Pain and College

Hey there,

I am a sophomore in college and struggling to do much more that go to get food in the cafeteria, go to church, and take care of my basic need. I can barely make it to any of my classes, though I try to work on projects and homework for class when I'm not in extreme pain. I have horrible migraines, neck pain, joint pain, and spasms on bad days. I have several different pain medications, do Botox treatment, and recently completed a steroid pack my neurologist prescribed. I am registered with my university's disability office.Does anyone have any suggests on how to function normally in college and be able to go to classes?

So sorry to hear of your struggles. Have you been diagnosed with Chiari? What does the doctor say about your condition? It’s hard to give advise if we don’t know what your diagnoses is, but would love to help if we can.

sorry to hear about your pain.. have you had a brain mri? are you diagnosed with chiari?

Hey Meghan!

I am in the same boat with you--I'm also a sophomore and have to deal with these kinds of things. How many credits are you taking? I would suggest taking the minimal of 12-13 (based on school), and if you're worried about graduation time, take classes over the summer. Though, the summer classes are probably a good hour to 2 hours longer than your average class, and as chiarian, that can be hard to sit through.

Do you live on campus? Being close to your classes would make things easier. Does your campus have a system where they transport students who have leg injuries, walking issues, etc? You could apply to that. Bring ice packs or heating pads to class to help with sitting through it. Bring a lumbar pillow if you have to sit in straight back chairs. Drink a ton of water.

And in all honesty (and excuse my language), don't give 2 shits what other people might think of you. Bring those heating pads, etc, to class! You are the only one in your shoes, so do what makes you happy.

Hope this helps and please write me if you have questions--I know exactly what you're going through! Hugs!


I have Chiari malformation 1, and my tonsils are 11 mm in my neck.


It's so nice to have someone who understands! I am taking 14 hours, but I recently had to drop one because I was having trouble making it to class and my teacher kind of gave up on me. I was going to try to take a very summer classes because I tend to feel better in the summer. I live on a smaller campus, but it is one of the least handicap friendly places I have ever been. We sadly have no transportation service either. It's pretty frustrating.

I definitely will start packing up my heating pad and taking it to class and a pillow. My school seems to only have hard chairs. I will have to get myself a few ice packs, too. I drink a lot of water, so I'm glad that helps.

I'm so glad to have someone else who gets the pain and struggle of going to college while in near constant pain! So many people don't get how hard it is. It's nice to have people that do!

Thank you so much!

Hi Meghan,

I had already had surgery when I entered college but I suffered (still do) from crippling “Chiari” migraines. I found it difficult for people, especially professors, to understand how debilitating migraines and associated pain is to a person. Only people who have experienced the pain get it but I made it a point to clearly explain the challenges I was facing. I had the visual aid of my surgery scar to help but it was tough. I made sure the days I felt the worst, I let myself rest and knew I was going to need to make up for what I would be missing.

I completely agree with ice packs and heating pads in class. I used to strap ice packs to my head while I was studying to help with the pain. I went through very difficult periods of time heavily dosed on some medication or other making functioning normally, challenging. Eventually, I bit the bullet and went off all but emergency migraine medicine so I could function. My neurologist also changed my diet to try to limit all potential triggers to a migraine.

I wish you all the best. Keep working with your doctors and your professors to keep moving forward. I made sure my professors knew me and saw me one on one when possible. I know it’s hard but you will make it through, challenging as it may be. I love Surya’s comment about not caring about what other people are going to think. You do what you gotta do!

One thing I think can’t be overlooked is your friends and the time you spend with them. I hope you are getting time to enjoy them. You may not be experiencing the “typical” college experience but your social life is important in the big picture. One night of laughter with friends can really help!

I’m now a graduate student and still suffer from migraines that shut me down for days. I manage as best I can and pick myself back up after the wave of pain leaves and continue on.

All the best,

Catherine, I'm sorry you had to go through all of this too! And you are so right about having friends around, it helps so much! Yeah, I kicked the bucket on meds too, because I already get so foggy on my own. I've limited my exercise to try and help with the migraines. Thanks for all the advice and keep that strength going!

Meghan, it stinks that your college doesn't have any transport! Also, if you just need to take most of your classes over the summer, do it. We all have an idea of an 'average' life and think things are SUPPOSED to go that way. But our life is a little different, and sometimes we have to take the long way around the barn. If it's what works for you, and as long as your eye is on the prize, you'll get there. Do you know what I mean?


