Something on a Sunday: Headache Relief

October 8, 2017

So, the delightful Jenny from Reading the End has started Something on a Sunday to celebrate wins (no matter how big or small) in an effort to help temper or at least relieve some of the intense anxiety, anger, and/or pain a lot of us have been feeling lately.

Rules, man. Here they are:

The only guidelines are that you write about something that kept you on your feet that week, whether that’s a person that inspired you, an action you took that you’re proud of, a book or movie or TV show that nourished your heart, a self-care strategy that worked for you, a goofy event or moment that brought you joy. Whatever it is, every Sunday, I want you to tell me something that matters to you. If you don’t have enough energy for a post, tweet it at me (you can use the hashtag #SomethingonSunday).

My something for this Sunday is this here acupressure mat.


That, and sobriety from ibuprofen. I wish I were joking about the latter thing, but I’m not.

I have been diagnosed with chronic daily headaches, which means (you guessed it!) that I suffer from headaches pretty much every single day.

it's not a tumor

It’s really not a tumor. I’ve had my head scanned. (source)

One of the ways I’ve treated these headaches is by taking ibuprofen. But it got to the point where I was taking ibuprofen pretty much every day. My daughter, in fact, started telling me that ibuprofen was my answer to everything. The problem with taking ibuprofen every day is that it can cause rebound headaches also known as medication overuse headaches.

Now, I knew that rebound headaches were a thing, but I also didn’t think they were *my* thing–even though I was buying ibuprofen in 500-tablet containers and made sure I had ibuprofen on me AT ALL TIMES (I had tiny containers of it in all my bags, so I wouldn’t accidentally leave my ibuprofen at home.)

That all changed when I got a migraine at the beach on Memorial Day this year. (Also, this will tell you about me and headaches: I didn’t even think it was a migraine until a friend pointed out that the fact that I couldn’t see meant that’s what it was. I just thought I had an intense amount of sinus pressure. But neither Sudafed nor ibuprofen were helping. Oh, Akilah.

To be fair, though, a lot of my headaches doesn’t present with actual pain: they’re all about noise sensitivity and, sometimes, sensitivity to light. But I digress.)

So yes, after the great migraine of 2017, I woke up the next day with a headache. Now, the thing about me is I get headaches for many, many reasons. Something I ate perhaps? Repetitive noises? The smell of something? Breathing air and living life? But when I woke up with a headache that day, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that there was no reason I should have one. And that’s how I knew I was in rebound headache hell.

Like I said, I was familiar with the concept of the rebound headache and after a cursory Google search, the internet told me what I already knew (one day I’ll tell you about all of the books I’ve read about headaches and/or managing headache symptoms): I had to stop taking ibuprofen. Cold turkey. For 6-8 weeks to get the ibuprofen completely out of my system so I could start using it like a normal person. You know, occasionally.

I went to my doctor the next day, told her what happened, told her about the rebound headaches, and she agreed. She also put me on a daily preventative (it’s blood pressure medicine, tbh, but one of its secondary uses is headache management).

Using a daily preventative doesn’t mean you don’t get headaches, btw. It just means that the severity and frequency could be lessened.

Here’s the thing, though: if you’re used to taking ibuprofen every day, the rebound headaches don’t stop just because you’re on new meds. Oh no. Your body still has to get used to not having ibuprofen in it.

So, yes, I was in detox. And that’s when I got the acupressure mat based on a comment someone left on a friend’s FB post a couple of months before. According to my friend’s friend, she didn’t take headache meds for her migraines/headaches anymore because she used this mat. Obviously, I immediately saved the link for further research. And, finally, I was in detox, and the mat’s day had come.

Did it help much when I was in detox? NOT REALLY. But I was in excruciating pain some days. I mean, my head would be throbbing and I just could not deal. If anything, it helped take my mind off my headache because I was so busy trying to figure out if I were using the mat correctly. And, also, the mat wasn’t that comfortable. So, you know, it was a nice distraction.

However, I have started getting headaches the past few weeks (me: why am I getting headaches again? What has changed? Oh right, I went back to work, sigh) and I have been coming home and getting on my mat, and my headaches have gone away. NO IBUPROFEN, ONLY MAT. I lay the mat on my bed, get on it for 20 minutes (okay, take a nap on it), and when the time is up, my head doesn’t hurt anymore–or, if the headache isn’t gone, the level of pain has significantly decreased. (I will also note that if I fall asleep for longer than 20 minutes, when I wake up, the mat has usually been moved from underneath me so my body knows when I have had enough even if my eyeballs and brain are sleeping.)

But, Akilah, you may be thinking, how do you know it’s not taking the nap that does it?

Sleep has never ever ever EVER not once ever helped my headache pain. If anything, I wake up in more pain after taking a nap or going to sleep. The only thing that has changed is the mat.

So, yes, I still take the daily preventative and I still get headaches. But I have not had a single ibuprofen since May 29 (over four months!)–which is a miracle before God–because I get on that mat instead.

Oh, and this is not a paid advertisement or sponsored post. Just me sharing my experience with that ugly green mat. (It looks so much worse in person.)



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  1. Ally Bean

    I’ve never heard of this kind of mat. It sounds like a lifesaver for you, and I’m glad that it is. Such a practical solution that I’m rather amazed they aren’t for sale everywhere. Also, I’ve never heard of the concept of a rebound headache, and will file that tidbit of info away… just in case I need it down the line.

  2. crbrunelle

    I haven’t heard of the mat before either. I have many headaches too. I don’t think I buzz through as much ibuprofin as you do, but I know I have multiple bottles so it’s available everywhere. Something to think about. I hope you get some permanent relief as some point.

    • Akilah

      Thanks, Crystal. Permanent relief is the dream. I usually get relief when I’m not working. I have got to figure out how to make my job less stressful even though I enjoy it.

  3. Katy K.

    I’ve been through periods of having a headache not go away for weeks. Such misery! I hadn’t heard of that mat – and I think I might need one, too. Studying the Alexander Technique helps me avoid some headaches, by teaching me to carry myself better and notice when I’m holding my breath or holding tension in my neck.


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