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Migraine Hacks: A Movie Theatre with Fewer Triggers

Have you ever been in a dark movie theatre when your revery is broken by someone nearby who has taken out a cell phone?  Even if he isn’t using the phone to make a call, the danged light is so bright in an otherwise dark room it’s like a laser to my eyeballs (I even wrote about this phenomenon here).

Already the lights of the screen in front of the theatre are flashy and bright—this is especially true for an action movie. I will never forget the terrible migraine I got after seeing The Hunger Games a couple summers ago—it’s a great movie (and an even better book), but the shaky camera and frequent light changes made for a crappy migraine for me.

And don’t even get me started on the sounds! I swear movies have gotten louder and louder over the years, particularly in multiplexes (smaller theaters seem to have a more realistic take on what kind of volume patrons need).  I always carry earplugs with me to the movie theatre just in case the noise is too loud (previews and commercials are especially bad).

I have daydreamed about a movie theatre where the migraine triggers could be toned down a bit.  Imagine the pleasant surprise I had the day I learned about what our local art house theatre, Athens Ciné, is doing:  Ciné Baby.  According to their website, here’s what “Ciné Baby” is all about:

Ciné presents a new series of special shows designed just for new moms and dads and their babies! With soft lighting, lowered sound, stroller parking, and a changing table right in the screening room, parents and caregivers can enjoy a grown-up movie — not a children’s film — without having to find a babysitter or worry about a fussy little one disturbing other filmgoers.

I bet you other migraineurs out there can read my mind right now.  Soft lighting? Lowered sound? SIGN ME UP!

Very frequently I think about little tweaks I would like to make to places or experiences to make them more migraineur-friendly.  For instance, why in the world does the neurologist’s office have low ceilings with fluorescent lighting when we all know that fluorescent lighting triggers migraine attacks and corresponds with a decrease in productivity? Why do businesses use enough air freshener to make any sane person keel over?  If only someone would hire me to walk around and tell folks how to make their environments more migraineur-friendly!

I probably won’t be going to any Ciné Baby screenings soon (unless I’m with a friend who has a kid), but I sure do love the idea as it relates to parents/caregivers and migraineurs (even if Ciné never intended for other folks to find their idea appealing).

Are there any events or initiatives in your area that were created for one audience (say, families with babies) but that are a really good fit for you as a migraine sufferer? Tell us about them! 

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

  • Stephanie
    5 years ago

    I have had this problem for years, usually wait for the lights to go down and put on my sun glasses to block some of the light. If I there is no way I can watch the movie due to the flashy or going from night to day scenes. I use the sunglasses on 3d movies as well, placing them over the 3d glasses. My eye sensitivity is so bad I use sunglasses to watch tv. Sat next to someone who kept using there cellphone texting during the movie. After the fourth time I had to tell them to stop. The light was so intense despite the sunglasses it triggered a migraine. Has anyone experienced eye pain while reading? I love to read however, after 15 minutes my eyes hurt and I can feel a migraine coming on.

  • MahtaMouse
    5 years ago

    I have gotten migraines when the book pages are a bright white; wish I’d thought of putting on my sunglasses to read. I may try a movie one more time, but with my sunglasses and see if that works/helps.

    My monitor can also trigger a migraine when the page is a bright white, so I keep the open windows 25% smaller than the desktop, which I keep a dark blue.

    I’m also talking to my boyfriend about tinting my car windows since sunglasses and the sun visor just don’t cut it.

  • MahtaMouse
    5 years ago

    And here I thought it was just me. I hate going to the theater because I always end up with a head-blasting, pounding headache bordering on a full blown migraine and could never figure out why. My poor boyfriend keeps asking me to go to a movie with him and I feel horrible and like such a wet blanket for always saying no. I prefer to watch the movie when it comes out on DVD to the head-pounding theater experience. I’ve only seen 3, 3-D movies… the first one with my kids, that came out some years ago that triggered an awful migraine and had me ripping those red and green 3-D glasses off (which by the way, made things worse when I saw the screen!) and then again two more times a few years apart, with my boyfriend, and today’s newer 3-D glasses. They were bad, but not AS bad as those old red & green lenses. During the 2nd 3-D movie I got a bad migraine and just wanted to walk out but stayed put since I didn’t want to be a wet blanket and just closed my eyes and tried to block everything out. The 3rd and final time I was able to tough it out by once again closing my eyes through the “good” parts, the flashing parts, through most of the movie; but afterwards told myself no more. No more 3-D movies, no more regular movies, period. Something about the whole theater experience… the loud noise, the flashing lights, and something I can’t put my finger on… triggers debilitating headaches, while 3-D triggers migraines. The really funny thing is, our drive-in theater (went out of business about 16yrs ago) also triggered bad migraines, even as a little kid. I guess I’m just destined to be a kill joy and will pop my own popcorn and watch DVDs at home.

