Subtle Migraine Symptoms

Migrain Headache Specialist Dr Winnie Lim Khoo

Migraine pain is complex, and so are the signs and symptoms that let you know you’re experiencing more than just a headache. A few early warning signs begin even days or hours before a migraine hits you, and other common symptoms like nausea occur along with the migraine pain. 

As frustrating as migraines are, they are also unique to the individual. Each person experiences them differently. The key to understanding yours, says Neurologist Winnie Lim Khoo MD FPNA is to “pay attention to your environment and see what triggers the headaches.” 

1. You’re Yawning.  This may be the easiest clue for others to catch.  Unless you are really sleep deprived or it’s late at night, yawning is a wide-open sign that your brain is craving more oxygen because it’s not getting enough.  No, honey, you’re not boring me – have a migraine is on it’s way.

2. You’re Exhausted.  Is it life or is it a migraine?  We all seem to live in a perpetual state of exhaustion.  Those women who have lived through a pregnancy know how to feel the difference between ordinary tiredness and unexplicable exhaustion.  If you can’t explain it another way, this could be your first clue.

3. You’ve Gotta Go – Now.  Lots of things cause you to want to urinate like now, such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, UTI’s and certain medication. It’s also an early warning sign of an incoming migraine attack.  If you have this symptom plus a few others, pay attention.

4. Your Neck Aches. A prevailing myth in migraine circles (perpetuated by every chiropractor who wants to fix your migraines by adjusting your alignment) is that neck pain is a trigger for migraine pain.  It’s not, according to Dr. Winnie Lim Khoo – Neurologist.  It’s just a symptom of the migraine starting in the premonitory phase.   Sure, it could be from sleeping wrong or craning your neck, but it could be your first migraine clue.

5. Light Bothers You.  Sunglasses and a hat are not enough – that light feels blinding to you, and just ordinary to those around you. Unless you’re a celebrity hiding from the papparazzi in a grocery store, any need to wear shades indoors should be a clue to you.  flourescent bulbs inside grocery stores and big box retailers suddenly feel irritating.

6. You Can Smell Like a Bear.  Yes, it sounds like a cool superpower.  You ask “can’t you smell that?” to those around you, referring to the gas fumes, food aroma, garbage odor or cleaning products that suddenly overwhelm you.

7. Noise Echoes in Your Head.   Like the conversation that travels along the concave roof lines of Grand Central Station, you can hear things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to hear.  Or maybe the music on the radio or sound on the TV feels thunderous to you and ordinary to those around you. After these things happen, a migraine can proceed into the aura phase in about a third of patients. 

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