10 Critical Mistakes First Time Migraine Patients Make

You’ve just been diagnosed with MIGRAINE.  It’s natural to be confused, maybe even nervous or scared.

I’ve spent many years listening to and helping migraineurs.  I’ve found that there are some common mistakes that people make when they’re first diagnosed with migraine.  Here are my top 10 – maybe one of them will help you to avoid the same mistake!

Quick Fix Please!  (not always possible)
  1. Expect fast results.  No, actually, don’t expect fast results!  It’s true that some migraine patients find a solution right away.  But a decent trial period for a new treatment is often 3 months – and that’s just trying one treatment.  It’s not just migraine – many neurological diseases require this kind of patience (for example epilepsy or muscular distrophy).
  2. Don’t see the doctor again.  After all, it’s "just" migraine.  I just need some "painkillers" and a rest and I’ll be fine.  No – you should go back to the doctor for follow-up.  This especially applies when your symptoms change.  But really, because migraine takes time to treat and because it’s a disease with complex symptoms and causes, you should be going back for more help.
  3. Be satisfied with a diagnosis of "Migraine".  In 1988, the Headache Classification Committee from the International Headache Society came out with a document intended to classify headache disorders, including many different types of migraine.  The latest edition is from 2004.  Knowing what type of migraine you have means you can find better treatment faster.  When you get a diagnosis, check to see if it’s in the document and if your symptoms match.  If not, find another doctor and get a second opinion.  (A simplified version of the International Classification of Headache Disorders (migraine section) here)
  4. Rely on popular news reports and commercials for information on migraine treatment.  News reports and commercials are important ways to get information out to the public.  However, they will almost never give you a balanced view of migraine treatment.  That’s why crowds of people go after a "miracle" treatment before trying things that are much more likely to actually work for them.  Please take news bites with a grain of salt.
  5. Blame it on "stress".  "Oh, it’s just stress – I just need to wait until life calms down a bit."  Using stress as a scapegoat has kept many, many migraine patients from proper treatment.  Stress does not cause migraine, and there’s some debate about whether it even triggers migraine attacks.  It’s a factor in the overall picture, but there are likely other issues that you need to deal with in order to properly treat migraine.  It’s not "just stress".
  6. Rely on over-the-counter "painkillers".  Instead of making use of medications and treatments that can specifically help migraine, patients often take the "shotgun" approach, and take a general purpose painkiller.  This often leads to more symptoms and more pain in the long run.
  7. Think you’ve tried "everything" after three different treatments.  No one has tried "everything", because in this day and age there are so many treatments (yes, valid ones) for migraine that it could take a lifetime to give them all a try.  Sure, it’s discouraging when you’ve tried 5, 10, 15 treatments over many years.  Take a break – but don’t give up.
  8. Rely one one kind of treatment.  Only try yoga, or just drugs.  Only try vitamins, and ignore the rest.  Guess what?  Many migraineurs have had great success with a variety of treatments.  Medications and a change of diet, or the chiropractor and exercise, or magnesium and biofeedback… Don’t be quick to rule out other types of treatment.
  9. Ignore other symptoms.  What other symptoms?  Well, a very common symptom of migraine is headache.  It’s easy to focus on head pain, and ignore other symptoms.  But your doctor can treat you better if she knows about other symptoms you’re having, even if they’re not migraine related.  Dizziness?  Nausea?  Sensitive to light?  Neck pain?  Depression?  And guess what?  Many migraine symptoms are experienced between actual migraine attacks.  The more you can describe your symptoms, the better treatment you’ll get.
  10. What would you add?  Oops – I don’t have a #10 mistake!  You have some experience – what would you add as a mistake that people make when they’re first diagnosed with migraine?  Leave a comment!
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6 comments… add one
  • Joyce DeCarufel Jun 21, 2012

    karen de. i hope you stop and read it,i found it pretty interesting tho you and i know the info it had written here!

  • Suzanne Karolis Jun 21, 2012

    battling at work after waking at 5.30 with my head ready to explode…..

  • Ubiqi Health Jun 22, 2012

    New and old migraine sufferers should look into the Ubiqi Migraine Tracker, it will help you monitor and prevent your episodes. Look into it at ubiqihealth.com

  • Trudy Parrott Aug 1, 2012

    Being fobbed off by a busy doctor who either hasn’t got the time or doesn’t have the knowledge to treat migraine. I spent 5 years complaining to my doctor who put it down to the stress of having two small children and it wasn’t until we moved to a new area and changed doctors that I was finally referred to the London Migraine Clinic for much needed help. I attended there regularly for 2 1/2 years and finally I can control my migraine with a combination of diet, avoiding certain triggers and recognizing the symptoms when one is on it’s way so I can take medication in time. I find taking 20mg motillium (on prescription) when I take my medication helps me absorb the medication quickly as the first sign of my migraine attack is my stomach shuts down and I start to feel queasy. If I do not take motillium, it can be a couple of days before an attack subsides.

  • Marti Aug 1, 2012

    I’ve been fighting migraines for 30 years. I know what triggers them and what helps once they start. However for the last year or so things have been changing. The headaches have been getting worse and worse and nothing helps anymore. My wonderful doctor sent me to a neurologist who ordered an MRI and it turns out I’ve developed Psuedotumor Cerebri – increased cranial spinal fluid pressure which can potentially lead to blindness. Find a doctor you trust and DO NOT ignore your body; you know it better than anyone else.

  • Cheryl Dec 19, 2012

    I am a massage therapist and former migrainer. I used to eat just 1 Hershey’s Kiss and would have a migraine in 5 mins. After being in massage school a few months, headaches became rare. In my practice, migrainers almost always have tight neck,shoulders and rhomboids (between shoulders). I explain why this can lead to pain around the eyes and how regular massage may help to lower or even eliminate headaches. Not all massage therapists do good headache work but my suggestion is to try to find one. The success rate can be very high. Best wishes to all.

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