35 Things you should never tell a Chronic Migraine Sufferer

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Outrageous, bizarre, and just plain ignorant things said to migraine headache patients by husbands, ER doctors, neurologists, coworkers, neighbors, family, and well-meaning friends. Responding to Wrong-Headed Migraine Tips:


Some things are better left unsaid

We’ve all received a few choice comments regarding our chronic migraines that we wish we could forget.  Often, people mean well, but simply don’t know what to say.  At such times, the right response is usually no response.  Saying something to a friend or neighbor that you might regret later will just add fuel to your already raging inferno of stress.

Then, there are the times when people make insensitive comments, the kind that frankly leave you too flabbergasted for words.  A good line of defense is to store up some verbal ammo, something that, when said with a faint smile, will get your point across without causing offense.


Here is a list of 35 things people should never say to anybody suffering from chronic migraine pain, and some suitable replies.

  1. Have you tried (fill in the blanks)? Yes, I’ve heard of aspirin, Excedrin, Imitrex, Botox, Aleve, etc.
  2. Migraines, they have treatments for that now.  You must not be trying hard enough. Just grin and walk away.
  3. Have you tried Googling your migraine symptoms? Even better, send your friends, family, and coworkers a few links to some helpful migraine advocate websites.   Top 20 Websites for Migraine Headache Patients
  4. It’s all in your head. Correct- my brain, which is in my head, keeps sending out pain signals to my nerve sensors.
  5. We all get headaches… Yes, well, migraine illness is a neurological disease, like Parkinson’s disease.
  6. What, are you sick again? Unfortunately, I will probably have to battle with migraines all of my life, unless scientists come up with a foolproof cure.
  7. 35 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER TELL A CHRONIC MIGRAINE SUFFERER, WWW.MIGRAVENT.COMFunny, you don’t look sick… Looks can be deceiving.
  8. Gosh, you look terrible! Thanks?
  9. What can I do to help? This question is okay, as long as you plan on following up with real actions.  Offer to pitch in with housework, drive carpool for a few days, or pick something up at the supermarket.
  10. What’s with the sunglasses? I’m not trying to bring back the 80’s, it’s just that bright lighting causes migraines.
  11. Why don’t you get out and enjoy life a bit? Between migraine attacks, I do go out and do the same things non-migraineurs do.  But during a migraine attack, and while recuperating afterwards, the pain is just too immense for me to even step outside.
  12. Maybe if you just stop thinking about it all the time, it would go away. You try to “stop thinking” about a blunt axe digging into the side of your head, which is what migraine headaches often bear to mind.
  13. You just need to learn how to relax. Stress is the #1 contributor to headaches, that is true.  However, relaxation techniques are just one part of a multi-faceted plan towards preventing chronic migraines.  6 Migraine Myth-conceptions
  14. You just need to exercise more. Same as above, yoga, tai chi, and moderate aerobics are all effective at reducing the number and severity of migraine symptoms, but they are part of a larger pain management approach.
  15. You’re just looking for attention. Toddlers, children, and sometimes, troubled teenagers, seek negative attention.  Please don’t infantilize my condition.
  16. You just need to have a few kids. It’s true that pregnancies sometimes reverse the symptoms of migraines, but you’re not suggesting I have babies just to prevent having migraines, are you?  6 Safe Migraine Treatments for Pregnant Moms
  17. You just need to drink more (fill in the blanks with either alcohol or water).
  18. You just need more sex (from husband).
  19. You get migraines at the most inconvenient times (also, from husband).
  20. You’re probably just getting your period. If that’s the case, then I’ve been getting menstrual migraines for approximately twenty years.
  21. You must have done something to deserve this (from clergymen).
  22. 35 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER TELL A CHRONIC MIGRAINE SUFFERER, WWW.MIGRAVENT.COMYour migraines make you an inconvenience to others and a detriment to society (also, from clergymen).
  23. You must have a low threshold for pain. Actually, to quote Diana Lee, blog master of Somebody Heal Me, “Some research in the past few years suggests we actually have greater pain tolerance than non migraineurs.”
  24. Now that you’ve been laid off, the migraines will go away, because obviously they are caused by stress, right? (From coworkers) That’s like saying to a married couple who has been trying to conceive, “Now that you’ve adopted a child, you’ll probably get pregnant right away!”
  25. No pain, no gain! That saying isn’t even true about sports, anymore.
  26. Well, at least it is not life threatening (from neurologist).
  27. It can’t be that bad; you came to work, didn’t you? Because I’m still waiting on that winning lottery ticket…
  28. Why aren’t you home in bed, lying in a dark room with a cold cloth on your head? Are you offering to pay my mortgage and feed my family?
  29. I get migraines, but that doesn’t stop me from going to work, doing the laundry, visiting my family, etc. Like most things in life, migraine symptoms are not black and white; migraine sufferers experience a wide range of side effects, including nausea, vomiting, head pain, light sensitivity, aura (visual disturbances), speech slurring, feebleness, and temporary loss of consciousness.  So, your migraine experience does not necessarily correlate to anyone else’s.
  30. When I was your age, I didn’t have the luxury of being sick. This is your grandma talking, so just smile and politely change the subject.
  31. Did you forget to take your Happy Pills today? Pretend you didn’t hear that one.
  32. I just hate taking pain pills Yeah, well, it’s no pleasure cruise for me, either.
  33. Wow, you’re like a walking medicine cabinet! Think to yourself, “Then why did I forget my stupid pills?”
  34. You know, we try not to encourage narcotic drug addiction. (from ER doctor, to a patient who was suffering a severe migraine attack, complete with throbbing headache, vomiting, and nausea).  If you’re distressed, and in extreme agony, then you probably won’t be able to think clearly enough to respond appropriately.  If you know somebody who is a good advocate, somebody who’s not afraid to stand up to an inexperienced, overeducated ER doctor, then enlist that person as your emergency hospital chaperone.  When the pain is overwhelming, let somebody else do the talking for you, and you’re more likely to get a positive outcome.
  35. (Referring to migraine trigger foods) You might as well eat that- you’re bound to get another headache soon, anyways. Such remarks are tacky and insensitive.  You wouldn’t say that to somebody who’s on a restrictive diet, or somebody who’s trying to lose weight, would you?


Related reading:

Migraine Sufferer to World: It’s not just a Headache, People!

Managing your Migraines at Work- 4 Healthy Changes in Attitude

Migraine Aura Video Simulations: You Tube’s Top 10


10 Things NOT to Say to a Person with Migraines

Twenty Things NOT To Say To A Person With An Invisible Illness

What is the worst thing anyone has or can say to you about migraine?

12 Nice Things You Can Do For Someone In Pain