According to the World Health Organization, migraine is the second most disabling disease, and it can begin at any age. One billion people are afflicted with migraine worldwide, with one in every four households in America affected. It is more common in women and children than men.
An estimated 80-90 percent of those who are afflicted with migraine have a family history of migraine and there are a number of genes that have been associated with a higher risk of developing migraine. However, twin studies and other studies have shown that genes may only account for fifty percent or less of the cause of migraine. Other factors such as hormonal changes, co-morbid neurological disorders, unconscious conflicts, and environmental stimuli may be equally responsible.
For people who suffer from chronic migraine, meaning that they experience 15 or more headache days per month with at least 8 days having migraine features, headache specialists often rely on a combination of preventative and ‘rescue’ treatments. The goal of treatment is to reduce the number of migraine days each month by at least half and to relieve pain as quickly as possible on the other headache days.
Some headache specialists also advise their patients on self-care, which they call SEEDS for Success. SEEDS is a mnemonic used to provide counseling to patients on lifestyle modification in areas of Sleep, Exercise, Eating, Diary (formerly Drinking), and Stress. Alternative treatments such as naturopathic and spiritual methods are also embraced by many within the migraine community. Some psychotherapy techniques are proven to be as effective as traditional preventative and ‘rescue’ treatments in reducing the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks, particularly for those suffering from chronic migraine.
A migraine attack can be compared to getting Botox treatment. The headache specialist that administers the Botox has to be sure that he or she is avoiding hitting a particular nerve, or else the Botox can get into places where it’s not supposed to go and have bad side effects like a droopy eye. For some people, a migraine attack can be a physical manifestation of an unconscious conflict. Something upset a part of the person and that part of the person wants to talk about it, but the part doesn’t know how to put it into words. Whatever it was…it hit just the right nerve! But this time it wasn’t with Botox.
So, how might migraine attacks be reduced or eliminated in situations like this? When you feel the migraine attack coming, ask yourself, “Who wants to speak?” Meditate. Listen to the voice of your unconscious. Try to identify the original cause of your pain. Let that ‘part’ of you speak about the pain he or she feels. Let the other ‘part’ of you that is more mature and healthy, acknowledge the pain, and offer comfort and guidance to the ‘part’ that doesn’t know that to do.
American Migraine Foundation (2019). Facts About Migraine. Last retrieved on January 23, 2023, from https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Facts-About-Migraine-AMF.pdf
Burch, R. C., Buse, D. C., & Lipton, R. B. (2019). Migraine: Epidemiology, Burden, and Comorbidity. Neurologic clinics, 37(4), 631–649. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ncl.2019.06.001
Mulder, E. J., Van Baal, C., Gaist, D., Kallela, M., Kaprio, J., Svensson, D. A., Nyholt, D. R., Martin, N. G., MacGregor, A. J., Cherkas, L. F., Boomsma, D. I., & Palotie, A. (2003). Genetic and environmental influences on migraine: a twin study across six countries. Twin research: the official journal of the International Society for Twin Studies, 6(5), 422–431. https://doi.org/10.1375/136905203770326420
85% of people who suffer from chronic pain, also experience severe depression. The Good Body. (2023). 31 Chronic Pain Statistics: US & Global Prevalence. Last retrieved on January 17, 2023, from https://www.thegoodbody.com/chronic-pain-statistics/