Chronic Migraine: The Body’s Slow Leak

By Holly Baddour, originally published on

Although most people think of migraine as happening in the head alone, the condition causes challenges on many fronts, including a flu-like drain on energy. It can be helpful to acknowledge and plan for the comprehensive way that migraine takes a toll on the body and to seek opportunities to restore and refuel those empty reserves.


The energy of a chronic migraineur is frequently being confronted. The challenge may come directly from the pain, or in the effort required to manage the onslaught of triggers –sensitivities to light, noise, smells, stress, and more. It’s as if we are knights in a swordfight, fending off enemy after enemy who are encircling and enclosing upon us. No rest for the weary. Indeed, it is exhausting. The constant pain is like white noise constantly playing in the background.

Running on empty

The analogies about how chronic migraine takes a toll on our energy are endless. We feel like a:

  • car that has run out of fuel
  • tire with a slow leak
  • car running on fumes
  • balloon running out of air

No matter the image that suits you best, the underlying dynamic remains the same: chronic migraine is draining. It’s important for us, as migraineurs, to make room in our lives for the very real impact that migraine has on our energy.

The drain on our energy can happen before, during and after a migraine attack – making it a well-known pro- and post-drome symptom. For many of us, lethargy is the first sign that a migraine is coming. It goes without saying that during an attack, we are incapable of being active. And, for many, after the migraine lifts, there is the sense that we are moving through molasses. Each action feels as though it takes extreme effort.

Long after the pain dissipates, the after-effects of a migraine attack can continue to wreak havoc on our lives. Indeed, for most chronic migraineurs, the postdrome symptoms become entangled with the prodrome symptoms before the next attack hits until the entire month becomes one long haze of symptoms and pain.

Conserving what’s left

With all that is challenging and confronting our energy reserves, what we have left is precious and must be guarded with care. A first step in that process is to simply acknowledge the fact that there is a constant drain on our system. With that knowledge in hand, we begin to think more carefully about ways to take care of ourselves; to make a conscious effort to inspire new energy. Partaking in the types of activities that nourish and rebuild us in our windows of wellness are of utmost importance.


The moment we feel a lift in pain, on comes a rush of anxiety regarding all that’s been left unattended. Unfortunately, that anxiety may be accompanied by a surge of stress, which can trigger another attack. Better to take a breath and use that moment to do something for ourselves. A walk, tea with a friend, whatever it is- something that refuels.

Born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC, Holly majored in dance in college and also played in several bands and toured the country as a singer. She has spent over 20 years working in nonprofit organizations focused on various issues that include migraines, and global health.

Migraines started for her at the age of 6 and ramped up in frequency and severity in her 30’s. Although the condition sidelined her from her career, she is grateful that it has given her more time to focus on her health and raising her two teenage sons with her husband. She is a contributor for, a patient-centric online community that empowers patients and caregivers to take control of migraine disease by providing a platform to learn, educate, and connect with peers and health care professionals.