I am a migraineur—the medically accurate, strangely fancy word for someone who spends much of their lives whimpering under a duvet in a blacked-out room. Typically, my migraines are controlled by medication: If I swallow a pill when my vision starts to swim, I’m able to return to normal activities some two hours later, albeit a bit feebly. But migraines are shape-shifters, with a disconcerting tendency to change and evolve over time. And this year, mine changed for the worse. I was struck with a migraine that lasted months, one that nothing in my migraineur toolbox (a full toolbox, by the way! Injectables and anti-nausea pills and vitamins, and a futuristic electrode device that attaches to your forehead) would break.
When you’ve had a headache for some 40 days straight and nothing is helping, it’s important to find tricks to temper the pain. Sometimes hot feels good, and sometimes cold does—for the first month of this particular headache, my boyfriend was stuck boiling and reboiling (and re-reboiling) water to keep a washcloth for my forehead hot enough that the searing heat temporarily replaced the searing pain. In the end, some internet research left me with a couple of products that gave me unexpected temporary relief—and didn’t require a dizzying back and forth to the stove.
Ice packs can help ease a headache: the more blindingly cold, the better. But your average pack is stiff and rectangular, unable to contour to the side of your head or the back of your neck. I thought a bag of frozen peas might work as a flexible alternative—until they melted into a greenish stream down the back of my shirt. This roller stays cold for hours; it has a handle, so your hand doesn’t freeze holding it to your forehead; and, as a fringe benefit, it claims to revitalize your face and reduce puffiness under your eyes.
BUY: Handsderma Skincool Ice Roller
Like Vicks VapoRub for your head, except that it smells really good. I am scent-sensitive during migraines, but found this—a mild mix of chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary—inoffensive and actually relaxing. The balm creates a tingly sensation that eases the pain—I used half the tin the first day I got it.
BUY: Wild Thera Headache Ease Balm
To create heat, I like this wrap, which stays hot longer than a boiled washcloth, and doesn’t require sitting on the floor near an outlet—other heating pads require plugging in.
BUY: Anti-Stress Microwaveable Comfort Wrap
There is a 24/7 club on my block, whose house music is difficult to tolerate, even without a throbbing headache. So I wisely took my colleague Lauren Schwartzberg’s advice and ordered a pair of earplugs, which let me sleep through both the pulse of my headache and the neighbor’s EDM.