Let’s squash the most common migraine myths that may be affecting your health!
So why are there myths about migraine anyway? How have these myths developed over time?
- Migraine is a complex problem and more research is needed to explain them.
- Myths arise to try and explain things that are difficult to explain.
- The disability associated with migraine demands an explanation by frustrated patients and doctors.
Now that we know why myths have developed around migraines, let’s dive into the seven most common myths!
MYTH: All migraines include a headache.
The fact is that while many people who get migraines have a terrible headache, some have the aura without a headache. A small group of people experience the predrome symptoms- like tiredness, cravings, yawning, moodiness- but no headache. The official diagnostic requirements list several factors that must be included to diagnosis migraine but headache is not compulsory to make a diagnosis.
MYTH: Migraine isn’t a serious problem.
People who view migraines this way are likely not aware of the full impact migraines can have on an individual. Imagine that unpredictably you are unable to get out of bed, you aren’t able to eat or drink because of an extreme feeling of nausea, your vision is distorted maybe even completely darkened in spots. The next day, you look fine. Would you consider this a problem? Of course you would! Some or all of these symptoms can be experienced by those of us with migraine on any given day!
Here are some surprising facts about how migraine affects people:
- 91% of migrainers are not able to function normally while experiencing a migraine.
- Migraine is rated at the 6th most disabling illness in the world
- About 4 million people have chronic migraines, where they have migraines 15 or more days during the month
This is certainly a serious problem!
MYTH: Avoid all foods known as migraine triggers.
There are many lists that have various foods listed as triggers for migraines. However the truth is that we should avoid foods that are a trigger for THEIR MIGRAINES. What does this mean? Well foods don’t affect everyone in the same way. So this is why keeping a migraine diary at least for some limited time will help you to see if you truly have a food trigger. If a food causes a headache 9 out of 10 times, you know that this is a trigger for you.
Why is there confusion about food triggers?
This can be explained by examining the stages of migraine. Migraines are said to have at least four stages. The first stage is called the predrome. In this stage irregularities in the hypothalamus, an area in your brain, can cause you to have food cravings. This typically happens from six to ten hours before the headache starts. You may crave chocolate or more carbs and if you eat these foods and later get a migraine, it’s easy to see how you would make the connection that maybe that chocolate gave you a headache. However the irregularity in the brain preceded you eating the chocolate and thus it’s the irregularity and not the chocolate causing your headache.
So what does this mean?
Well first you don’t have to feel guilty when you have a migraine thinking you did something to cause your headache. Second, you can have more freedom to eat what you like. Third, it gives you more understanding of your migraines. If you can pay more attention to the symptoms you may experience in this first phase of migraine, you can possibly make some changes to help abort your migraine headache. For example:
- Don’t skip meals
- Drink more water to stay hydrated
- Avoid or cut back on alcohol
- Make sure you get adequate sleep or try to stick to your regular sleep schedule, i.e. don’t stay up late or sleep in when you usually don’t do these things
MYTH: Migraines are caused by psychological factors like stress.
Is there a connection with stress and migraine? Yes but according to research, it doesn’t appear that stress is the trigger but rather the let down of the stress that can trigger a migraine. Sound confusing? Well consider an example, many with migraine suffer from light sensitivity when they have a migraine. So has the sun suddenly changed? No! What has changed is the migraine sufferers brain, it isn’t working properly and now this same light from the sun is now perceived differently. The same process may happen with everyday stresses. It seems to be that the way that our brain perceives stress changes during a migraine.
Is there anything we can do?
Yes! Studies have shown that our brain likes regularity in routines. So try to be a creature of habit!
MYTH: I’ve tried everything! There’s no hope for me.
While many of us have been dealing and trying to treat our migraines for years, some for decades. We haven’t tried EVERYTHING! New treatments are being developed every year and studies say that many with migraines are not even being treated for their migraines. Sometimes the problem may be that we need to find the right dosage of medication to work for us. Or maybe a combination of medication and lifestyle change may be what tilts us in the right direction. So what are some new treatments and research that you may not know about?
If you are feeling at the end of your rope, what can you do?
- Stay optimistic! There’s always tomorrow and progress is being made.
- Understand this disease as much as you can. The more you know the more you can see what you can control.
- Join research or support groups like the Migraine Trust or American Migraine Foundation.
- Don’t give up!
I hope understanding more about migraines will help you in your journey to cope with your migraines. Do you have questions about migraines? Leave them in the comments below!