Posts Tagged ‘migraine stigma’
Monday, June 18th, 2012
“Migraines aren’t just really bad headaches.” That’s the battle cry of many a migraine sufferer when confronted with one of many migraine myths. Sometimes (most often), it’s not worth the stress and ultimate migraine headache to try to set the record straight with everybody you meet. Still, there comes a time when you need to speak up for yourself and migraineurs everywhere. For those occasions, it helps to be prepared with a few facts and a great comeback. Here are some good replies to the most common myths regarding migraines and chronic pain.
1- Alternative treatments are useless with migraines.
The age of herbal remedies and natural treatments being regarded as some sort of “witchcraft” is over.
Today, increasing scientific evidence proves that complementary alternative medicine (CAM) is the best, most effective way of maintaining neurological health and controlling blood flow to the brain, both of which are factors in successful migraine management.
Recommended natural ingredients and therapies for migraines include:
- Vitamins (vitamin B2- riboflavin, coenzyme Q10)
- Minerals (magnesium)
- Herbs (butterbur)
- Low-impact aerobics
2- Some natural ingredients for migraines, like butterbur, are poisonous.
Not all brands of butterbur are unsafe.
Certain types of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) may contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), a toxic chemical that may cause liver damage. However, butterbur root that is processed for removal of PAs are as safe to use as traditional migraine medications, and cause no harmful side effects. Before buying butterbur pills, check that they are marked “PA-free.”
Butterbur is recognized by the American Academy of Neurology as extremely helpful in promoting good health and establishing a biological environment that is beneficial for migraine-free living, without causing any of the ill effects of conventional migraine preventative medicines, such as Topamax.
3- Migraines are just really bad headaches.
Actually, migraines are recognized as a neurological disorder.
This is perhaps one of the most hurtful (albeit unintentionally) statements heard by migraine sufferers around the world. Yes, the pain is horrific, and yes, headaches are a nearly-constant symptom of migraine attacks. (Not all migraine attacks cause headaches.)
35 Things you should never tell a Chronic Migraine Sufferer
Still, other symptoms (some of them stroke-like) that often accompany migraine attacks are equally debilitating, including:
- Sharp eye pain
- Inability to tolerate bright lights, strong scents, or loud noises
- Cyclic vomiting
- Intense nausea
- Visual disturbances
- Brain fog
- Temporary partial blindness and paralysis
- Speech slurring, incomprehensive communication
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscular weakness
4- Chronic pain always requires hospital treatment.
Just because I’m not in a hospital, that doesn’t mean I’m not suffering.
Chronic pain doesn’t necessarily require admission to a hospital, and neither do migraines. Ultimate migraine pain management is safer, more practical, and most effective if practiced at home and at work.
However, in dire circumstances, such as head injury, heart palpitations, unusually excruciating headaches, paralysis, or abnormal pain symptoms you should not hesitate to call emergency services.
5- Real pain is always a result of a physical injury or illness.
Sometimes, the cause of chronic pain is not immediately apparent.
With chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, severe pain occurs in the absence of any noticeable injury or illness, such as arthritis or a broken bone. That doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real; it just means that diagnosing the underlying cause for pain will require many doctor’s visits, tests, and scans.
6- Migraine sufferers are mentally ill.
Migraine disorder is comorbid with several other illnesses, including emotional disorders, but it is still a separate disease in its own right.
The fact that depression and anxiety are highly correlated with migraines doesn’t mean that all migraine sufferers have some sort of mental illness, nor does it prove any causation between migraines and mental illness. Heart disease patients may also be prone to feelings of despair and anger, but that doesn’t mean they are mentally ill, either. It only means that where a certain illness (like migraine) exists, emotional problems (depression, anxiety) are often, but not always, also a factor.
7- Only medication can relieve migraines.
Migraine prevention requires a multi-pronged approach.
Managing migraines is a lifetime pursuit that involves a strict routine of healthy dieting, exercise, stress reduction, avoiding migraine triggers, and yes, finding the right medication for migraine prophylaxis. None of these things will “cure” migraines, as there is no known cure, but they can help you achieve a level of neurological health that is conducive to a life without migraine headaches.
