Mythbusters: 6 Common Migraine Myths and Why They’re Wrong
A migraine is a neurological disorder primarily affecting the CNS or central nervous system. The CNS delivers signals and chemicals to major organs in the body, like the brain. In migraineurs, nerve endings are slightly more sensitive than normal. Therefore, when the nerve endings register stimulants (lights, noises, etc.), they go haywire.
In addition to headaches, migraine attacks can include symptoms like:
- Vision/hearing impairment
- Throbbing sensations
Because migraines are so severe and have so many symptoms, many people don’t fully understand them, and I’ve found that many patients come to me with migraine myths that need immediate busting.
So, let’s begin.
Myth 1: There is no quick fix.
Here is the cold hard truth. No magic pill will save you and magically make your migraines go away forever. You cannot drug yourself out of the migraine process forever. It simply does not work. Period.
Drugs can be helpful. I’m not anti-drug. Just remember: medications do not make you healthy. Their job is to alleviate symptoms. In order to regain your life — to be a better parent, spouse, coworker, boss, or friend — it’s not about the drugs, instead, you must start getting healthy from the inside out.
If you want to get better, you can get better. It’s going to take work. Popping pills does not qualify as work.
Myth 2: There is no cure for migraines.
Many doctors believe there is no help for migraineurs other than medication, and that’s unfortunate. We need to change our thinking.
Let’s start with the word: cure. Cure isn’t the right word for most diseases. Cure implies once the problem has been fixed, you can go back to your previous habits and live without ever having to worry about another migraine, ever again. Well, that’s not realistic.
While there may not be a cure, a resolution is possible. You and your doctor (assuming he or she is a good one) can create a treatment plan to manage and eventually eliminate your migraine attacks.
Myth 3: A migraine is just a bad headache.
Migraineurs can suffer a headache that ranges from mild to severe. A migraine attack typically starts hours before the pain begins. Early symptoms include fatigue; irritability; sensitivity to light, sound, and smell; and difficulty concentrating. Some people never feel pain yet suffer from stroke-like one-sided paralysis, blindness, and other sensory dysfunctions.
Even when pain is present, it doesn’t stop there. Nausea and vomiting are common, as are vertigo, dizziness, and much more.
Migraine sufferers account for nearly 800,000 emergency room visits per year because pain can escalate to such a severe level.
Myth 4: A migraine is just an excuse to get out of something.
Today, the word headache isn’t taken seriously. In fact, few people view serious headaches as a serious problem. Because so many people view migraines as just “bad headaches,” they often fail to see how harmful migraines can be.
Migraineurs often miss out on important events. Some struggle to manage their family, work, and personal lives because of the pain. In fact, migraineurs often minimize their symptoms in order to participate in normal life.
Myth 5: If you just stop eating bad food, migraines go away.
Yes, foods can trigger migraines in certain people. However, studies show that food is less of a trigger than most people assume. Migraines are a neurological disorder, similar to epilepsy. Common triggers include the weather, environmental changes, chemicals, sleep disruptions, and dehydration.
Analyzing your diet might be helpful. However, it’s often just one piece of the puzzle. Working towards health is often more complex than food alone.
Myth 6: Any doctor can recognize and properly treat migraines.
Actually, migraines are one of the most misdiagnosed, mistreated, and least understood diseases.
There is no migraine test. Not a single one. Usually, migraines are diagnosed through a process of elimination. This often leads to misdiagnosing and under-diagnosing migraines.
Additionally, doctors typically treat migraines with drugs. The human body is made of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other natural chemicals. Introducing something synthetic can be a huge relief. However, it isn’t the way your body will heal. After all, you’re not getting your migraines because your body is deficient in Triptans, Immetrex or Topomax.
Again, I’m not anti-medication. However, I am against using the wrong medications or too much medication. Above all, you are a person with a complex set of needs that medication often fails to address fully.
Migraines can be complicated, but that’s no reason false information should spread. If you suffer from migraines, take comfort in knowing that they are challenging, but manageable with the appropriate care. If you love somebody who suffers from migraines, remember to take their disease seriously.