Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Migraine & Privilege

Migraine & Privilege

There’s been a lot of talk about privilege and how it affects our ability to succeed in life. The discussions prompted me to think about the effects of privilege on migraine treatment success. I started to wonder what factors contribute to the success of treatment.

Financial resources

Let’s face it. If you don’t have money for rent or food, that’s going to impact your migraine treatment success. It’s much harder to get the care you need to treat migraine.  It takes money to survive in this world. Not having enough can really hurt. But it’s not just the poor who struggle. Sometimes our treatment success depends on our ability to purchase products and services that are not covered by insurance. If you need items for your toolkit and can’t afford them, the odds of treatment success can be affected.

Support system resources

Having a broad social network that understands your health care needs and supports your efforts is essential to treatment success. No matter how much money you have, nothing replaces the loving support of family and friends. The disease itself tends to isolate us from others, so having people who will reach out to us is essential to the success of our treatment.

Access to reliable transportation

Treating migraine requires lots of doctor visits. Sometimes it requires emergency care. Not having access to a working vehicle can limit your ability to get good care. Even if you have found a successful treatment, getting to appointments and picking up medicines can be nearly impossible without transportation.

Access to accurate information

You all know how difficult it is to find accurate information about migraine. Wading through the web of charlatans, snake oil, fraud, and outright lies can leave patients so confused that they give up trying to find the truth. Not knowing the truth about migraine treatment can sidetrack patients, getting them so lost that the never find the resources that can actually help.

Health Insurance

Migraine treatments are expensive. Neurologists often charge $200 or more for an office visit. Botox can cost up to $8,000 per treatment. Triptans can run you $20 or more PER PILL! Emergency room visits will hit you with a $2,000 bill the minute you walk in the door. Don’t even get me started on the cost of an inpatient hospital stay. If you can’t afford health insurance, the costs become astronomical.

Access to qualified health care

Even if you do have excellent health insurance, there are still barriers to good migraine treatment. First there is all the insurance “red tape” that slows your access to needed treatments. Once you get through all of that, you might still find yourself without access to experts who can really help because you happen to live in an area with few headache specialists. Now you face a difficult choice. You can choose to live with sub-standard care or dip into your limited financial resources to travel away from home to see a specialist.

Access to CAM

Sometimes the recommended treatments are not covered by health insurance. Assuming they are even affordable, these treatments are not always readily available in every community. You may even face opposition from your support system who do not understand why such treatments are needed.

Access to wholesome foods

This isn’t just about the ability to pay for groceries. Sometimes the very illness that could benefit from better nutrition keeps us from getting it. The nausea and vomiting can turn off our appetites. The exhaustion, photophobia, and inability to move without pain can keep us from preparing wholesome meals even if our kitchen is well-stocked. Those who live alone are particularly vulnerable.

Can you think of any other aspects of privilege that affect the success of migraine treatment?
How have you been able to overcome some of these barriers?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • penina
    3 years ago

    Those are good points Tammy, but I think there are some important aspects of privilege that you missed, people who are members of stigmatized groups may not be listened to by doctors though can sometimes access them; but people with mental illness, people who are (or are perceived to be) members of some ethnic minority groups, people who are visibly poor, people who are uneducated are frequently not believed and not treated well by doctors, often they’re treated as “drug seekers”. This makes access to care even more difficult.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Thank you for adding to the list. You are correct that minorities and patients with mental illness are more frequently seen as drug seekers and not believed. I used to work with adults in a mental health center. I was surprised when I learned that a patient had migraine and wasn’t being treated properly. They only got the right treatment when a “sane” white girl vouched for them. Very frustrating.

  • RobertCan
    3 years ago

    “Privilege” buys access to the myriad of tools required to live with migraine. In my experience, there is no silver bullet, no magic pill that will cure us. We learn to manage triggers and symptoms and that require many different tools, some of which are not covered by insurance. Cannabis and Cefaly are two that come to mind. Both play a role in my pain management. Neither is covered by insurance. I’m “privileged” because I can afford these out-of-pocket expenses but recently suspended all other medical procedures (Botox, nerve ablations, etc) as the continual drain on my financial resources has forced me to make very real, hard choices about which tools I can afford to have in my migraine toolkit. Add a recent cancer diagnosis to the equation and it’s clear that “privilege” buys access!

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    It’s a constant trade-off, isn’t it? Strangely enough, one of my privileges is that I have access to information and professionals that the average patient will never see. Trying my best to share that privilege, though.

  • Douglas
    3 years ago

    Sometimes the privilege isn’t just the items mentioned. In my case it was a doctor that knew to call a friend, a neurosurgeon, to see me; the neurosurgeon sent me to a migraine specialist who was able to diagnose and treat me. The insurance, support network, and a supportive employer have made the last several years easier. BUT the privilege of having access to the network of physicians from the inside has been tremendous. The initial doctor texted the neurosurgeon while I was on the phone with scheduling being told that the first available appointment was in two weeks, I was then informed that I had an 8:00 am appointment the next day.
    A similar series took place when my neurosurgeon sent me to my neurologist.

    So I have been very, very blessed with my care.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Excellent point! Doctors with contacts are definitely a privilege.

  • BethBlue
    3 years ago

    I believe that the loss of self-esteem is a part of privilege that many of us have experienced. Having access to any support at all — therapeutic, especially — would be so helpful. In my case, I haven’t been able to work for almost ten years. My husband’s medical insurance has been my lifeline. Unfortunately, he’s all too aware of that, and I often feel like an indentured servant. I was once a professional with two fulfilling careers, and now I’m made to feel like I should account for every move I make. I feel so trapped and the depression sometimes seems like it’s engulfing my entire being. There must be a place for people like us to go to remind us that there is hope for better days.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    I hear you! Questioning our worth, feeling like a burden, and the ultimate depression that follows is all too common for us, isn’t it? Please know that you can always come here for support and encouragement from our team and other readers. Reach out anytime.

  • Poll