Rude Headaches, Ruder Pharmacists- 6 Ways to Avoid Conflict
8- Chronic pain is only for old people.
Migraine sufferers usually experience their worst migraines in their 30s and 40s.
It’s true that your muscles and bones become weaker with age, resulting in painful arthritis and osteoporosis. Still, a large number of middle-aged adults between the ages of 35 and 50 experience severe chronic pain symptoms such as rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and migraine headaches.
9- Complaining about migraine headaches means that you’re weak.
Giving voice to my pain is the first step towards treating it.
Unless you acknowledge that constant headaches, nausea, and fatigue are making it difficult for you to manage life, then you will never get the treatment you deserve. It takes incredible courage to admit that you are in pain, and even more courage and stick-to-itiveness to go through the motions of finding the right migraine treatment for your pain. There are many ups and downs in chronic pain management, and only positive thinking and strength of character will see you through.
10- If you need opioids, then you must be a junkie.
There’s a difference between addiction and dependency.
A migraine sufferer using narcotic painkillers to relieve severe pain is not a drug addict. The fact that you use prescription medicine to reduce excruciating pain is reasonable and acceptable, provided you use them as instructed by your physician.
On the other hand, somebody who takes the same medication just to get high, and doesn’t suffer from any kind of chronic pain, is by all accounts a drug addict.
Still, it’s worth noting that certain migraine drugs can have uncomfortable or dangerous side effects, such as memory loss, chronic fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, and headaches (ironically).
Never attempt to wean yourself off a migraine drug on your own- always consult your physician first.
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Like this? Read more:
Migraine Sufferers, this is where your Pain Pills are going
Coping with Migraines, Part I: 6 Inspirational Truths
Over-the-Counter Migraine Drugs? Better be nice to your Pharmacist
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Monday, February 13th, 2012
Do you have migraines, or do migraines have you? Coping with Migraines is difficult, as migraine attacks can significantly reduce your quality of life, leaving you feeling crippled (only without the wheelchair to prove it). As a result, migraine sufferers feel depressed because of their inability to lead the kind of lifestyle they once had, or wish they had. It’s hard to come to terms with chronic pain, but the following tips on coping with migraines should make it a bit easier.
6 Inspirational Truths is Part I of Coping with Migraines. Part II, 6 Things NOT to do, discusses unhealthy habits that should be avoided in trying to cope with migraines.
#1) You can maintain a Positive Mental Attitude
What’s the first thing you notice in the image above? Is it the black dot? What about all the whiteness surrounding the black dot- did you notice that?
Recognizing that there is a vast amount of light (or positive energy) that surrounds darkness (migraines) is a crucial step in achieving a positive mental attitude. It’s easier said than done, and it might take years of practice. But it’s worth it- studies prove that people with chronic pain illnesses who think positive, pray, and refuse to give up hope are statistically more likely to cope, reduce stress, and reduce their pain symptoms.
#2) You can talk about it…
Sometimes, sorting out your feelings about migraine illness feels a bit like trying to rake leaves during a storm. If you feel like it, you can talk about how migraine headaches affect your life with friends, family, migraine support groups, or even anybody who will listen.
Overcoming Social Isolation in Migraine Disorder
#3) There’s strength in numbers
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, and try to avoid toxic relationships at all costs. Join a support group for migraine patients online, in person, or on Facebook, and seek out new friendships as determinedly as you would seek out a spouse.
#4) Inspiration is everywhere
Seeing is believing- Gain strength from others who have successfully managed their migraines. Like looking at a before and after picture for weight loss, you’ll see that controlling your migraines is no dream, but a possibility. (This is especially easy to do if you have joined a support group for migraineurs.)
5 Simple Ways to Build a Migraine Support System of Friends
#5) Winding down is key
Practice relaxation and stress reduction techniques. If you have a hard time meditating quietly, then put on some soothing music. If tinnitus with migraines makes it hard to concentrate, then try playing environmental white noise.
