercing throbbing with pressure just behind my eyes, to tightness in my temples. I learned to tolerate only mild, constant discomfort until it became very acute.

My biggest problem is that it was often triggered by physical activity. Cardiovascular activity and sustained elevated heart rate would only weaken me for the rest of the day. As a result, I gained a lot of weight and was out of shape. But since successfully treating my migraines, I've been able to exercise seriously, riding my peloton for an hour a day and maintaining a heart rate above 160 beats per minute during my workouts.

"The right side of my face went numb and I couldn't feel my tongue anymore." 🇧🇷Nicola, 25

"I was studying in the library when all of a sudden my vision seemed strange. I basically couldn't read anything because there seemed to be flashing lights on the pages preventing me from seeing the words. I then got a tingling sensation in my right hand and leg that quickly spread to my entire arm and leg.

"I panicked and asked my friend to call 911 if it was a stroke. Up until then I had never had migraines and was not educated enough to consider going to the hospital. The last thing that happened was that the right side of my face went numb and I couldn't feel my tongue. I took Excedrin, turned off all the lights and tried to stay calm. An hour later I had one of the worst headaches I have ever had.

"I didn't find out [my experience] was a migraine until the next time I had a migraine and actually went to see a doctor. At this point I was on the highest dose of estrogen birth control pills to help my acne. My doctor quickly got off the high estrogen birth control pill and since putting the IUD in I've had no more migraines but I'm afraid it will happen again.

“Women really need to be educated on the link between oral contraceptives and migraines. Now that I'm a medical student, I feel the need to raise awareness so women don't find themselves in very unfortunate situations."

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"I end up isolating myself." 🇧🇷Smrit, 24

“In December 2020 I had migraines almost every day for the whole month. My stomach lining became irritated from taking too many over-the-counter medications, which in turn led to nausea. It is a doom-loop. A neurologist had me try different medications, which sometimes resulted in scary side effects like shortness of breath or chest tightness.

"Migraines are very exhausting for me. Every task requires twice as much effort and motivation. It also makes me feel isolated at times because I end up isolating myself because migraines often make me in a bad mood and not everyone understands how debilitating she can be.”

"Looks like I'll have to find the deepest, darkest cave to crawl through." 🇧🇷Julia, 26

"All of a sudden I'm going to experience incredible nausea and photosensitivity at a debilitating level. It feels like I have to find the deepest, darkest cave to crawl through, and the excruciating, crushing pain lasts for several hours, ending in throwing up.

"It feels like a mixture of your brain expanding from within when put in a vise. It is multi-directional pain and I get an aura at first and almost blindness when the aura is complete. The vomiting also burns my throat. I would much prefer things to a migraine.”

"I'm getting so sick I'm throwing up." 🇧🇷Jakob, 31

“My migraines usually come on slowly and then turn into uncontrollable pain. It's a throbbing sensation that feels like it's never going to go away and it's all I can think about. I often get so nauseous that I throw up. Honestly, everyone is confused, but the migraines never seem to go away.

"The aura inhibits my ability to see well or concentrate." 🇧🇷Lily, 23

"I have ocular migraines, so the first thing I see is an aura that looks like a small dot, similar to when you look into a light for a long time and have a dot in your vision. Except that the auras start out very small and then usually grow to blur most of my vision. I try to take Aleve or Excedrin as soon as I see the aura, which can sometimes prevent the rest of the migraine from setting in, but if I don't have one on me or it's particularly strong, the aura lasts about thirty minutes to an hour . The migraine begins when the aura disappears.

"The aura is probably the most frustrating part of a migraine because it really inhibits my ability to see well or focus. The migraine itself feels like a really intense pressure around my temples or eyebrows and sometimes all over my head when it's particularly bad.

“I definitely find that I have more migraines during periods of high stress – usually emotional. But I also get migraines randomly, so I haven't found any real pattern. I've also tried tracking my diet around my migraines to see if that plays a role, but I haven't found much either.

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"It feels like my head is falling off my shoulders." 🇧🇷Johnny, 32

“I had my first full-blown migraine when I was 13. My vision was impaired, I had throbbing pain in my head, and I couldn't lie down to rest because of the pressure. It feels like my head is going to fall off my shoulders from the pain. The older I get, the worse the symptoms get.”

"Sometimes it throbs." 🇧🇷Gabriele, 24

"For me, a migraine is like a stabbing headache, usually on the right side of my head, starting at my temple and working down to the right side. Sometimes it throbs and sometimes the pain comes and goes. I try massaging it or taking medication, but the only way to get rid of it is to wait, usually with the lights off and trying not to look."

"It feels like an ice pick is poking my brain." -Emily, 26

"My migraines start as a dull, nagging ache in the back of my neck that slowly works its way up to my left temple, where it feels like an ice pick is piercing my brain across the cross section of my temple and eyeball. At the same time, my sinus pressure starts to increase, which makes everything more painful. Occasionally, my migraines are accompanied by nausea and vomiting, which tends to steadily worsen my symptoms.

"I wish more people understood that migraines are much more than just a bad headache. I am always so grateful when my friends and employers understand and give me time to recover.”

'It feels like an ice pick is stabbing into my brain' (1)

Andi Breitowitsch

Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. A huge consumer of social media, she cares about women's rights, holistic well-being and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. A former college pole vaulter, she loves all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.

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