There’s no doubt that migraine is one of the most misunderstood medical conditions there is among both doctors and patients. Even in the medical community we’ve noticed a lot of incorrect vocabulary (which we’ll talk about more below), and among patients we’ve seen that we don’t connect our symptoms properly or sometimes fall for those fake “cures” you can find all over the internet.
No matter what it may be, migraine fallacies are everywhere. From your doctor’s office to online support groups to educational websites, you can find these inconsistencies quite often. So we’re here to debunk the myths and deliver you the truth. Whether you’re a migraine patient, a doctor, a loved one, it will pay for you to know these facts…
1. Migraine is NOT synonymous with “headache.”
Many people tend to use these words interchangeably but they are FAR from the same thing. A headache is classified by head pain and tension. A migraine is a neurological disorder and ALSO has an excruciating headache phase, but we experience many other symptoms throughout our entire bodies such as nausea, photo- and phonophobia, brain fog, numbness, dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, visual impairment, and more!
2. There is NO cure for migraine – only management.
The medicine we take every day? It’s called a preventative (or prophylactic) medication. It helps decrease the number of migraine days we have. But what differentiates this from a cure is that if we stop taking these medications, our migraines will significantly get worse again. We will almost always have to take preventative medications if we want to have a quality of life.
3. Taking more medication does not equate to better treatment.
In fact, taking more medication can lead to us developing rebound headaches or migraines or medication-overuse headache. Studies have also proven that taking more medication increases the risk for progressing into chronic, intractable, or complex migraine.
4. Changes in diet and lifestyle do NOT always help migraine patients.
Now, we are not knocking these methods; they can definitely improve your life. However, there are far more triggers out there that can impact us that are completely and utterly out of our control. Doing these things are NOT cure-alls, as many tend to claim. (But if it worked for you, that’s awesome!)
5. Migraine attacks can last from hours to days, and sometimes they never go away.
As migraine is not well understood, there is no set amount of time for how long a migraine will typically last. It is generally said to be between 4-72 hours, however some people have migraines more frequently, some even daily, and this is referred to as chronic migraine (15+ days per month) or intractable migraine (unending, difficult to treat migraine).
6. The correct medical term is simply “migraine,” not “migraines.”
Yes, we do have migraines – plural – but when discussing the condition itself, we say “she has migraine.” In some cases, the word “disease” may follow, so we may also say “he has migraine disease.”
7. Migraine CAN be life-threatening.
Migraine patients are at a much higher risk for developing heart disease, having a stroke or aneurism, progressing into Alzheimer’s Disease, and even having mental illness and committing suicide. Each of these raise our risk of an untimely death.
8. Neurologists and specialists are NOT see-all/know-alls.
When we go to a neurologist, they can’t treat us all the same. We also can’t expect them to know everything there is to know about our conditions. It’s important to be your own patient advocate and speak up if you think something is wrong, or if there is something we think may work for us. Suggesting new means of treatment may just get you on the right path and help your specialist learn something new.
9. Migraine CAN happen without an aura (the tell-tale warning sign).
While migraine is very well-known for the sparkly, zig-zaggy lights in our vision called an aura that occurs before the headache phase of the attack, many patients do not even experience that. This is called “migraine without aura.” Only 25 – 30% of migraine sufferers experience aura.
10. Women AND men alike can be diagnosed with migraine.
Women are by far the largest portion of the population to contract any type of migraine, but men share a little sliver of that percentage too. 18% of females and 6% of males live with migraine across the globe.
11. Along that same idea, children also can suffer from migraine.
Children most often fight abdominal migraines, a type of migraine that manifests as stomach ache or pains in the abdomen. Approximately 10% of school-age children have any type of migraine.
12. Migraine is NOT our fault; we did NOT cause our condition.
We primarily have genetics to blame here, but as stated earlier, we also have several triggers that are totally out of our control. Telling us it’s our faults doesn’t help our case at all; guilt and grief are feelings we live with constantly because we tend to beat ourselves up about having migraine. Remember: it is NOT your fault!!
13. NOT all migraine patients or diagnoses are alike.
There are MANY different types of migraine diagnoses out there: from hemiplegic migraine to vestibular migraine to ocular migraines, no single one of us is alike. Additionally, What works for you, or works for your sister’s best friend’s cousin, may not work for me. Part of the beauty of life is that we are all so unique – and this is certainly the case with migraine as well.