Migraines are not just a headache. They’re a separate neurological condition that’s sometimes considered a type of headache, but the extreme pain sets them apart from your normal tension headaches. People with migraines often experience multiple migraine attacks during the course of a month, and, of course, they fear the onset of pain. But there are many things about migraines that are just as frightening, if not more so.
Migraines Can Develop Any Time
Some people with migraines are diagnosed at a very young age, sometimes less than age 10. However, other people with migraines are diagnosed in their late teens or early 20s. But people continue to be diagnosed with migraine throughout their lives. This may be due to an earlier misdiagnosis, a head trauma, or something developmental that triggers the migraines to develop.
Because migraine risk is genetic, children of adults with migraine spend their lives waiting for the other shoe to drop: they know they are likely to develop migraines, they just don’t know when.
They’re Associated with Heart Risks
Migraines aren’t just an isolated condition. They’re often overlapping with other serious heart conditions. In particular, migraines are associated with heart risks, including an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
That’s likely because (see below) migraines are related to circulation anomalies. These anomalies may make it more likely that your body develops dangerous constrictions in blood vessels of the heart and brain. Women with migraine have a 39% higher risk of heart attack and a 62% higher risk of stroke. Men with migraines may also have a 42% higher risk of heart attack. And heart conditions are just the tip of the iceberg migraines may be associated with pregnancy complications and other health conditions.
They Can Be Disabling
As we mentioned above, migraines can cause severe pain, worse than the pain most people suffer with headaches. The pain may be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, as well as nausea that makes it hard to work. A single migraine attack can last up to 72 hours, and many migraine sufferers may experience migraines for 14 days a month or more. That makes it very hard to maintain a consistent work schedule.
It’s also hard because some bosses don’t understand the severity of migraines. They label migraine sufferers as lazy and think that they’re just trying to get away with something.
Migraines Can Be Isolating
It might be nice if migraines limited themselves to work hours so that you could live a normal social life. But that’s not the case. Migraines also interfere with your social life. They can cause you to break established plans, and it can make your friends feel like they can’t count on you. Although it should be different, some friends and family members can be as unforgiving of migraines as any boss.
As a result of having to break so many plans, you might start making fewer plans. This can make you even more isolated and can worsen the depression that many people experience along with migraines.
Migraines Have Many Triggers
One recommendation for limiting the impact of migraines is to learn your triggers and try to avoid them. Keeping a headache journal can definitely help with that, but migraine triggers are so numerous that it’s hard to keep on top of them all. You can learn new migraine triggers constantly because of the unfortunate effect of having them trigger an attack.
And many migraine triggers may just be beyond your control. For example, you don’t have control over what perfume people on the airplane might be wearing or what cleaner they use in the office hallways, and those can definitely trigger your migraine.
We Don’t Understand Them
Perhaps one of the scariest things about migraines is that we don’t fully understand them. We’re getting closer, having isolated a trigger point in the trigeminal nerve and its ability to release calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in response to irritation. But the release of CGRP also seems to play a role in irritating the trigeminal nerve, so it’s hard to figure out which comes first. It’s also hard to identify the sources of irritation that might lead to CGRP release and how these are associated with reported migraine triggers. And there’s the question about how strongly this is related to the existence of blood vessel anomalies in the brains of migraine sufferers.
The truth of the matter is that migraines remain surprisingly mysterious given the level of our technology and the amount we’ve learned about many other health conditions.
Most Migraine Treatments Don’t Work for Most People
Unfortunately, the inability to understand migraines has very real consequences for people with migraines. It’s hard to develop an effective treatment for a condition you don’t understand, so there are many migraine treatments that are minimally effective. Most migraine sufferers have tried three or more treatments, and even so nearly half of them aren’t happy with their current treatment.
And these treatments themselves can be scary. Migraine drugs can have serious side effects that often make them not worth it for people who experience only partial relief of their migraines.
Make Your Migraines Less Scary
Fortunately, there’s another way to make your migraine less scary: a migraine treatment that’s proven to work for many people, and which doesn’t involve drugs, so you can avoid drug risks and complications. TMJ treatment is effective at reducing or eliminating migraines for people whose TMJ contributes to their migraine risk.
And it can help eliminate other symptoms of TMJ, too, such as ringing in the ears, dizziness, and neck or back pain.