Thank you so much! I haven't had surgery yet because my doctor want to avoid that if possible. I'm so glad you understand, though! I will try your suggestion and try to meet with my professors. I have a small group of friends, but they are wonderful! Most of suitemates are very understanding. I try to eat with friends once a day if possible because it is nice to have that support! I'm glad that you were able to make it through! It gives me hope. :)



I understand completely! It's been hard to learn and accept that my life is not going to be a "normal" college life. Some days I want to quit, but I know that I should keep going to get my degree. I'm so glad that I'm not alone in this, though I hate that you struggle with this too. We can do this! :)

Hi! Welcome! I haven’t posted in a long time, mainly because I’ve felt that if I denied my pain, it would go away. I was decompressed last May two days after graduating high school and I started college in August. It’s been a thin line between “I can so do this!” And “I can’t. I just can’t.” Since day one. I contemplate quitting at least twice a week, because even though surgery took away many of my worse migraines, I still get stiff and I do have migraines again especially when the weather is bad. I live in Oklahoma, so that’s like every other day. Seriously. (On a side note, I’d like to rant for one second that it’s ridiculous to wear shorts one day, snow gear the next, and carry an umbrella the day after that. NO EXAGGERATING. That was THIS WEEK.) Anyway, when the weather shifts, I hurt. I’m always tired, and my depression is always lingering. I know exactly how you feel about skipping class and having to explain over and over that getting out of bed is sometimes the hardest thing to do! My school has no way to help, either. My dean has a condition similar to Chiari (she never specified what) and understands, but I already went to her last semester and don’t want to seem like a faker. The ice packs in class are a great idea— any other ideas would be great! And know that you’re not alone in this!

hi meghan

I just had the botox injections 5 days ago have not had head aches like I used to have some pain in my head eyes are swollen there is side effects and I think I have had everyone of them my neck is stiff and hurts but not like it used to it takes a little time for the med to get in your system I hope this works for me. I will keep you posted on the out come. sorry you are feeling so bad I understand your pain and all.


I'm sorry that you are in so much pain, but I do understand the weather bothering you. I live in Tennessee and our weather is about the same. If it's cloudy for a week, then the temperature will go up and down all week. If it's sunny one day, it may rain the next day. Our weather is verging on ridiculous! I'm so glad that I'm the only one who feels the pressure and weather changes! Professors seem to think I'm a bit crazy when I explain that I was in bed for a week because of the weather!

I'm so glad you understand, but I'm so sorry that you are in pain so often. The good news is that we can stick together and support each other now! We get it even if other people don't!


I'm so glad that the Botox is working for you! It gives me hope that it will help me out more, too! I honestly think the Botox has helped, but the weather here in Tennessee has been so bad that it's counteracting the Botox. My summer and fall injections helped me a lot! I think as I get more injections, it will get better. Did you get the full 31 injections?

Hello...I think it's admirable you all are working towards yours goals. One step at a time, and you'll reach your goals. Remember to get some rest, and take good care of yourselves. The good is almost over...right?!..Good Luck and stay positive.


Thank you so much for the encouragement! I really appreciate it! :)

I am not sure how many injections my dr did I no it was a lot I think he did 2 units and they hurt it will be 5 days as of tomorrow my eyes are still swollen had to get some Zofran cause I am very nauseated I live in Houston our weather is usually pretty nice but lately it has been cold. one thing I am concerned about is my eyebrows wont raise up is that normal? I no you are supposed to get the injections every 3 months I had to pay for my medicine my insurance would not approve it and it cost me 1200.00 dollars very expensive.
Meghan said:

I'm so glad that the Botox is working for you! It gives me hope that it will help me out more, too! I honestly think the Botox has helped, but the weather here in Tennessee has been so bad that it's counteracting the Botox. My summer and fall injections helped me a lot! I think as I get more injections, it will get better. Did you get the full 31 injections?

I'm so sorry! My daughter is a sophomore in college as well. She had the surgery right after freshman year in high school and then was fine until spring of her freshman year in college. She got hit with horrible migraines that absolutely nothing helped and she was absolutely drained. . Finally she found a neurologist (who specializes in migraines) who prescribed a combination of medicines. I don't remember the details but one was nortripyline (sp) as a preventative. One problem that she had also was a very stiff neck after taking tests. I found a physical therapist who had experience with Chiari patients. He noticed that her neck muscles/shoulders were very, very, very tense and not flexible at all. She only had a few sessions as she had to go back to college but he taught her some exercises to do every day. I will have to ask if that helped. The pain management doctor at that place explained that her C-1 laminectomy made the neck muscles weak, which makes sense. I'm sorry I don't have more details but wanted you to know that you are not alone. You do have it pretty bad. I have no idea why she got migraines all of a sudden after four years of no headaches of any sort other than the everyday kind that most of us get. The headache center at her college refused to touch her once they found out that she was a Chairian so she had to go outside of her campus to get help, believe it or not.


I had bad nausea with it, too. The swelling isn't as bad as you have more doses because your body sort of gets use to being stuck with needles. The eyebrow thing is very normal, so don't worry. :) It usually takes a few weeks for it too stop hurting and/or feeling weird, in my experience. I'm very facially expressive, so I can tell you it feel very odd. I am very sorry that your insurance didn't approve the Botox. Mine, thankfully, did.

Hang in there!


Thank you so much for letting me know that I'm not alone! I'm sorry that your daughter had to go through that! I hope the physical therapy is helping her. I will have to talk to my neurologist about physical therapy when I go back March 19th. A good friend of mine who has studied some massage techniques often comments that my muscles are very tense, so maybe seeing a physical therapist would help. I understand the migraines coming on suddenly. My migraines were usually pretty controlled in high school, and then they just got super bad all of a sudden a month or two into college.

I hope your daughter starts feeling better! Thanks for the help!