This morning I woke up and saw a crescent shaped prism right before my eyes. When I closed them, it was still there. This has happened to me only once before and the prism grew until I couldn’t see – setting up a massive panic attack and a trip to the ER. All I could imagine was “brain tumor”.  (It must be made clear that although many of the common aches and tweaks are often receptive to movement therapies and our beloved YTU Balls, we must remember the limits of our scope of practice. Our primary responsibility is to the health and safety of our students/clients. It is our obligation to refer folks to a physician when things involve any sudden onset of pain or other symptoms such as weight loss, weight gain, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, etc.)

After thousands of dollars in tests and an intense three day headache, I was told I experienced what is known as an ocular migraine. Both of my encounters with these visual disturbances were one sided, painless and sudden in their onset. Both started as a little reflective prism-like arc in the corner of my vision field.

Most ocular migraines, also known as optical migraines or migraines with aura, completely disappear within 20-60 minutes. My first started in the corner of my eye while I was driving and began to spread so quickly I pulled over to the side of the road. The fact that I was literally blinded while driving set me into flight mode – as it’s tough to fight when you can’t see! My heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketed, my ability to get a grip, not to mention my rational decision making ability tanked, and I found myself flashing on my last words to my children, my husband. It was terrifying.

After the ER and the 72 hour headache of champions, I did a bit of research and found that migraines, with or without visual disturbances, have a variety of possible causes including: opthalmic issues,  food triggers (allergies or sensitivities to additives, sweeteners, caffeine, chocolate – gasp!, etc.), odors, light, sleep deprivation, emotional stress, and muscular tension in the upper body, specifically the levator scapulae, SCM, scalenes, upper trapezius, sub-occipital extensors, and pectoralis major and minor.

There exists a category of headache that I point to when recognizing my own experience. The Cervicogenic Headache (CGH) mainly occurs due to nerve, joint and muscular problems related to the cervical spine, specifically C 1 – C 3.  Sensory input from the roots of the nerves in this area literally make a pain in the neck refer to the head and face. Some people feel pressure in the temples, forehead, or all over while I had a vision disturbance.

(For more on CGH, read up! AND

Both of my episodes occurred in the morning after what must have been award worthy jaw-clentch-a-thons in my sleep. Although it is not clear if head forward position (HFP) causes TMJD or TMJD causes HFP, there exists a link to migraines, and the other 14 categories of headaches according to the IHS (the International Headache Society). Yes. It exists.

Knowledge is power. Today, instead of freaking out, I grabbed my alpha, my YTU regular balls, and a yoga block and gently unlocked my jaw, released my temporalis and masseter, and finished up with the sub-occipitals. What struck me most was about 3 seconds after I started self massage for migraines on my temple area, the prism disappeared. Because I was able to do some migraine treatment at home to help myself, I didn’t lose it. I didn’t panic. No ER. No huge bill from my medical insurance.

Empowering, this embodied anatomy. We are so in tune with our students and clients we often wait for a problem to pop up to tune up our own tissues. Although I tend to my glutes, TFL, psoas, QL, and upper back daily because of the strenuous swimming, cycling and running I do, I forgot how trashed these unsung heroes can get.  Can I get an amen?

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Read “Avoiding Migraine Triggers Won’t Make Them Disappear.”

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