#6) Alternative medicine is beneficial
Managing migraines should be a multi-pronged strategy that doesn’t rely on prescription migraine treatments alone. Rather, it should incorporate healthy lifestyle choices like exercise, relaxation, diet, and natural ingredients for migraines. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up prescribed painkillers in order to benefit. Many migraine patients are able to improve their body’s natural response to inflammation while using natural ingredients for migraines. In studies, the most valuable dietary nutrients for promoting health with migraines are magnesium, butterbur (PA-free), riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10.
Please tell us…
If you could offer one piece of advice on coping with migraines, what would it be? Please share by providing your comments!
Read more about migraine prevention:
Top 20 Simple Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent Migraines
The Emotional Pain of Migraines: Coping with Frustration and Guilt
Coping With Migraines and Headaches
Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Migraines are a debilitating neurological illness that inflicts millions of sufferers with migraine headaches, nausea, vomiting, hypersensitivity to sounds, scents, and lights, and stroke-like symptoms. Migraines are linked with epilepsy and increased risk for stroke and heart disease. Why then are so few governmental funds set aside for migraine research, spreading migraine disorder awareness, and providing support for migraine patients? Here are some ways you can influence migraine funding without spending a dime…
1- Sign the petition!
Go to the AHDA (Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy) website to urge Congressional hearings on the impact of migraine and headache disorders. There are millions of migraine sufferers in the world, but at the time of this blog, a mere 8,231 have signed the petition asking politicians to recognize migraines and other chronic headaches as a debilitating illness that requires more government-funded research.
- Migraine attacks plague our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the countless US citizens just trying to earn a living and get through a day without debilitating head pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Migraines are a recognized source of disability, yet very few grants are allocated towards finding a cure for chronic headaches.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that migraine headaches account in more “lost years of healthy life” in the USA each year than epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, ovarian cancer, and tuberculosis.
- To date, the US Congress has never hosted a public hearing on chronic headache disorders like migraines and cluster headaches.
Migraine Atlas Sheds Light on Chronic Headaches around the World
2- Become a Facebook addict!
Explore Facebook (Do a search on migraines) and you’ll find endless Facebook migraine pages devoted to helping out people like you who want to connect with other migraineurs. Migraines are comorbid with severe depression, so this is a good way to discuss migraine symptoms without feeling as if you’re “complaining.”
Here are some excellent Facebook pages for migraine sufferers:
PS: Don’t forget to follow Migravent on Facebook too, if you don’t already!
12 Ways to spread Migraine Awareness without saying a Word
3- Keep up with migraine forums and blogs
The Facebook groups mentioned also have a strong presence on the web for migraine advocacy, migraine forums, and personal blogs about managing migraines. They are excellent resources for finding local headache specialists, solving social dilemmas like migraine stigma, and finding out the latest news related to migraines.
Want a Cure for Migraines? 10 Ways you can help
4- Be a 24-hour migraine awareness advocate
You’re going to run into many people throughout your day who have never heard of migraines with aura, think that migraines are caused by stress, and don’t realize that headaches are just one of many horrible symptoms of migraine illness. They’re bound to make some pretty insensitive comments. It only takes a few seconds and a well-rehearsed line to (politely) put them in their place.
Here are some good comebacks that won’t offend:
- “I wish I could just take a few Excedrin for migraines, but unfortunately, my body doesn’t respond to them.”
- “Your mother-in-law is very lucky to have found a cure for her migraines. If only one cure worked for everybody…”
- “I pray constantly for relief from migraines.”
- “Sadly, migraines aren’t just in my head- they’re also in my nervous system.”
- “I would work overtime every day for the rest of my life if it meant I never had to suffer another migraine again.”
- “I wish it were only a headache- that would be heavenly!”
- “I’m not antisocial. It’s just that everything outside my bedroom triggers migraines.”
- “I’m on disability because without it, I would starve.”
- “You’re in my prayers, too.”
35 Things you should never tell a Chronic Migraine Sufferer
5- Share this article
If you found this information helpful, please share this with friends, family, coworkers, doctors- anybody who you think would benefit from knowing more about migraine disorder.
Please tell us about any other migraine advocacy groups you appreciate that are not mentioned here.
Read more about migraine support:
5 Simple Ways to Build a Migraine Support System of Friends
6 Migraine Myth-conceptions
Overcoming Social Isolation in Migraine Disorder
Migraines at Work- Can my Employers Fire me from my Job?
