What is a migraine? Is it just a bad headache?

If you answered yes, you’ve already discovered the first migraine myth!

Migraines are different from ordinary headaches both in their disposition and origin. Migraines appear to be neurological disturbances caused by disruptions in brain chemicals, though their cause is not entirely understood.

Here are 10 other myths about migraines:

  1. Only women have migraines. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer migraines, but men do get them. Don’t dismiss a man who claims to be suffering.
  2. Children don’t get migraines. Some do, and when they get them so young that they don’t know how to describe the pain, it can add frustration to the equation. Worse, children who suffer migraines are more than eight times more likely to suffer from crippling sleep breathing disorders as adults.
  3. People who get migraines are doing something wrong. In the sense that they chose the wrong grandparents, I guess that’s true. But migraines appear to be mostly a function of genetics, so they aren’t anyone’s fault.
  4. The worse the migraine, the more headache medicine you should take. Medicines that treat ordinary headaches tend to have moderate impact on migraines. Taking too much medicine can actually cause a rebound headache.
  5. You just have to live with it. Though headache medicines aren’t panaceas, they are part of a treatment regimen that can reduce the incidence and soften the symptoms of migraines. Most people afflicted by migraines learn to identify the triggers – like caffeine and anxiety – and learn to avoid them.
  6. People who complain constantly of migraines are week are hypochondriacs. Most migraines end within three days, but they can persist for longer. Some people even have chronic migraine issues that affect them every day. They deserve our understanding, not derision.
  7. Once a migraine ends, it’s back to normal. For people assaulted frequently by migraines, it dramatically diminishes their quality of life. The constant pain, not to mention the stigma, prevents sufferers from enjoying everyday activities and has been linked to cardiovascular disease and even suicide. People with migraines are three times more likely to commit suicide.
  8. Migraines only afflict educated, Type-A women. For a long time, doctors believed there was a “migraine personality.” They were probably only seeing the people with means to visit the doctor for headaches. In fact, the research shows there is no correlation between education, career achievement or personality with migraines.
  9. The migraine diet will cure the problem. Certain foods do seem to trigger migraines, including artificial sweeteners, MSG, alcohol, chocolate, and cheese. However, beyond avoiding those foods, there is no diet that will prevent migraines.
  10. All migraines are migraines. Believe it or not, some throbbing headaches diagnosed as migraines are really something else connected to misalignment of the jaw. Anyone who suffers from episodic headaches should visit their dentist to determine whether they are caused by disease in their TM joint. If that turns out to be the culprit, there may very well be a cure.

As with any health issue, it’s important to get the facts and not rely on misinformation. It can be the difference between a happy life and a lifetime of pain and suffering.