Please note: If you do not suffer from vertigo during a migraine, this information may still be helpful. Migraine is a strange ailment with a multitude of symptoms that differ from person to person and sometimes attack to attack. But no matter your pattern of symptoms, following a protocol for migraine relief in general may give you the possibility of improving the manifestation of your personal symptom pattern. I am not a doctor or health care practitioner, nor can I promise you that healing will occur. I am simply sharing my story in the hope that it will help someone else.
I can still clearly remember the first bout of vertigo that hit me. It was early morning and I was walking down the hallway to my bedroom. Out of the blue the world tilted and a wave of nausea hit me. I broke out into a sweat and my heart started pounding. What was going on?
I walked into the bedroom and sat on the bed, hoping it would pass. It did not. Fifteen minutes later I could barely walk I was so dizzy from the spinning in my head. Soon vertigo’s nasty bedfellows of vomiting and diarrhea joined the party. It was a miserable two hours before the world began to straighten out.
Why Was I So Dizzy?
I called my doctor who suspected an inner ear problem. Since I was feeling better, we decided to monitor my condition. I didn’t have any other problems that year, but about one year later I had another attack. That was the beginning of a downward spiral into extreme vertigo and sickness that took a huge toll on me physically and emotionally and lasted for years.
My condition got to the point where I was having spells every month. The worst one lasted about 8 hours and put me in the hospital. Unfortunately, I did not have a quick recovery from each attack of dizziness either. Residual effects and lightheadedness plagued me constantly. I had to change how I moved. No longer could I bend over to pick something up. I crouched down and moved very slowly.
By the time I felt somewhat stable again, the next attack of vertigo would hit. I lived in a spinning world and I wanted out. I became depressed and afraid to leave my home, because I never knew when a spell would hit. I was too sick to work. Once I got the first wave of dizziness, I had 15 minutes to get to a safe place before I would be unable to walk, becoming violently ill.
Of course during the years that I was battling this, I went to doctors. Somewhere along the way, I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, but my symptoms never totally fit that diagnosis. Meniere’s patients usually don’t have the long-lasting effects I was suffering after every attack. During my hospitalization, they checked for a brain tumor, but that was negative. I was feeling desperate, not understanding how all of my weird symptoms fit together.
- Ear stuffiness that lasted for days.
- Ear popping.
- Ear ringing.
- Ear sensitivity. I couldn’t stand loud noises.
- Lightheadedness brought on by bright lights or flashing lights.
- Visual disturbances. Busy patterns bothered me. Long aisles of shelves crammed with products bothered me.
- Weather sensitivity. Approaching storms could bring an instant worsening of my symptoms. Heat and humidity affected me.
- Hormonal changes. As my period approached, my symptoms escalated.
- Terrible vertigo.
- Unsteady on my feet.
At my worst, I felt like almost anything could set me off. I was depressed and becoming a prisoner in my own home, afraid to go anywhere. I couldn’t work. Most of the time I felt terrible, although I tried to hide it from my family.
Change in My Attitude
It was after my hospitalization that something changed. In the past, I had been through some severe health challenges with all three of my children. I became their advocate, researching and learning everything I could to help them heal. At my lowest, God reminded me of those times and that I would now have to do the same thing for myself with His help.
I needed to change my attitude from that of being a victim to being an advocate and fighting for my health. I would do everything I could to learn about my condition and seek healing. Many of my friends were praying for me, and I moved forward with hope. I wasn’t sure to what extent I would be able to recover my health, but I was ready to try.
Migraine Treatment: Getting Rid of Vertigo
The following list is comprised of the people and things that I discovered through my past and current research, and they helped my body to heal. I’m sharing these with hopes and prayers that they will help someone else.
- Dr. Timothy Hain at Chicago Dizziness and Hearing. As I was researching online, I came across Dr Hain’s website. He has a wealth of information online, and I became convinced I needed to make an appointment. We live in Indianapolis, so we made the trip to his office in downtown Chicago. It was the best thing I ever did. Dr. Hain was the one who said he believed my Meniere’s diagnosis was wrong, and that what I was actually suffering from was a form of migraine. That was the key to finding migraine relief.
- The book Heal Your Headache by Dr. Buchholz is the best printed resource I’ve found so far. He details all the different types of headaches, symptoms, weird symptoms you didn’t know were migraine related, and his 1-2-3 Program for treatment. He empowers you to make decisions that can improve your health. Nine years later, I still use this book.
- Chiropractic treatment. A friend of mine who is a cardiologist told me about a chiropractor that treats her and her family, Dr. Kevin Anderson in Zionsville, Indiana. At first I went three times a week, and over a year’s time, I imported dramatically. I still see him every month, and he has helped with neck and back issues that were contributing to the vertigo.
