Dealing with Migraines on the Trail

As I get closer to my thru-hike start date on Feb. 14 (no Valentine, might as well hike) I have some last-minute prep still to do. One of the things I have to prepare for is migraines.

These debilitating headaches have been a part of my life since I was a kid of about four or five years old. Thankfully, treatments have come a long way. Back then my medicine was taken, well, let’s just say it wasn’t a pill to swallow orally. Yeahhh, not fun. Since then I have tried every medicine and home remedy known to man. From injections to pills and items meant to apply directly to the forehead. Ha ha, sorry if you now have those old commercials running through your brain. It was like they had a five-second commercial and a 30-second spot so they just replayed it six times in a row. Ironically, those commercials probably caused headaches.

But I digress. My preferred treatment now is a pill called Imitrex. This treatment, for me, comes with some interesting side effects. One of the first things I notice is that I get really hot and I feel a high. So walking down a bumpy, rough trail with a 30-pound pack might prove difficult with that high and hot feeling. I’m not sure how the false sense of warmth will hit me as I walk. So I am nervous about it as it could cause nausea. (Will that attract bears?) The other thing that the medicine does is make me tired. Beside the actual headache pain, that’s the biggest one to overcome. Will I even have the energy to set up camp after taking the medicine? Hopefully.

Dealing with the headache, and the side effects, should be quite a challenge to add to an already difficult feat. My plan is to not let them slow me down too much. And depending on when and where I get the migraine (not if, but when) will depend on how I handle it. If I wake up with it, I may take a zero. If it happens at lunch, I will probably stop and rest until it passes. After lunch will probably see me stop early for the day and set up camp where I am.

All in all, I have never hiked with a migraine. So all of this is conjecture. The best I can do is prepare a plan. I have been stockpiling pills for the trail as I don’t know when or where I could get a prescription filled. So I will be taking lots of them with me and I will have a support person at home (Hi, Candis!) who will be able to send me some if need be. To keep the pills safely with me, I wanted to make them immune from the weather and keep them in a secure receptacle that will not fall apart if it is dropped or knocked around. So I bought a waterproof pill container from Amazon just for this purpose. I tested it out and it works like a charm and it even floats.

So with a plan in mind, and meds in a safety container, I feel like I have done all I can to prepare. Now it’s up to the trail and my brain to see how it actually plays out. I will definitely keep you posted on what actually happens out there. And if any of you have any tips on migraine hiking, please let me know in the comments.

Happy trails,


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