Migraine Sufferer to World: It’s not just a Headache, People!
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
If you’ve ever fantasized about drilling a hole in your head to get rid of migraine symptoms, know that you are not alone, and that you are not the first. Since prehistoric times, migraine attacks have caused immense agony, driving sufferers to try shocking, and often dangerous, experiments to end the constant nausea, vomiting, and excruciating migraine headaches.
Don’t try this at home
Archeologists believe that the first migraine treatment might have been trepanation, the drilling of holes into the skull to find relief from migraines (and sometimes life itself). Cave paintings and skull remains from 9,000 years ago suggest that early man believed that boring a hole into your head would cure migraine headaches, in addition to epileptic seizures, and mental disorders. So convinced (and desperate) were migraine sufferers to find relief from debilitating headaches and nausea, that trepanation continued to be the migraine treatment of choice until as recently as 17th century Europe.
Killer Migraines Might be Fatal after All- Mortality Rates among Migraine Sufferers
Other bizarre (and horrifying) treatments for migraines have included brandishing hot irons to the head, bloodletting, inserting of garlic into an incision made in the temple, and witchcraft.
Ancient Greeks were nauseated by migraines
Hippocrates must have suffered migraines with aura back in 400 BC. He vividly described typical migraine attacks, from the first symptoms of aura- strange hallucinations, nausea, and disorientation, to pulsating head pain, and then the relief from vomiting. Ancient Greek physician Galen of Pergamon coined the term “hemicrania” (half-head) to describe the crippling headaches, which was later translated as “migraine.” Like other contemporary philosophers, he deduced that migraine symptoms like vomiting, queasiness, stomach cramps, and lightheadedness confirmed a connection between the stomach and the brain in migraine illness.
Migraine triggers remain the same
In the Middle Ages, scientists and philosophers identified certain migraine triggers as being the source of migraine attacks. Early physicians recognized extreme light sensitivity, migraine food triggers, and hormonal changes that afflict women during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause as common migraine triggers. Today, scientists confirm over 100 migraine triggers, including food, hormones, weather, air pressure, and lifestyle habits.
Avoiding Migraine Triggers- Here, There and Everywhere
Migraine stigma today
Famous author and migraine sufferer Joan Didion got it right when she said, “That no one dies of migraine seems, to someone deep into an attack, an ambiguous blessing.”
Migraines strike millions of people today, and experts still disagree on exactly what causes migraines and how to treat them. The most widely held belief today is that migraines are neurological, that inflammatory chemicals in the brain interact with your nerves and blood vessels, triggering a migraine attack. But as any migraineur knows, the ramifications of migraine disorder extend beyond the mere physical pain symptoms. Migraine patients often suffer depression and anxiety, as family members, friends, and employers fail to recognize their symptoms as a disability, and continue to refer to their migraines as “another headache.”
Read more about migraine symptoms:
Migraine Headaches and Dizziness- Stop the Ride, I want to get off!
Why do Migraines cause Nausea and Vomiting?
Lights…Camera…Migraine! 10 Curious Facts about Light Sensitivity
Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide and Migraine: Implications for Therapy
Digging up Bones; the Excavation, Treatment and Study of Human Skeletal Remains
What is migraine? Controversy and stalemate in migraine pathophysiology- Pubmed, NCBI
Thursday, January 5th, 2012
Migraine art exhibits are hard to watch; sometimes gruesome, always disturbing migraine art portrayals of migraine symptoms like migraine aura, excruciating migraine headaches, and stomach-clenching nausea allow migraineurs to give skeptics a glimpse into their struggles with chronic pain.
Migraine stigma affects everybody
“If only you could see what migraines feel like, you would be more sympathetic.”
That’s the motto of many a migraineur having to deal with agonizing migraine headaches and public skepticism at the same time. While migraines may happen once or twice per month, their ominous presence lingers 24/7, threatening to disrupt work, pleasure, sleep, and all the other nuances of daily life.
Migraine art raises awareness
“Migraines make me feel useless, depressed, and alone.”
