According to the Migraine Trust, around one in seven people deal with migraines. As scientists and physicians continue to research and discover more about migraine headaches, many myths still surround the chronic disease. Myths continue to perpetuate the spread of false information, and they can be demoralizing to individuals who deal with migraines. We’ve put together a look at some of the most misleading and potentially harmful myths that surround migraine headaches to help dispel a lot of the misinformation out there today.
Myth #1 – Every Headache is a Migraine
Sometimes the words “headache” and “migraine” are used interchangeably. It’s important to realize that not every headache is a migraine. Many different types of headaches exist, such as tension headaches, sinus headaches, exertion headaches, and more. However, migraines are distinct from these other types of headaches because of their severity, accompanying symptoms, and duration.
Myth #2 – Migraines aren’t severe or disabling
Related to the myth that every headache is a migraine is the myth that migraines simply aren’t that bad. Although migraines are a type of headache, the pain that comes with them is often far more severe than with other common types of headaches. Migraine is considered a distinct neurological disease that involves functional and, in some cases, structural changes to your brain. This disease can have severe pain and is often associated with symptoms like sensitivity to odor, light, or sound, nausea, visual disturbances, problems thinking clearly, and sometimes vertigo or weakness. All of these features can make it hard to function at 100% when having a migraine headache.
Myth #3 – It’s Your Fault if You Get a Migraine
Some patients mistakenly believe that it’s their fault when they get a migraine. This is incorrect. Genetics may be to blame for migraines. While depression, anxiety, stress, and other factors may be triggers, it’s impossible to manage all the factors that may trigger these attacks successfully. Identifying triggers, and avoiding as many as you can, may help, but migraine is not your fault.
Myth #4 – Caffeine Causes Migraines
Actually, caffeine is found in multiple migraine medications. For some individuals, drinking a caffeinated beverage may help alleviate their head pain. However, for other people, it may trigger migraines. Every individual is different. If you’re not sure how caffeine affects your migraines, try keeping a journal and note when you have caffeine and track it over time to see if it triggers migraines or if it potentially helps them for you.
Myth #5 – Over-the-Counter Medicines Should Help My Migraines
In some cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines help alleviate symptoms for people who have mild or moderate migraines. However, for many people who suffer from migraines, OTC medications aren’t enough. Various prescription drugs are available that work in different ways to reduce migraine pain and other symptoms. Preventive medicines also exist to help reduce the number of migraines you get, or at least reduce their severity and duration. If OTC drugs aren’t working for you, be sure to talk to your physician because there are additional options that may prove effective.
Myth #6 – You Must Have an Aura for it to be a Migraine
Auras are visual, sensory, or other disturbances that take place before or during a migraine. While they’re relatively common among individuals who experience migraines, you don’t have to have an aura for your headache to be considered a migraine. In fact, only around 30% of migraine sufferers experience auras, so migraine without aura is more common.
Myth #7 – Men Don’t Get Migraine Headaches
Statistics show that three times as many women are affected by migraines than men, but this doesn’t mean that men don’t get migraines. Researchers believe that hormones play a role, and there could be a role for estrogen in triggering migraines. However, men can and do get migraines. Unfortunately, due to this myth, men may be less likely to seek treatment for the condition. It’s also important to note that children may also get migraines. Since migraines can run in families, if your child complains of frequent severe headaches, you shouldn’t brush off their complaints.
Myth #8 – There’s Nothing I Can Do to Manage or Prevent My Migraines
Currently, there is no cure for migraines. However, the evidence does show that lifestyle changes may prove helpful. It doesn’t work for everyone with the disease, but it’s worth trying. Since stress is one of the main triggers for migraine headaches, stress reduction techniques like exercise, mindfulness, exercise, and meditation may help manage the condition. Adequate sleep and hydration are essential to preventing migraines, too. However, despite your best efforts, you still may experience migraines and require treatment.
Debunking common migraine myths is critical, and additional research is needed to continue expanding what we know about this condition. Help the Will Erwin Headache Research Center work towards a cure for cluster headaches and migraines. You can make a difference by donating towards migraine research today.