Everybody is an expert

Everybody is an expert

Have you ever noticed that everyone else has all the answers to “get rid” of your migraines? This is true even if you have a great headache specialist. You might even be receiving treatment from one of the country’s leading headache experts, yet your mother-in-law, best friend, boss, next-door neighbor, and the cashier at the grocery store have got it all figured out. Some of their suggestions are terribly outdated. Sometimes they hear about a treatment on a daytime talk show and can’t resist the urge to share. Some of their tips are so ridiculous, you just have to laugh. Then there are those friends who insist you should stop all your medications, fire your doctor, and use only “natural” medicine. Everyone has a different definition of “natural” from taking vitamins to getting a massage, or even smoking marijuana.

Three times in recent months I’ve encountered complete strangers who felt compelled to offer their sage advice about my migraine diagnosis. In each situation, the self-appointed expert was actually hired to offer services completely unrelated to health care. Each experience highlights some of the common myths we all encounter.

The concerned real estate agent

She mistakenly believed that increased stress would trigger more migraine attacks. She also thought that migraine was “just a bad headache.” Fortunately, she was open-minded enough to be educated. I accepted her experience in real estate and she accepted mine as a patient advocate. Her concern was genuine. When I explained that I had learned to minimize the triggering behaviors often associated with stress-induced migraine attacks, she listened carefully. She was intelligent enough to understand that acquiring stress management skills could protect a migraineur from ever getting an attack due to stress. Instead of arguing with me, she supported my efforts to stay hydrated, eat regular nutritious meals, and maintain a healthy sleep routine. Score one for migraine education!

The overzealous mover

The moving service was professional and efficient. Three men moved our entire house in a single day while my husband was still at work. It was the smoothest, stress-free move I have ever experienced. However, the boss needed to stick to what he does best. When he discovered that I was disabled, primarily due to migraine, he was full of advice. I needed to see a chiropractor, take supplements, and eat a raw food diet. Despite my references to scientific discoveries that migraine is a genetic, neurological condition, he remained convinced that migraine was simply a result of poor nutrition. I politely thanked him for his concern and assured him that my doctors (which includes a naturopath and acupuncturist) and I had the situation well under control.

The faith-healing sales associate

This last one is one I find remarkably ironic. The process of special ordering furniture for two rooms in our new house took a few hours. So naturally, we struck up a conversation with the personable young sales associate. I can generally recognize people who share my faith pretty easily. This young man was no exception. So, when he offered to pray for my health, I graciously accepted. Despite his family’s devout belief in the power of prayer to heal sickness, he told me that his own mother suffered from migraine and was taking handfuls of ibuprofen daily. During the prayer, I silently prayed for his mother. At the conclusion, I offered him my business card and encouraged him to have his mother contact me.

It’s not as if we’re not open to alternatives.

If you combined all of the treatments tried, failed, or currently used by all our readers, you will probably find a wide variety of treatments in many different modalities. Nothing works for everyone, so we all try a lot of treatments before we find something that works. When we get desperate (and we all do at least once) we start grasping at straws. Even the most ridiculous treatment starts sounding viable. We will spend our life’s savings for just a few days of relief!

What frustrates many of us is that complete strangers make the assumption that we haven’t “tried it all.” These are generally people who know little to nothing about headache medicine. Their helpful advice is often based on rumors and sensational journalism. Whether we thank them for the tip, say we’ll look into it, or politely decline their offer doesn’t seem to matter. It’s as though people expect us to jump at any potential treatment without weighing the risks.

There are worse things than a migraine attack.

Some of the potential side effects are far worse than living with migraine. Solving one problem by creating another isn’t an appealing option. We all take plenty of risks in an effort to get relief. At some point, each of us must decide where to draw the line. We are entitled to weigh the risks and benefits of any treatment, and to pass on any one of them. The last thing we need are complete strangers interfering with our carefully crafted treatment plans.

So what kind of “experts” have you encountered? How do you respond when they offer their advice?


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

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