Depression is one of the most troubling aspects of migraine illness. Despair magnifies pain, making it harder to cope with severe headaches, vomiting, nausea, and eye sensitivity. You feel like you can’t contribute to society, can’t perform your work duties, can’t function in a family unit- all because you never know when the next migraine attack is going to strike.
With the popularity of migraine art, millions of chronic pain sufferers know that they are not alone at all, and that they are part of a society of migraine patients facing the same struggles that they themselves endure.
What’s that Smell? Migraine Sensitivity and Olfactory Auras
Migraine is a documented illness
“Migraines are not an excuse to get out of work- they’re part of a neurological disorder.”
Migraine art dates back to the 12th century, hundreds of years before doctors first began documenting illustrations of scintillating scotomas, a visual phenomenon that occurs with migraine aura, mere minutes before a migraine attack.
It is widely believed that Lewis Carroll, the man behind the Alice in Wonderland tales, experienced migraine auras frequently, as evidenced by character descriptions like the elusive Cheshire cat, or Alice’s not feeling “quite myself.”
Go Ask Alice: Migraine Auras in Wonderland
Read more about migraines with aura
Migraine Aura Video Simulations: You Tube’s Top 10
Migraine Pain, Portrayed through Art and Poetry
When Migraine Aura with Aphasia leaves you Lost for Words
Migraine Aura Foundation
Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Will Cindy McCain be successful in raising awareness and funds for chronic migraine headache research? We hope so. Cindy McCain, wife of Senator John McCain, is one of millions of women who suffer from migraine headaches. Chronic migraine symptoms include severe head pain, nausea, stomach cramping, visual disturbances, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and scents.
A bottle of spilled perfume served as the Kryptonite to her chronic migraines a year back while Cindy was traveling overseas; the overpowering smell nearly knocked her unconscious. Her migraine radar went into maximum overdrive, causing a migraine attack unlike any she had ever experienced. Head throbbing madly, nausea threatening to consume her entire body, Cindy disembarked and returned home.
Cindy speaks up
Since then, Cindy has pledged to do everything in her power to educate American citizens about migraines as a neurological disorder, and to raise funds for migraine treatment. Currently, Congress favors $13 million towards migraine research, a pitiful sum compared to the $20 billion deficit per year accrued through migraine-related lost wages, disability, and medical bills. Migraine Sufferer to World: It’s not just a Headache, People!
Cindy feels your pain- really.
Migraine symptoms may discriminate by sex (women get more migraines than men by 3 to 1), but when it comes to wealth and status, they’re an equal-opportunity destroyer. Unlike popular belief, migraines are not a poor woman’s disease. Related: 6 Migraine Myth-conceptions
Mrs. McCain describes the following symptoms when speaking to the public about her migraines:
- Excruciating head pain comparable to Traumatic Brain Injuries, the medical term for head trauma received by soldiers in heavy combat.
- Ultra-sensitivity to light. Even a moderate light setting can trigger fierce migraine attacks. “Sunglasses are a migraine sufferer’s best friend,” she says.
- Stress-related weight loss. At 5’7”, Cindy once weighed less than 100 pounds.
- Because of migraine stigma, Cindy avoided migraine diagnosis until the age of 40, fearing others would think she was “neurotic.”
- Sleep deprivation led to debilitating migraines that sent her to the emergency room on more than one occasion.
- Migraine symptoms varied for Cindy. She often experienced migraine auras, tinnitus (ear ringing), nausea, and blindness in her left eye, depending on the migraine headache trigger.
- After suffering a stroke in 2004, Cindy stopped taking preventative migraine medications. She now relies on triptans, a form of abortive migraine treatment.
A cure for migraines or die trying
After addressing a crowd in Philadelphia, Cindy hopes to continue her campaign to Capitol Hill. Her mission: to convince Congress to raise funds allocated towards migraine research. Cindy hopes to appeal to them by bringing to their attention the astounding numbers of migraine sufferers, many of whom suffer in silence.
“I’m missing a large part of my life,” she said. “I want to stay active. I want a cure.”
Cindy McCain Breaks Her Silence on Migraine ‘Disability’
Migraines: Silent Wounds of War
Cindy McCain’s Secret Struggle with Migraines