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Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Artist Life > Dealing With Migraines

Dealing With Migraines

Migraines. Not a fun thing to deal with when you are an artist.   Today I want to talk about what has helped me reduce the number of migraines I’ve been having.  It was a simple solution that I wish I would have realized much sooner! Due to a neck injury, fibromyalgia and epilepsy I have had issues with chronic migraines for several years.  This past year they increased in numbers from two or three a month to two or three a week!  I found myself taking over the counter migraine medication much more frequently than I wanted.  I knew I needed to find a way to prevent them rather than merely treat the symptoms once they occurred. The first thing I did was cut my hair.  Why?  Because my hair was down to my waist.  I love having long hair, always have.  When I work or cook I would put my hair in a pony tail or clip it up out of the way.  Long hair, particularly when it’s thick, can be very heavy.  I thought perhaps if I cut my hair shorter it would reduce the weight and keep me from straining my neck.
14 inches gone!
  Sadly, after removing 14 inches from my hair I saw little change in my migraine frequency.  I had really hoped reducing the weight of my hair (now a little longer than shoulder length with some even shorter layers) would reduce my migraines.  I was disappointed. What now? What could I do to reduce my migraines?  I knew something this past year had caused the increase, but what? Then one Wednesday night I was watching a livestream by one of my favorite YouTube artists when a possible solution came about unexpectedly.  During the livestream someone asked a question about why Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art used an upright easel when she draws?  She spoke about her fibromyalgia and back issues.  Due to her back primarily, she needs to work upright to prevent pain. Could this be the answer for me too? I really began to think about when the migraines increased and how I was working.  I use drawing boards and frequently could be found, neck bent, hunching over my drawing boards as I worked.  Perhaps this could be the answer I was looking for and I needed to give it a try! Since I’ve been back in the saddle so to speak, drawing and creating, I have had a huge aversion to using an easel.  Why?  Well, years ago I dabbled in oil painting.  I loved it, but I did not love standing for hours on end.  If I sat in a chair at my easel I still had the problem of  shoulder and arm pain after a short amount of time.  I really didn’t want to go back to using an easel for that reason.  Also, in our current living situation I have no room for an easel.  What should I do? I began looking up easels on line.  I discovered table top easels.  A good idea, however, I would still need a flat surface to sit the easel on.  I kept searching.  That’s when I discovered sketchbox easels!  This seemed like a perfect solution.  The easels are built into a flat bottom with a drawer for storing supplies.  No need for a table, you could sit a sketchbox easel right in your lap!   There were several different brands I looked at online.  
The price ranges varied from wow, kinda pricey to oh my word are you kidding me?!  
As I continued researching them I read through countless reviews and watched many videos of artists testing out some of the easels.  I was shocked to discover that there were a number of complaints with the more pricey easels.  Numerous artists were upset that the easels were either hard to set up or they would fall backwards with the slightest amount of pressure placed on them.  It was very discouraging. Then one afternoon I had to run to our local Blick Art store to pick something up.  My husband, knowing I was searching for a good easel, told me he’d found something.  He took me to one of the aisles and pointed up to a Blick brand Studio Easel that was a sketchbox easel.  The best part?  It was also on sale!   I told him that was the kind of thing I’d been looking for, but I was still unsure if it would be the right one.  I decided since we were there, I’d go look at their easel displays and see if they had any tabletop easels I could look at out of the box.  Sure enough there was the Blick brand sketchbox easel sitting there.  I knelt down and began to really look at it.  I opened the drawer, it seemed sturdy.  Then I rested my hand on the upright angled easel.  It didn’t move a bit.  I put a little pressure on it, still no movement.  Then I pushed with even more pressure and it didn’t budge a bit!   I looked at how it adjusted for size and was very excited to find not only would it work for my smaller drawing boards, but it could easily fit my largest drawing board with room to spare.  This was definitely the one I wanted to try!   It’s been nearly a month since I purchased that sketchbox easel.  I have been using it continually when I work.  Having it slightly angled allows me to rest my arm on the easel as I draw and I haven’t had any arm or shoulder pain.  But has it reduced my migraines? YES! I am happy to say that working upright and not bending my neck for hours on end had dramatically reduced my number of migraines! It has been a huge blessing! So if you are having problems with neck pain, back pain or migraines while creating your art, you may want to look at your posture.  Are you constantly bending your neck over your work?  Are you always hunched over your table or drawing board?  If so, you may want to give a tabletop easel a try.  It may not work for everyone, but it just might help. Here is my review of the Blick Studio Sketchbox Easel if you’d like to take a closer look. Until next time, Keep Creating!    

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