Myths and Facts

Correcting common myths associated with migraine

Natanya Mandel

4 min read

Facts with arrow pointing right, myths with arrow pointing left, on chalkboard background
Facts with arrow pointing right, myths with arrow pointing left, on chalkboard background

Did you know that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 148 million people worldwide have migraine disease? If you are among the individuals with migraine disease, have you heard of some misconceptions and myths associated with migraine? Do you think they are true?

It is critical to have the ability to differentiate between myths and facts associated with migraine, especially if you have migraine.

Here are some of the most common myths you might have heard about migraine.

1. Migraine is just a bad headache

Have you ever had someone tell you that migraines are simply bad headaches?

Remember that is not true. Headaches are only one migraine symptom, and not all migraines involve headaches.

Migraine is a neurological disorder associated with structural and functional changes in the brain and a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Weakness

  • Nausea

  • Vertigo

  • difficulty concentrating or thinking

  • speech and language impairment

  • Numbness and visual disturbances

  • And so much more!

Hence, migraine is a polysymptomatic disease with headache as only one, and not even an essential feature. Do you get headaches? If yes, how would you describe your headaches?

2. Men don’t get migraine; only women do

Although according to WHO, migraine is twice as common in women than men, men can still have migraine.

  • If 18-20% of women have migraine, then 8-10% of men also have migraine.

If you are a woman, do you know any men who have migraine? How do their symptoms or experiences with migraine differ from yours?

3. All Supplements can cure migraine:

The most important thing to note is that there is no cure for migraine at the moment. While supplements can effectively reduce the frequency of your migraines for a few people, they cannot cure migraine. Some of the common supplements that may relieve or avoid migraine include:

  • Magnesium

  • Vitamins B2

  • Vitamin D

It is important to remember that the effects of supplements also vary between individuals, and also may impact your prescribed medication. So you may want to discuss with your treating doctor as well as consider the cost of the supplements. Think about it, how effective are supplements in reducing the severity and frequency of your migraines? Do you think it is worth spending money on these supplements?

To determine if the supplements are helpful, it is beneficial to keep a migraine diary to track the changes and responses. This way, you can take out what’s not working for you to save some money.

4. Caffeine the cause of migraine

Did someone tell you to avoid caffeine if you are experiencing migraine?

Caffeine does not cause migraine; instead, it may be a trigger for people. It's important to remember that triggers vary between individuals, because we are all different.

  • Excessive caffeine can trigger migraine.

  • For some individuals, consuming caffeine at the beginning of a migraine attack can lower the intensity and ease the pain.

Has caffeine helped you relieve migraine, or has it increased the intensity or severity of your migraine attacks? Consume caffeine as it suits you. While regular consumption is not advised, use it in limited amounts if it helps with your headaches.

5. Experiencing Aura is Must for People with Migraine

Have you ever experienced an aura? Not all individuals with migraine experience aura. Only about 25-30% of people who have migraine experience aura, which is the second stage of a migraine attack, for those who experience this symptom.

  • Most migraines are without aura.

  • Aura can be motor, sensory or verbal changes that usually arise before the headache phase

  • It can affect your hearing, ability to speak, and vision, and you may also experience stinging or muscle weakness.

  • However, visual auras are the most common.

6. You should not take migraine medications during pregnancy

Did you take migraine medications when you were pregnant? Or did someone you know take migraine medications when they were pregnant? Although not all migraine medications may be available to pregnant women due to harmful effects, there are still many safe alternatives.

If you are pregnant, make sure to consult your doctors to discuss your migraine treatment plan.

Some of the safe migraine medications for pregnant women, particularly after the first trimester, include:

  • Triptans

  • Acetaminophen

  • Some vitamins and minerals (please consult your doctor)

But to be safe, always remember to speak to your doctor before taking any migraine medications. Costs are another factor that you might want to consider when getting these medications, despite their safety. The effects of the medications vary between individuals. Think about yourself, do these medications help your symptoms? Is it worth spending money on these medications?

7. Only adults have migraine

Have you ever heard that children cannot experience migraine? Well, that is not correct.

Children as young as 18 months have been diagnosed with migraine because it’s a genetic condition. Here are the symptoms children experience:

  • extreme tiredness

  • abdominal pain

  • difficulty in concentration

  • irritability

  • severe dizziness

  • episodic confusion.

If you or a child in your family is experiencing some of these symptoms, it is something to watch out for in your kids, and speak to your doctor about.

8. You can cure migraine with lifestyle changes

While it is essential to be mindful of your lifestyle, remember that foods that trigger or relieve migraine vary between individuals. Think about your triggers. For example, which foods do you stay away from, and which foods do you consume?

  • While the type of foods you consume and your diet can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, they cannot cure migraine.

  • Exercise, stress and sleep management might also be triggers, so you might want to make changes to your exercise sleep schedule and find ways to relax and de-stress.

However, the most important thing is to listen to the messages your body gives, what’s working for you and what’s not and make lifestyle changes accordingly.

To make lifestyle changes that work best for you, the first step is to separate migraine myths from facts that will help you face, handle and deal with your migraine disease.

To understand your migraine, consider your lifestyle and experiences. For example, what factors or changes have helped you alleviate symptoms and diminish the frequency of attacks? Which of these myths apply to your migraine, and which of these do you think are facts? Are there other myths that you’ve heard?