Myth: A migraine is nothing more than a really bad headache.
Fact: Migraine is a complex neurological disease that affects your central nervous system. Headache is one of its symptoms, but a migraine rarely consists of head pain alone. Many sufferers also experience nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or sound and visual changes.
Myth: All you need to treat a migraine is a good painkiller
Fact: While painkillers are often prescribed to treat a migraine, they are not the most effective treatment. There are many very good treatments that exist that target all of a migraine’s symptoms beyond just the headache. You should also be aware that there are many drawbacks, and sometimes serious side effects, when using regular painkillers to treat a migraine.
Myth: Caffeine cannot help relieve a migraine.
Fact: For certain migraine sufferers, caffeine is a migraine inhibitor, for others it is a trigger. Keeping a headache diary can help determine whether caffeine helps or hurts your migraine. Caffeine is found naturally and as an additive in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, certain soft drinks, and some pain relieving and acute migraine medications.
Myth: Migraines are not trigged by stress.
Fact: Stress is a commonly recognized trigger of migraines. Stress can be physical or emotional. It is an unavoidable part of modern life.
Events causing emotional stress can trigger a migraine headache. Migraine sufferers are thought to have highly sensitized brains. In times of emotional stress, certain chemicals are released that provoke the vascular changes that can cause a migraine headache. Factors related to stress include anxiety, worry, shock, depression, excitement, and mental fatigue. After a stressful period there may be a letdown which can, in itself, trigger a migraine headache.
Myth: Regular exercise may not help reduce migraine frequency.
Fact: For those who suffer from chronic, recurring migraines, exercise can either provoke an attack or lessen the frequency and severity of these headaches. If exercise or physical strain induce a headache, it is important to see a healthcare provider. Maintaining a regular exercise program can reduce the number of headaches and contribute to overall good health.
Myth: Dietary supplements cannot be helpful in migraine treatment.
Fact: Those suffering from frequent migraines may have a low magnesium level. Magnesium has a relaxant effect on smooth muscle, such as in blood vessels. Daily supplementation of 500 – 750 mg increases the body’s magnesium level. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) assists nerve cells in the production of ATP, an energy producing substance, which is essential for many chemical reactions to occur in the body. High doses of riboflavin (400 mg. is recommended) may reverse cells’ “energy crisis” during migraine attacks.
Myth: Migraines are not triggered by a lack of sleep.
Fact: Migraine can be triggered by lack of sleep. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up the same time each morning, including on weekends. This maintains the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Myth: Migraines cannot be trigged by exposure to smoke, odors or perfume.
Fact: Certain fumes and vapors can initiate a migraine headache. Perfumes are also often a culprit. Being in public places which are smoke-filled or poorly ventilated can result in the onset of a migraine.
Myth: Migraines do not run in families
Fact: Migraines can be hereditary. If one parent has migraine, the child has a 50 percent chance of having them. If both parents have them, there is a 75 percent chance the child will develop migraine and if even a distant relative has migraines, there is a 20 percent chance the child will also experience them.
Above content provided by the National Headache Foundation in conjunction with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted October 2013
This is a paid partnership between Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston Magazine's City/Studio