As someone who has suffered from migraines for seventeen years of my life, I’ve dealt with my fair share of pain. Just like people, migraines come in all different shapes and sizes. For me, they can often seem like the Greek monster Hydra – as soon as I think I’ve mastered them and figured out my triggers, another one pops up for a completely different reason. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, nearly 1 in 4 United States households includes someone with a migraine.
Here are 20 things that migraine sufferers know to be true:
1. No, it’s not just a regular headache!
Migraines are actually categorized as a neurological condition. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to lights and smells, an upset stomach, lightheadedness, fatigue, and tinnitus just to name a few. Talk about debilitating.
2. No, I can’t just take ibuprofen to take the pain away.
Yes, pain medications can help, but sometimes migraines require stronger stuff. While there are pills available, they’re not for everyone as medication can be pretty strong and can have serious side effects. Also if you take too much medication, you can often get rebound headaches. Lucky us.
3. No, it’s not just a “woman” problem.
Migraines affect over 36 million men, women, and children in the US (and there’s little to no research into how it affects trans men, women, and non-binary people).
4. Children get migraines too.
I first started getting mine when I was just 11 years old.
5. Migraines don’t just go away eventually on their own.
I’ve been suffering from them since puberty with no end in sight.
6. There isn’t just one type of migraine.
Some migraines include neck pain or cluster headaches, but some don’t even include a headache. Instead, you get auras which usually means you see flashing lights, zigzag lines, experience partial vision loss, or experience numbness or tingling in your body.
7. Getting more sleep doesn’t always solve the problem.
Some migraines have multiple triggers and getting more sleep doesn’t always mean the pain will go away the next day.
8. Similarly, it’s not always stress related!
People who get migraines are not just highly stressed out people who need to chill.
9. Basically, there isn’t just one cause of migraines.
These babies can be triggered by stress, fatigue, certain types of food, dehydration, changes in weather pressure, alcohol – the list goes on and on.
10. No, I’m not faking sick.
I’m not lazy and I’m not trying to avoid an event. I legitimately can’t move and wish my whole day wasn’t being wasted lying in bed, in pain.
11. It’s not about drinking too much caffeine.
Coffee drinkers don’t get migraines more than others. In some cases, caffeine can actually help.
12. Migraines don’t always end after just a few hours or a day.
For some people, it’s a chronic issue. Some migraines can go on for days, months, or even years.
13. They can have lasting effects – sometimes life-threatening ones.
Though migraines aren’t life-threatening on their own, continuous migraines can lead to a higher risk of suicide, a greater chance of cardiac disease, and an increased risk of stroke. Migraines also can cause permanent brain damage over time.
14. The little things CAN help.
Cold cloths or ice packs on the head, taking a nap in a dark room, essential oils, and (pro tip) eating frozen grapes can help alleviate symptoms during an attack. Some who suffer from migraines often use non-pharmacologic treatments like acupuncture and say this can be a big help too.
15. There are some DIY remedies that help too.
There are a few at-home remedies you can make at home or buy over the counter to help with symptoms. A lavender-infused rice bag on your head can do wonders, especially if you put it in the freezer for half an hour or so. Sometimes essential oils under your nose or rubbed on your temples can be nice. Gentle massages can also help if the pain if you have a willing friend or partner! Try putting together a mental health kit to help you deal with your attacks.
16. Sometimes you can stop a migraine in its tracks.
One of the pluses of having chronic migraines is that you can often sense it coming and sometimes, stop a migraine before it arrives. When you can do this, you feel like a champion!
17. Keeping track of your attacks can be useful!
There are a few tools out there, such as the app Migraine Buddy, which creates records of attacks, tracks your sleep schedule, and lets you list possible day-to-day triggers. You can also keep a migraine journal.
18. The problems don’t end with the migraine.
Many people suffer from both prodromes (warning signs of a migraine) and postdromes (a “migraine hangover”). Both can vary person to person, making it hard to pinpoint.
19. There are plenty of resources to turn to.
The American Migraine Foundation has free educational guides that are all available online. There are also many books written on the topic, such as Migraine by Oliver Sacks, Migraine Brains and Bodies: A Comprehensive Guide to Solving the Mystery of Your Migraines by C. M. Shifflett, and Heal Your Headache: The 1 – 2 -3 Program For Taking Charge of Your Pain by David Buccholz and Stephen G. Reich.
20. It’s the little things that count.
Once the effects do pass, you appreciate your migraine-free moments that much more. It’s a lesson in self-awareness and gratitude.