5 Ways to Respond to Unsolicited Migraine Advice from Your Neighbor

Generally, people mean well, even if it doesn’t come across that way. If you are someone who suffers from migraines, chances are you’ve had to deal with the overly helpful co-worker or neighbor who thinks they know how to ‘fix it.’ As if you haven’t tried every migraine remedy in the book, right? As frustrating as this can be, it is important that you learn how to respond in a positive way.

With nearly 50 million people living with migraines in the United States, you probably know someone who has been affected. Most migraineurs have one to two migraines a month. Depending on the type of migraine you get, your symptoms will vary, but all will affect your life. If those around you notice you’re suffering, it’s only human nature to offer advice – welcomed or not.

What Not to Say to a Migraineur

What may be intended as a helpful comment can drive a migraineur to tears filled with mixed emotions. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that this advice is rarely anything new or groundbreaking. People may try to relate to you and say things they think are constructive and useful, but migraineurs have heard (and probably tried) it all.

Here are a few of the most frustrating comments migraineurs hear:

●       “I get headaches, too”

●       “You don’t look sick”

●       “Drink some water and take a nap”

●       “Maybe you just don’t handle stress well”

●       “I wish I could stay home from work like you!”

●       “Why don’t you just take some Advil?”

●       “Have you tried….”

If these comments are triggering for you, you’re not alone. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for non-migraine sufferers to relate to an attack. Trying to come off as understanding and relatable may come from a good place, but it’s often more destructive than constructive.

Responding to Unwanted Migraine Advice 

Fact: Stress is one of the most common migraine triggers. And the last thing you need is to come face-to-face with a migraine because of stress from unsolicited migraine advice.

So, what do you do about it? Lashing out at people in our lives who are only trying to be supportive and sympathetic (no matter how off-base) isn’t productive. There are many ways to react to this unsolicited advice that will benefit both of you; here are five:

  1. Take a deep breath and try to remember that their heart is in the right place, if misguided.
  2. Explain to them that it is a process and you are doing your best.
  3. Say thanks, but no thanks.
  4. Tell them about your journey. Talking about what a migraine attack is like, and how it impacts other areas of your life, can help those on the outside gain a better understanding of what you’re going through.
  5. Don’t take it personally!

When in Doubt, Be Positive

An estimated 12 percent of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches, and four million people live with chronic migraine. Any internet search of “migraine remedies” will show countless “cures.” The secret to finding relief from migraine pain probably won’t come from your Google-loving neighbor or well-meaning loved one but from personal trial and error.

Often, simple lifestyle changes can reduce, if not completely eliminate migraines, such as cutting out sugar, figuring hormonal or vitamin deficiencies, and reducing unnecessary stressors. But it’s totally unique to you and your body.  So, the next time someone comes to you with unwanted advice about migraines, try to remember they mean well and want the best for you, but this is your journey, and you’ll travel it as you choose.

You don’t have to be close by to get the help you need. My office hours are M-F 9-6 EST. Call today to schedule a phone consultation.


Migraine.com – 18 Things Not to Say to a Person with Migraine

Huff Post – 13 Things Not to Say to Someone with A Migraine

Psychology Today – 4 Tips for Dealing with Unsolicited Health Advice