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Myths about Migraines & How to Help

If you or someone in your life experiences migraines, you’ve probably felt a range of emotions - sympathy, sadness and even frustration when migraines get in the way of your everyday life.

It’s important to understand that migraine pain is more than just a sensory experience. It also has emotional and social aspects. For example, being sad or depressed can lower your tolerance for pain, and social isolation has been shown to intensify perceptions of pain.

What people think about migraines – and how they respond – can make a difference when the pain strikes. Five common myths and ways to make it better for yourself or others:

5 Migraine Myths

Myth #1: It’s all in your head.

Truth: Migraines are the most common type of severe headache. Researchers continue to study what exactly causes migraines because the physiology is extremely complex. What they do know is that the pain is very real.

What loved ones can say: “I understand this is very real and very painful for you.”

Myth #2: It’s just a headache.

Not only is the pain intense, migraines can affect other parts of the body – digestive, circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems. Symptoms can include nausea, visual auras and sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch.

What loved ones can say: “Tell me about your symptoms, so I understand what you’re going through.

Myth #3: It can’t hurt that bad.

Migraine symptoms have been found to be more debilitating than headaches and other painful conditions. While focusing too intently on the pain is one pitfall, having others minimize the pain is another.

What loved ones can say: “I’m sorry you are in so much pain. What can I do to help?”

Myth #4: It will go away if you just relax.

While reducing stress is important, it’s only one way migraine sufferers can address the frequency and intensity of migraine pain. Managing migraines takes a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

What loved ones can say: “Is there something I can do to help ease your stress?”

Myth #5: It’s just a “woman thing.”

Hormone fluctuations are a frequent migraine trigger for women, but men and children also experience migraines unrelated to hormones. In fact, several things can trigger migraines - from the foods you eat to the weather.

What loved ones can say: “Tell me about your triggers, so I can help you avoid them.”

An estimated 1 billion people worldwide have migraines - and that doesn’t include those who have not been diagnosed but still suffer with this pain. If you or a loved one experiences migraines, a primary care provider can help you find relief.

Kirti Gupta, MD
Kirti Gupta, MD

Kirti Gupta, MD is an Internal Medicine and Pediatrics provider with CHI Health.

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