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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Migraine Awareness month - Post # 7: List Topper

Here is the prompt for day 7 of the Blogging Challenge
"There are lots of myths and misconceptions about Migraine. Which one tops your list as the biggest and most common? What can we do to get the truth out there?"
"It's just stress" 
My (former) internist patted me on the hand and told me in her most sympathetic voice, "It's just stress." My dissertation committee also thought that once I was out of the program, the migraines would disappear.   Unfortunately, that was not the case.   After I was done with the PhD program, my migraines were just as bad as before.

Migraine is a neurological disease.  Stress may be a trigger, but it is not the cause. The underlying cause of migraine is not yet known, but there is a strong genetic correlation for people with migraine.  Here is a short list of a few environmental triggers, courtesy of
  • Lack of or too much sleep
  • Skipped meals
  • Bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors
  • Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle
  • Stress and anxiety, or relaxation after stress
  • Weather changes
  • Alcohol (often red wine)
  • Caffeine (too much or withdrawal)
  • Foods that contain nitrates, such as hot dogs and lunch meats
  • Foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavor enhancer found in fast foods, broths, seasonings, and spices
  • Foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, smoked fish, and Chianti wine
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®)
One of the first things you need to do as a migraineur is to determine your triggers.  Some are avoidable and some are not, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I did an elimination diet (I ate nothing but rice and lamb for 2 weeks, then gradually reintroduced foods.  This took 2 months) to pinpoint any food allergies.  Fortunately, other than alcohol, MSG and Aspartame, I don't have any food triggers. I was really worried that chocolate was a trigger, because a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine.

I also keep a detailed headache diary, and have been doing so EVERY DAY for the past 5+ years.  This helps me track my migraines and identify other non-environmental triggers. For example, if a massage or physical therapist presses on my spine a certain way, I am guaranteed 3 days of bed rest.  I figured this out by keeping the diary.

What can be done to get the truth out there? People seem to like reality shows. Maybe a reality show with a house-full of migraineurs?  Oh that would be boring, seeing a dozen people with the mask of pain on their faces, eyes covered, ice pack on the head, smothered with blankets because they are freezing. An episode on Dr. Drew or Dr. Oz?  How about Dr. Phil?  Is he still around?

Seriously, I think public service announcements, regular highlights on the news media (print, TV and internet), meaningful research, and doing a month-long blogging activity would do wonders to get the word out. It would really help people who are having migraine and think it is just a tension or sinus headache. Maybe they would then get proper treatment for their condition.

My friends all know about my trials and tribulations with the Migraine Dragon.   I am guilty of telling acquaintances that I am fine when I am not.  For me, it's time to go public and lose some of the embarrassment and shame that comes with the stigma of having daily migraine pain.  

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger's Challenge is initiated by

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