Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
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 Some of their suggestions are terribly outdated.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?

 

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.

Comments

  • Chen
    4 years ago

    My answer is simple. I say migraine is a symptom like having fever. What helps one migraine sufferer will not neccesarily help another. I tell them I tried many different types of treatments and just thank them for the wish to help. Most of them leave it at that.

  • Ruth
    4 years ago

    Oh, and one “friend” told me that if I was still having migraines after all these years, I just haven’t been to the right doctor yet. So, basically, it was my own fault.

    These days I just say, “if you can think of it, I’ve already tried it!” And “After suffering every day for 15 years, do you really think I haven’t tried anything?”

    My boss, before I went on disability, a man who had never had a migraine, simply said “You should see a doctor about that…” I could have told him I had already seen every specialist in town, but I had a strong feeling it wouldn’t have made any difference.

  • Ruth
    4 years ago

    After several years of exhaustive efforts to stop daily migraines, my “best friend” said it was obvious to her that I should just have a hysterectomy and she could not understand why I didn’t do it. Despite the fact that the hospital is not a drive thru where you simply pull in and place your order for whatever you think you might need, and the fact that although it was clear to me and all my doctors that my migraines were caused by a hormonal imbalance, all of my female organs were perfectly healthy (and still are 15 years later), and the fact that having a hysterectomy tends to wreak havoc with those same hormones and actually cause migraines, she AND her husband both knew better. It was clear to them I neurotic since I obviously preferred to keep the migraines because I didn’t go and get a hysterectomy. Neither of them had ever had one and I doubt they believed I actually had them. I believe she considered me a toxic person. We eventually parted ways.

  • Amy
    4 years ago

    The one I love lately, is that people ask why I don’t soak my feet in water. Really? Like the FB cure all is gonna do anything for my neurological condition. I wish just soaking my feet in water would work, I know I enjoy cool towl on my eyes during my migraine, but that still doesn’t fix it. Depending on the cause there are a lot of things that help, but nothing has ever totally cured them.

  • MsPiggyknows
    4 years ago

    The one I love is the question when I had a headache “well, did you take your medicine this morning?” Why, no I forgot to take the pills that keep me out of the ER barfing on a regular basis. My husband used to ask me that same question every time I had a headache which was at least 5 times a week for 15 years. I am currently doing much better after having the Omega Procedure! I have a friend whose Dr told her she frowned too much and that caused her migraines. He was supposedly a Board Certified Neurologist!! I go to church with a woman who would ask me why I could not just go home and take some Advil or something. I have been told to drink 4 oz of red wine at night, to sleep with my head pointing West, to quit eating before 7 pm and not start again till 7 am, to stop all caffeine and sugar, not to eat anything white, to try inversion therapy-hanging upside down to open up my arteries and increase the oxygenation to my starved brain which caused the pain.(that one was really whacko!!) The all fruit diet-eat nothing but fruit when you feel a headache coming. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The electrolytes can help stop a migraine especially with peanut butter and water. It also helps recovery. Oh and I love to hear about how I will outgrow them after menopause-I completed it 3 years ago and when were they supposed to magically evaporate? I tell people migraine headaches are like belly buttons they all share things in common but that doesn’t make them the same just like the sufferers, so there can never be a one size fits all treatment. That is like coming up with a one size fits all shirt-it ain’t gonna happen!! Too many variations on a theme. Too many exceptions to the rule.

  • carolroot
    4 years ago

    Everyone I know is always on the look out for migraine cures. After almost 60 years of migraine headache attacks the last20 plus years have been chronic friends act like I know nothing giving me constant “miracle” advice very frustrating. Oh well I guess they mean well. I just wish everyone could experience just one bad migraine. Perhaps all these friends woul begin to understand the incredible suffering we migraine people endure all the time

  • Therese
    4 years ago

    BTW Tammy, can you give me any advice or tips for applying for disability?

  • Therese
    4 years ago

    I’ve been suffering from migraine disease for 26 years. Some months I can have as many as 24 migraine days. You name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve even had full mouth reconstruction, because I was told my bite could be cause the migraines. $40,000 later, I still have chronic migraines. I used to be an executive, and now I haven’t been able to work for the last 3 years. The craziest advice I’ve gotten from a doctor was to have sex. He told me the orgasm would get rid of my “headache”. Being that I had been vomiting every 10 minutes for 6 hours, I’d say that option was off the table!

  • Holly H.
    4 years ago

    Migraine is as similar to a headache as a destroyer is to a fishing boat. It is a neurological disorder and its effects are systemic, pervasive, and debilitating. And we get informed that trying a something-or-other will make All The Difference. What we with migraine have to do (or not do) may seem absurd to those without migraine; but to us, it’s just called “getting through today.”
    Oh, yeah, and about desperate measures suggested by an expert to see if it provides any bit of relief? Tried this ridiculous suggestion on a bad day on Monday: in a tall glass of water squeezed a lemon and then put in ½ tsp Himalayan salt. Wonder if that expert had tried this cure himself? My throat down to my stomach was still raw into the next day. While this “cure” didn’t touch the migraine, it sure made for some distraction, though.

  • Anne
    4 years ago

    The Neurologist who is convinced he is right. I went to a neurologist who thought that stress was the only trigger for migraines – in fact, he wrote a book on it. My migraines are rarely triggered by stress – they’re usually hormonal, diet or weather related. He would not believe me and made me do his yoga therapy and homeopathy before he would finally give me botox. When none of that seemed to work, he suggested that I get married and start a family. I asked him if he would suggest that to a man and he said probably. Thankfully, I’m on to a new neurologist who is listening.

  • Poll