Sunday, January 20, 2013

Abdominal Migraines

My paternal grandmother would sometimes get abdominal pain severe enough to send her to the emergency room.  She had a number of exploratory surgeries that turned up nothing until finally, in her seventies or eighties, she said, “No more surgeries.”  My father used to get migraine headaches.  I don’t get those, but once in a great while (about every seven years) I get an abdominal migraine.  Usually at night after a big meal, maybe under stressful circumstances, I will get painful spasms below my navel (about 7 on a scale of 1 to 10), accompanied by sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea until my whole system is cleared out.  After that the pain continues; I can’t keep down any food or liquid; and of course I can’t sleep.

In 1989 that happened and I went to the emergency room.  That time I was lucky because the doctor there knew what this was.  He checked a few things, had an x-ray taken, and sent me home with pain medication.  He didn’t tell me the name of the condition; I found that out later for myself.  I stayed in bed the next day and after that I was fine.  Seven years later it happened again and I called my regular doctor.  I said, “I know what this is.  Please give me something for the pain and I’ll be OK in a day or two.”  My doctor was skeptical and wanted to be extra cautious.  She had me check into the hospital and lined up a surgeon.  The hospital ran various tests, found nothing, and let me go after a couple of days.  The next time, just as the pain was starting, I took a generic Pepcid AC (famotidine) and the pain stopped in its tracks: apparently this is the right thing to do.

Many doctors believe that only children get abdominal migraines but this seems to be wrong.  I get them, my grandmother probably did too, and I know at least one other adult who does.  In adults an abdominal migraine is probably mistaken for a stomach virus or food poisoning.  For people who get them often it probably makes sense to carry the pills around, just in case.

I get various kinds of muscle spasms too.  The best fix for these is to wet a washcloth with the hottest water you can stand and press it against the knotted up area.  Sometimes this has to be done a couple of times but after that the muscle will relax.  I’ve read that muscle spasms can be caused by deficiencies in any of various minerals.  I take potassium, magnesium, and calcium and the blood tests for these indicate that I’m where I should be.  Evidently this is just part of my genetic inheritance.

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