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Woman sleepily turning her mobile alarm to Snooze as she deals with migraine-induced exhaustion

My Strange Migraine Warning Signs

Reading time | 4 mins

After having experienced chronic migraine for well over a decade, you would think that I’ve become an expert in knowing when a migraine is about to hit… but, that’s not always the case.

While my body often knows when a migraine is brewing, I still find that migraines can catch me completely by surprise.

Fortunately for me, I’ve learned to identify a few warning signs that indicate that a migraine is coming. Here’s a look at some hints that a migraine attack is imminent.

Heightened Energy and Fast Talking

Sometimes it feels like my brain runs at hyper speed.

It’s almost like my brain is sprinting, and my mouth decides to follow along. When this happens, I rarely say anything off or uncharacteristic to my personality (thank goodness), but I tend to speed up everything that I want to say, and I can’t seem to stop myself.

During this state of heightened energy, I don’t always recognize that a migraine is just around the corner. Instead, I tend to see it as an opportunity to catch up on everything that’s on my to-do list and feel productive (a rare feeling for someone in constant pain).

Only once the pain sets in do I realize that the speed-thinking and talking wasn’t a lucky burst of energy, but a precursor to a migraine attack.

Slowed Thinking

Yes, I understand that this is the complete opposite to my previous migraine warning sign! What can I say is that living with migraine is complicated and ever-changing.

When I’m not thinking or talking a mile a minute, I experience delayed cognition and have trouble keeping my thoughts straight right before a migraine hits. I can read something or listen to someone speak, but my brain doesn’t seem to process or absorb the information.

If I’m reading something, I’ll have to read the same line 10 times before it registers in my mind. Sometimes, reading it again and again doesn’t help. I still can’t seem to capture the meaning of the sentence. From there, I often give up and try to come back to that email or “to do” later.

However, ‘coming back later’ isn’t always an option. In instances like this, when I am under a deadline and it feels as though my brain has slowed to a glacial pace, I can get quite angry and frustrated.

In the moment, I know that I am smart and capable. And the only reason I’m struggling is because migraine has essentially shut my brain off. It’s incredibly defeating and something that I still have a hard time dealing with today.


Although this is rare, my fingers, face, and lips feel numb just before a migraine attack. It feels like I have been hit in the mouth with a softball; my lips feel swollen and large. As the tingling sensation sets in, I know that a migraine is on its way.


I live in constant migraine pain, so exhaustion is part of my everyday life. But when a new migraine hits, my exhaustion level reaches new heights (or lows, more likely!). Finding the energy to just about anything feels impossible.

My exhaustion is often paired with a feeling that my head weighs 100 pounds; it hurts just to stay upright.


By no means do I consider myself an angry person; in fact, it’s fairly uncommon for me to get angry — except when a migraine is coming. When the pain starts to set in, I can sense my anger creeping in. Everything makes me feel agitated. I know it’s coming because I’ll be angry over nothing.

Fortunately (for me and everyone around me), I hide my anger well. Over the years I’ve also learned different ways to cope with the feelings of anger and frustration that come with my migraine so that they don’t completely overwhelm me.

My Friends’ Strange Migraine Warning Signs

I wanted to see if my friends faced similar warning signs.

When I asked, they shared a long list of surprising warning signs, including hair-hurting, sensitivity to smells, shoulder and neck pain, excessive yawning, tooth pain, unquenchable thirst, excessive peeing, ears ringing, seeing half of things, eye twitching, inability to finish sentences and facial drooping.

Other interesting warning signs mentioned include craving mayonnaise or Chinese food, tasting metal, and experiencing phantom smells. They mentioned that the phantom smells are often of gas, something burning, and even waffles.

We all may have very different experiences, symptoms, triggers, and warning signs. But it’s great to know that my migraine community can relate — no matter how strange my warning signs seem.

Learning to spot these clues may not help you prevent a migraine attack, but it may help you quickly take action when the time comes.

For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

MIG-US-NP-00131 MAY 2019