Apps for Migraines: Helpful or Harmful?

Migraines are more than just headaches. Migraines are complex neurological conditions that come with a wide variety of symptoms like sensitivity to sound, light, and smell, vision disturbances, nausea, vomiting, and severe head pain. According to The Migraine Trust, migraines are the third most common disease in the world, and approximately two percent of the population is affected by chronic migraines.

Over the past several years, migraine apps have been developed as a way to help people with migraines identify triggers, track symptoms, connect with others, and manage pain. Experiencing multiple migraine attacks in a month or week has the potential to impact work or school and relationships, and many migraine sufferers are turning to apps to help them monitor and ultimately better manage their migraines and medications along with their physician.

But are migraine apps helpful or harmful? While they seem to offer many benefits to patients, there are a few cautions to consider if you plan to use these apps.

Benefits of Migraine Apps

Doctors have long suggested that patients keep track of their symptoms, triggers, and migraine attacks in diary form; in fact, many neurologists and headache specialists review their patient’s headache diary at the beginning of every visit.  Research suggests that using electronic diaries – such as those found in many migraine apps – provides more real-time data than writing in a paper diary.  The technology used by migraine apps offers many benefits, providing insights into patterns and triggers that may help reduce the occurrence of migraines.

Some of the factors known to trigger migraines include certain foods, changes in sleep-wake patterns, environmental variations, hormonal changes, beverages, medications, sensory stimuli, physical factors, and stress. By tracking triggers and symptoms and sharing this data with a physician, it’s often easier for a medical professional to determine the best treatment options. Patterns often offer insight into the type of migraine headache individuals are experiencing, making it easier to find the best treatment.

Popular Apps for Migraines

A wide variety of migraine apps are available now. We took the five highest reated free apps on the app store and are discussed in depth here:

  • Migraine Buddy – Migraine Buddy, available for both iPhone and Android users, is one of the most popular and highly rated migraine apps. It was designed by neurologists and data scientists and allows you to track pain location, pain intensity, migraine symptoms, medications, migraine frequency, and triggers. Users have the ability to log very specific information that can be easily exported to share with a physician. With a community of more than two million users, migraine sufferers have the chance to connect with others who share their own experiences, insights, and tips.
  • Migraine Monitor – A free app for both Android and iPhone users, the Migraine Monitor comes recommended by the National Headache Foundation. You’re able to track the severity and duration of migraines, as well as migraine symptoms and triggers. It offers weather data, too, allowing users to determine if certain weather conditions have an impact on their migraine attacks.
  • Headache Log – This free app (available only on Android) offers an easy, quick way to keep track of migraine attacks. This helps you identify triggers and better understand your condition to find the treatments that work best for you.
  • N1-Headache – The N1-Headache app is free for iPhone and Android users and provides an easy way to manage and identify migraine triggers. It also comes recommended by the National Headache Foundation. The app includes a daily diary as well as personal analytic reports that help track migraine triggers, including environmental, dietary, and emotional factors. The app measures how various factors affect the user and help them test changes that may help reduce the severity or frequency of migraines.
  • Migraine Healthline – This migraine headache app is a community app available free on iPhone and Android. The purpose of the app is to connect migraine sufferers, offering a safe place to share tips, experiences, tips, and stories. It’s easy to follow threads, talk to individual users, or take part in group discussions.

A Few Cautions When Using Migraine Apps

Although apps for migraines offer many excellent benefits, consider a few cautions if you choose to use them. First, continual real-time tracking of symptoms and triggers has the potential to leave some individuals feeling anxious. Don’t allow tracking to increase anxiety since anxiety and stress are linked to migraine attacks.

It’s also important to consider the privacy of these apps. Most apps that come recommended by people like the National Headache Foundation take your privacy seriously. Just make sure you read the terms and privacy information before you begin using a new migraine app.

You may want to try a couple of apps to see what works best. Some apps may feel like work because they ask you a lot of questions for each headache.  Other apps may be brief and leave you feeling like you want to add more.  Talk with your doctor to make sure you know what information is essential for them, make sure your app has that information, then try them out!

Last, when you’re using apps that have a community experience where you can interact with other users, never take a users’ advice as medical advice. Although other migraine sufferers can offer great tips and insights, it is not the advice of a medical professional. Before making any changes to your medications, always talk to your physician.

Migraine apps offer great benefits that may help individuals reduce the number of migraines they experience or the severity of their migraines, especially when data is shared with a doctor. However, there’s still no true cure for migraines. Donate today to fund The Will Erwin Headache Research Center as they work to find a cure for migraines and cluster headaches. Donate here: