Bad Migraine Advice You Should Ignore (And What To Do Instead)

Medical Review by Dr. Jessica Kiarashi

There is a ton of bad Migraine advice out there – most of which isn’t helpful at all. Most of the time, people offering suggestions mean well, but they just don’t get what it’s like to manage migraines day in and day out.

Are you drinking enough water? Have you tried chiropractic? What about acupuncture? Standing on your head?

They don’t get that each one of us has a unique and complex Migraine experience. They don’t get that we require (and deserve) an individualistic approach. They end up putting everyone with Migraine in the same, oversimplified box.

“It’s been really surprising dealing with all the misinformation and lack of knowledge out there,” Ashley B. from Virginia  told Migraine Again in her Migraine Journey. “People think they can just approach you with their Migraine advice or solution or idea of what you should do, but if you don’t have Migraines yourself you will never truly understand what it is like to suffer with them.” Ashley has been living with Migraine attacks since childhood.

7 Migraine Tips No One Should Follow (and What You Should Do Instead) 

Discover the kinds of bad migraine advice you can safely ignore – and consider these alternative tips instead.

Bad migraine advice #1: Just take an Excedrin (or Advil) 

It’s a Migraine Catch-22 – you need medication to treat your Migraine attack, but taking too much can make it easier for another Migraine attack to hit. It’s an unfair phenomenon called medication overuse headache, and it can happen if you use abortive medications more than 2 days a week.

While medications like triptans or painkillers prescribed specifically for you can make a dent when a doozy hits, they can also contribute to developing medication overuse headache if used too often.

Smart migraine tip: Rotate therapies to avoid Medication Overuse Headache.

These rebound attacks can be avoided by varying your treatment plan as opposed to getting stuck in a persistent wheel of pain meds. Instead of relying only on painkillers like NSAIDs or opioids, try treating some attacks with triptans or neuromodulation devices. However, triptans can also cause medication overuse headache, so be sure to take no more than 9-10 tablets per month.

Another option is to add some natural alternatives to your arsenal like ginger or ice at the first sign of Migraine.

If you find yourself reaching for abortive meds to treat an attack more than 2 or 3 times a month, it might also be time to talk to your doctor about your options for prevention. 

2 – Bad migraine advice: Try to relax – you must be letting stress get to you.

Stress doesn’t cause Migraine, but it can definitely make it worse. Research has proven that stress is not only a trigger for individual Migraine attacks, but it can also contribute to episodic attacks turning into Chronic Migraines.

Smart migraine tip: Adopt some kind of relaxation therapy to practice regularly. Take extra breaks for relaxation during stressful times.

One of the most important things you can do is learn to recognize when your body is in fight or flight mode and allow yourself to take a break. Adopting a go-to stress-relieving practice that you put into use during tense times will help you avoid what’s known as a “letdown” headache or migraine.

According to psychologist Dawn C. Buse, Ph.D., “It is important for people to be aware of rising stress levels and attempt to relax during periods of stress rather than allowing a major build up to occur. This could include exercising or attending a yoga class or may be as simple as taking a walk or focusing on one’s breath for a few minutes.”

For further stress-relieving inspiration, give these 16 suggestions a whirl.

3 – Bad migraine advice: Just figure out your triggers and avoid them

If only managing Migraine was as simple as cutting out triggers!

First off, there are hundreds of potential triggers and it is impossible (and unhealthy) to avoid them all. Not all triggers affect every person, and different triggers can affect you differently at different times. Some are controllable, like strong smells, and some are uncontrollable, like hormone fluctuations. Check out the seven biggest triggers to see what you can try to control.

Most people only have a few triggers and some Migraine attacks even occur without clear triggers.  To make it even more complicated, doctors disagree about the role triggers play: some think eliminating triggers is essential while others think triggers play a very small role.

In an interview with Migraine Again, Dr. Andrew Charles of UCLA, said, “Many patients can have what they perceive as trigger foods without evoking a headache after eating it, as long as they have these foods in moderation and not on an empty stomach. Alcohol, for example, is commonly reported as a trigger, but some people may be able to have small amounts of alcohol without having it cause a headache, as long as they have food first.”

Smart migraine tip: Keep a diary to identify potential triggers and consider adjusting your diet, sleep, exercise, and hydration … but watch out for trigger anxiety.

Rather than living a life of avoidance, take prevention into your own hands by identifying your personal triggers with an app or migraine diary. A diary can help you identify patterns in your attacks. Record factors like sleep, stress level, food, water intake, and exercise alongside notes about your Migraines to get a clearer picture of what kind of triggers increase your chances of getting an attack.

Often, food can be guilty of triggering an attack—here are three simple things to remember when navigating the grocery aisle.

4 – Bad migraine advice: Don’t obsess about your health! Try to forget about Migraine between attacks.

bad migraine advice

When it comes to Migraine, we all would agree that it’s better not to get one versus trying to nurse ourselves out of an attack. Migraine attacks are notoriously difficult to get rid of once they’ve taken hold.

Smart migraine tip: Focus on prevention rather than treating an attack that’s already happening.

The good news is, you have a ton of options when it comes to preventing attacks. The fundamental goal of prevention is keeping your brain and body in equilibrium.

Medications and lifestyle choices like diet, sleep, and hydration can play a role. Take a look at these prescription options to prevent attacks and lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your Migraine count.

Preventative prescription options:

Lifestyle: Practice SEEDS for Success

5 – Bad migraine advice: It’s just a headache; push through it.

bad migraine advice

Just – no. Migraine is not simply a headache—leading experts agree that Migraine is a disorder of the brain. A severe, throbbing headache is just one of more than 40 symptoms that can come with an attack. It’s a neurobiological disease that often runs in families, with a strong genetic component.

Smart migraine tip: Allow yourself to rest.

We get it—you have a huge to-do list, you have places to go, and people to see. To put it simply: you have a busy life. Putting the brakes on what you’re doing is the last thing that you often want or can do, but it could be the most important.

Pushing through Migraine symptoms can make an attack hurt more and last even longer. Rest isn’t a choice – it can be a must.   Sometimes, you need to take a time out. It’s all about ‘me time’ and knowing when to take it.

6 – Bad migraine advice: It’s all in your head. Examine your psyche to discover what is ‘really’ wrong.

A 2014 study found that those with adverse childhood experiences had a significant increase in Migraine incidents as adults. Migraines are also linked to bad experiences that can remain lodged in the subconscious, as well as trauma which can exacerbate Migraine.

Migraine comorbidities, which mean other disorders like anxiety and depression go hand in hand with Migraine, although they don’t necessarily cause each other.

“I want people to know that comorbidities are not a sign of weakness. They are medical conditions that are related to the wiring of the brain and the body, neurotransmitters, and possibly a genetic predisposition,” said psychologist Dawn C. Buse.  “That does not mean that there is nothing that can be done about them. In fact, they can be improved with both behavioral approaches and/or medication. Improving these comorbidities may also improve Migraine.”

Migraine is a debilitating chronic disease that has a staggering impact on both the person with the Migraine as well as their friends, families, and livelihoods.

Smart migraine tip: Try to accept that Migraine is not your fault. Remember that Migraine is a neurological disease.

You did not do anything to deserve or ‘cause’ your Migraine attacks. Period.

7 – Bad migraine advice: You should try
(fill in the blank

miracle cure

miracle cure

When your well-intentioned neighbor doles out unsolicited and obviously bad Migraine advice, it just adds insult to injury. People think they are helping, but it is frustrating at best and painful at worse to be on the receiving end of advice. Migraine is an invisible disease that is so often dismissed by friends, family, coworkers, and the general public.

When people offer advice, they assume that you aren’t already doing everything you possibly can. And you probably are. Simply smile and say “Thank you for your concern. I’m continuing to research and test any and all options.”

An empathetic, open ear is always a better way to support a friend who is struggling with Migraine than offering unsolicited advice.

Smart migraine tip: Do your homework and look for evidence-based treatments. 

Open-mindedness and tenacity are two excellent characteristics for people with a mysterious disease like migraine. Don’t stop searching and asking others – you never know who may have an idea that can make a difference in your health. Look for evidence-based therapies backed by independent, credible research studies. It’s the only way to avoid wasting money or time. Find out how to interpret migraine research here.

Best Advice Above All: Listen To Your Body

Listen to your body. You know your body best, but, sometimes the simplest thing—listening to yourself—can be the hardest. We all have responsibilities, but if you don’t make taking care of yourself your first priority, then the other things will end up sliding too.

Take time to rest. Make your own plan of attack with preventative care strategies and alternative treatments. Adopt self-care and de-stressing practices that you can turn to on a regular basis.

Know your stuff. Check out these 35 Eye-Opening Migraine Facts You Need to Know – they make for confident comebacks.

Instead of following blanket advice that isn’t helpful for Migraine, empower yourself by using your body as your own compass and learn the best Migraine-related strategies that fit you for relief.


Image: StoryBlocs

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