- Functional Medicine doctor. Dr. Spahr is no longer practicing, but he was another important link in my healing journey. Update! (January 2019) I just found out that Dr. Spahr has come out of retirement. Click here for his website. Functional medicine looks at the entire body and what is happening, not just isolated symptoms. He is the one that suggested I try a gluten-free diet to reduce the inflammation in my body to see if that would help. That was huge in helping me to heal. It, along with the migraine relief diet, helped to lower my trigger threshold so that my body stopped reacting.
- The Migraine Trust. This page is so helpful. It lists the different types of headaches with symptom descriptions to help you determine what type you are experiencing. In my case, I have several types of headaches including migraine with brainstem aura and migraine with aura.
- Dr. Aviva Romm. She is a world-renowned herbalist, midwife, and Yale-trained MD, so she has both an allopathic and alternative medicine bank of knowledge to draw upon. Recently she recorded a podcast on migraines that is packed with information. She also wrote a companion blog to go along with the podcast. As you listen to the podcast, be sure you have a notebook handy to record your thoughts and ideas. She covers supplements and herbs that are helpful for migraine sufferers along with lots of other advice, such as trying an elimination diet.
- Peppermint, Lavender, and Eucalyptus essential oils. Some people have success using certain essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, or lavender to help with migraine relief. One suggestion is to mix up a blend of a carrier oil and an essential oil. Try mixing 10 drops total of essential oil (any one of the above listed or all three combined) in one teaspoon of vegetable oil (olive, coconut, almond, etc.) and storing it in a glass dropper bottle. Then take one drop of the blend and rub it on your temples when you feel a headache coming on. Be careful not to get it in your eyes.
- When you are able, add exercise to your regime. I walk with Leki Nordic Walking Sticks, which work out both my upper and lower body. They also have the added benefit of supporting my balance.
- Update to my story (January 2019). I have recently found neurologist Dr. Josh Turknett and his website, book, and podcast called the Migraine Miracle. He also has a new book out called Keto for Migraines. I believe I have found a piece I have been missing in my health journey and that is the BIG role that sugar and carbohydrates play in triggering migraines. I will update more later as I work through this new information. But don’t wait for me. Get his book and listen to the podcast. This is some of the best information on migraines and health in general!
How Long Did It Take for Migraine Relief?
Everyone is different, but in my case it took about two years for me to rebuild my health. Now don’t be discouraged by that. I got better and stronger each month. My body slowly started healing. Realize you did not get sick overnight, and you won’t get well overnight (unless God heals you that quickly). Be consistent in your efforts and give your body time to heal. If you mess up your migraine relief protocol, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just start again. You can’t expect a quick fix like we get from meds. The goal is to heal the underlying cause, not just mask a symptom.
I don’t know what level of healing you will be able to attain, but anything is better than where you are right now. I am a big believer in prayer and asking God to give you HIs grace. He lead me on my healing path and helped me find the resources I needed. He will for you too.
It also helps to have a person who supports what you’re doing, especially if you’re making drastic changes in your diet as I did. I really feel like my gluten-free, migraine diet is the key to my health.
Where Am I Today with Migraine Relief?
It’s been about seven years since I’ve had an attack of vertigo. That is a miracle for me! I thank God that He led me to all the resources that brought about migraine relief. I was able to work again, get on an airplane, and lead an active, normal life. It did, however, take me a while to overcome the emotional fear of being hit by an attack at any time and to feel comfortable traveling again.
These last seven months I have tested my health severely as I went on a bucket list trip with my husband. He rode his bike across the country from Florida to Oregon, and I pulled the travel trailer and supported his ride. I did have some struggles with the migraine issues in the last half of the trip, but fortunately not the vertigo. On the trip I encountered every possible trigger and then some: daily travel, constant weather changes, severe altitude changes, sleep disruptions, food disruptions (tiny towns that didn’t have any gluten-free food), and just a wee bit of stress at times.
We just finished the trip two weeks ago, and I know I will have to go through a health-rebuilding phase again, but I am already feeling better. It was a good reminder as to how important it is that I continue with the protocol I’ve developed for myself even today. It’s a forever change, although as I manage my trigger threshold, I can have some things I love (like dark chocolate) as long as it’s not everyday.
Ringing in my ears seems to be the bothersome symptom that comes and goes now. I will be experimenting more with the Keto diet to see if cycling through that might help that symptom. And since I am a writer and spend a lot of time at my computer, I find that I need to take breaks throughout the day, otherwise I may start to feel light-headed. I’m counting my blessings that I have not had a reoccurrence of the vertigo. Springtime may also cause migraine sufferers challenges with the uptick in spring allergens. Keep working on managing your trigger load, as the book Heal Your Headache talks about.
How About You?
Please know if you’re struggling with vertigo or other migraine and health issues, I understand how hopeless you can feel at times. But I hope my journey encourages you to start your own migraine relief plan. Be your own best advocate. You can do this. Leave me a question or a comment and let me know how you’re doing. I’ll be praying!
Note: some of the links to the books and walking poles are my affiliate links. Rest assured I really use these products and highly believe in them!