  • Staceymae
    5 years ago

    I am glad you shared this. I have a similar battle, but it’s in regards to 3D movies. The movie Wolverine, was so tramatic for me, that I have refused to go to any more 3D movies with my family. The camera movements and intense 3D effects, left me with such a bad migraine. In addition, I felt like I was going to have a seizure and experienced vertigo. Movies lately are a risky bet for this girl. I also take my anti-nausea Rx when I go. I plan on purchasing get the Thermo-spec glasses to help with fluorescent lighting. Has anyone else tried them? Do they help?
    Stacey Mae

  • sharon
    5 years ago

    I’ve had migraines as long as I can remember. These comments are spot on! I knew that many, many visual sights caused me to have migraines, but I thought I was just super-sensitive.
    Every time I go to a movie I end up closing my eyes and turning my head. Covering my ears also. I wondered if I was the only person who was non epileptic that the lights disturbed. It’s hard for me to watch a tv in an otherwise dark room.
    Also concerts! Definitely ear plugs and covering my eyes! The sun flashing through tree branches, buildings, etc while in a car is terrible. Especially if you’re already motion sick. Sunglasses alone don’t seem to help. I have to cover my eyes with a dark cloth. Even if I cover my eyes with my hands I can still see the “flashing”.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    I meant to include a link to my post about 3-D movies as a migraine trigger in my article above. Here it is for those of you who happen to be reading the comments!

    http://migraine.com/blog/3-d-movies-and-the-headaches-migraines-they-can-trigger/

    Take care,
    Janet G.
    “The Migraine Girl”

  • merrie
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the link to the 3 d article. I generally avoid those and imax movie as any kind of “over sensory stimulation” in particular with reference to sight, triggers very bad migraines for me. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with a phobia of strobe lighting. I read the article about reflex epilepsy too, it’s interesting how similar the triggers are between migraines and epilepsy. I am sensitive to the point of the flash of the Sun through overhanging branches while travelling in a car can and often does trigger a migraine. Makes me sad how much I cannot do anymore. But I know I am lucky compared to some, so I try not to indulge in my pity party too much;)

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    And thanks for this, also–I’m bookmarking this link to read later when I have more time. Thanks so much for being such an active participant here!

    -Janet G.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    jmflann,

    Thanks so much for the link and for teaching me more about lens flares. I am actually looking for a new TV show to binge on, and Fringe was on the list (granted, it was at the bottom). I’ll probably avoid it for now, though, given Abrams’s flare for flares (pardon my dorky joke!).

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    Jamie:

    Ha! You make a really good point here: “I have only seen a few movies in theaters in the past decade. I don’t find sitting in a room filled with crying babies or little kids very appealing, especially if they will be changing diapers in the theater. ”

    I’m curious about the epilepsy warnings associated with Star Trek. How were these warnings delivered (in the trailer)? How did you know about them? I find this very interesting.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Take care,
    Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • merrie
    5 years ago

    It was the movie Lucy that did me in this time. Too many super fast forward shots with lots of bright flashing lights. Not a movie I would let my epileptic niece watch. Anyway, felt like there should have been a warning posted about it. :/

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    I, too, have often wished there would be a warning system for people whose brains are sensitive to flashing lights, extra-loud noises, etc. I think that I’m going to NOT watch the movie _Lucy_. Thanks for the comment, Merrie! -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • kdenisec
    5 years ago

    I always wear rose tinted glasses in the theater to block the flashing lights. It really helps. I had non prescription reading glasses made with rose lenses. It has made a huge difference. They are comfortable and stylish and I can sit through a movie at a theater or watch a movie at home with them on

  • Shani
    5 years ago

    I always opt out of going to the movies for those reasons plus it’s soooo cold. I tell my family I’ll wait until I can be in my comfy clothes on my couch or bed with my volume control when the movie comes out in 4-6 months. Not exactly what they’re looking for but it’s too much! There’s always the ability to stop it and go back later.
    Nice to know (again) I’m not alone in this quirk.

  • merrie
    5 years ago

    I actually just went to see a movie for my birthday, and got the most horrible migraine. I was sitting in the theater with my hand over my eyes to block the fast flashing lights by the end, and immediately after ended up throwing up in their lovely bathroom. :\ I would have left mid movie, but I was trying to tough it out for my husband and step daughter. Migraine lasted 2 days. Lesson learned. Next time I’ll leave. It would be awesome if there was a theater like that around here. I don’t know how much difference it would make, as even watching on the small screen tends to trigger a migraine for me, but it would be better than current options. I have figured out that it is bright lights combined with movement that triggers the worst migraine for me (ie, car headlights). Wish I could find a preventative that worked.

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