Gold Medal Migraine Advice from Gymnast Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman Sits Down with Katie Golden to Talk About Migraine

Spotlights, flashing cameras, stress, neck pain, headaches, and fatigue. These symptoms and triggers were everyday occurrences for Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman. She attributed it all to life as a gymnast. “When I was training, I was just taught to kind of power through and push through. It felt like it was survival of the fittest,” says Aly.

Yet when she retired from the sport in January 2020, these debilitating issues didn’t subside. Throughout the COVID pandemic Aly was plagued with episodes of excruciating head pain that radiated to other areas of her body, making her nauseous and begging for a dark, quiet place to rest. This torture could last an entire week, while other times she’d experience a month’s long reprieve. She never knew when the next attack would hit.

 

Road to diagnosis

Aly couldn’t ignore her health any longer, saying “when someone is struggling and they don’t know why they’re struggling, it can feel so lonely and scary.” 

She sought out a neurologist who specializes in headache disorders. Her first appointment revealed clues to a diagnosis. When she mentioned she kept the lights off during her daily workouts, the health care professional pointed out this was not normal. “I didn’t realize how much it was actually impacting so much of my life,” says Aly. 

Aly was diagnosed with migraine, a medical condition her mother has as well. Migraine disease is a genetic, neurologic condition that affects the entire body. Common symptoms include pain on one side of the head, feeling nauseous, sensitivity to light or sound, which can last anywhere from 4 to 72-hours. Migraine is a spectrum disease with each person experiencing migraine attacks differently. Frequency, severity, and triggers are often unpredictable.

Promising New Treatment*

Aly’s headache specialist explained there is no cure for migraine…yet. Having migraine means managing symptoms through a multitude of different options including medication, lifestyle changes, complementary therapies and identifying her unique triggers. Aly has found relief using Ubrelvy® (ubrogepant), a prescription medicine used for the acute treatment of migraine attacks with or without aura in adults. 

Ubrelvy is not for prevention. In clinical studies, most people had pain relief and some even had pain freedom within two hours. Do not take Ubrelvy with strong CYP3A4 inhibitors. Few people had side effects, the most common were nausea (2-4%) and tiredness (2-3%). To learn more and see full Patient information, visit the Ubrelvy website

To report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088 and inform the manufacturer, in this case AbbVie® at  1-800-222-6885.

 

Knowledge is power

Aly credits her headache specialist with giving her the tools to take control of her migraine disease. He took the time to explain the complexities of a migraine attack as well as her different treatment options. Identifying triggers, making lifestyle changes, and finding a medication that works takes time, patience and communication between health care provider and patient. This process does not happen overnight. 

Empowered to advocate 

The word “advocacy” can be intimidating to many people, but it starts with speaking up for yourself. Aly has quickly learned to ask for lighting accommodations before she has a photo shoot or a speaking engagement. “It’s important that we take care of ourselves, and we be our own advocate, just like we would take care of someone else that we love or care about.” 

Aly believes that everyone deserves to have their pain validated and to feel good. “If a friend came to me and shared the same symptoms I was experiencing, I would encourage them to go to the doctor and ask for help.” This is why Aly is dedicated to telling her story and raising awareness of migraine disease.

 

*Ms. Raisman is a paid spokesperson with AbbVie®, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures Ubrelvy®. Neither CHAMP nor the writer received compensation in exchange for the interview with Ms. Raisman or for publishing the above article.

 

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