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About Migraines - Dispelling The Myths

Aug 17, 2007
Although experienced by more than 29.5 million Americans, most people still do not understand what migraines are all about. According to the National Headache Foundation (NHF), some of the most commonly-held myths about this debilitating disorder include:

Myth: Migraines are just bad headaches.
Fact: Migraines are a debilitating illness that affects 13% of the population. More than just a "bad headache," migraine sufferers also experience a multitude of residual effects from that may include: severe nausea; pain and weakness in the head, face, neck, and shoulders; and sensitivity to light and sound, and even mood swings and depression. Attacks may last for hours, or days, and prevent the sufferer from going to work, attending classes, or basically completing normal daily tasks at home, work or school.

Myth: Caffeine cannot help relieve a migraine.
Fact: The effects of caffeine on migraines have been studied extensively, and the results are surprising: while caffeine is a trigger for some sufferers, it does seem to help alleviate symptoms in others. The best way to determine what caffeine will have on a specific sufferer, it is recommended that they keep a detailed food diary to determine its effect, either positive or negative.

Myth: Migraines are not triggered by stress,
Fact: Stress has been proven to trigger migraines in a vast majority of sufferers. Stress can be physical or emotional, and both can trigger migraines. It is believed that migraine sufferers have highly sensitized brains, which, during stressful periods, release certain chemicals that provoke the vascular change in the brain that causes the pain and other symptoms associated with migraines. Stress factors may include anxiety, worry, physical exertion, depression, excitement and mental fatigue.

Myth: Exercise Doesn't Do Anything To Help Prevent Migraines
Fact: Many chronic migraine sufferers report that undergoing a regular exercise routine seems to help alleviate (or at least lesson) symptoms, while others noticed an increase in attacks when participating in sports or other physical exertion. If exercise or physical strain induce a headache, it is important to check with your healthcare provider to determine what other activities you can enjoy in order to remain fit and healthy.

Myth: Dietary Supplements Don't Help in Treating Migraines
Fact: There are several vitamins that have been proven to help prevent and treat migraine headaches. They include:

Magnesium - which helps relax blood vessels, and decrease the severity and occurrence of migraines.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Assists nerve cells in producing higher levels of ATP, which has been linked to reversing a cells "energy crisis" during an attack.
Myth: Sleep does not affect migraines
Fact: A lack of sleep has been proven to cause the onset of migraine symptoms. The best remedy: go to sleep at the same time every night, also waking at the same time every day, in order to maintain a natural circadian rhythm in the body.

Myth: Migraine headaches are not hereditary
Fact: Unfortunately, the odds are if someone in your family suffers with a migraine disorder, so will you. The child of a migraine sufferer has a 50% chance of having them, and if both parents suffer with migraines, their children have a 75% chance of the same. Even distant relatives who experience migraines may increase a person's chance of being affected. Almost 20 percent of all sufferers report an aunt, uncle, cousin , or other relative who also experience migraine symptoms on a regular basis.

Suffering from migraine headaches can be difficult to deal with, but learning more about what causes them, and ways to both prevent and treat them can aid a patient in dealing with their physical and emotional effects.
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