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The unsolicited advice we migraineurs get

Have you tried…?

My cousin had migraines forever and then stopped eating _____ and she’s fine now. Can you do that

What if you try such-and-such medication?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a migraineur out there who hasn’t been hit with an onslaught of heartfelt but unsolicited (and often unneeded) advice the moment he/she mentions migraine to anyone.  Now that Facebook and other social media are a part of our everyday lives, the chances for being inundated with all sorts of health tips have skyrocketed.

I’ve talked with migraine patients whose reactions really run the gamut.  Some folks don’t mind the advice at all—they even get some new treatment ideas from others’ input.  Other migraineurs are irate when Joe Schmo starts to explain so-called “cures” for migraine.  Many of us try to remain polite while wanting to scream, “Do you actually think I haven’t tried that yet?”  Any one migraineur’s reactions can vary dramatically depending on how well he/she is feeling that day and/or what his/her level of stress is.

It is, of course, important to remember that the vast majority of commenters are coming from a loving, positive place. They really want you to feel better and so offer any tidbits of wisdom, however misguided, they can come up with.  (There is a very small but very outspoken minority of people in the online world who are bitter and angry and may not be coming from this positive place, but let’s just agree that those folks can be ignored, as engaging with them isn’t usually very productive.)

In my experience, there are a few different categories of advice-givers.  There are the people who have never had a migraine (and who don’t have a close friend or family member with the disease), and they can’t begin to understand what it’s like to live day to day with migraine.  There are the folks who used to have migraines all the time but had an amazing breakthrough with a particular type of treatment and want to share their success with others.  Of course we must also acknowledge those who—whether or not they are close to someone with migraine disease—act as if migraine attacks are just bad headaches. We vent about that last type a lot on here.

But back to the topic at hand:  how do you deal with people who dish out advice you never asked for?  What types of advice are most helpful, and what types are most annoying to you? Have you stopped sharing how you feel for fear of others’ reactions (good or bad)? 

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.


  • Greyson Stoehr
    4 years ago

    I know I am late in responding and replying, but currently in the ‘bruised migraine hangover’ stage and have been fuming about the friend who told me last night that maybe I needed to take a belt and strap it across my head, supposedly to ‘equalize’ the air pressure and the pressure in my head. I am astounded at how STUPID some people can be…or that they think someone who has regular migraines hasn’t already tried practically EVERYTHING and would LOVE to kill the migraines dead, if we only COULD!

  • Susan L
    5 years ago

    This is such an important topic to me because I have SOOOOO had it with people giving me advice. I am in a terrible phase of my disease – chronic daily migraines, and I’m working with my neurologist and pain management doc and my psychiatrist to get preventives and abortive meds plus Botox in the proper dosages – with the expected difficulties of someone with chronic daily migraines. When I am lucky enough to get out of the house and do some of the activities that I adore, people want to know where I’ve been, and I’m trying to ignore the details of answering that honestly by saying I’ve had some health issues. Since I’ve had a number of arthritis surgeries in the past 4 years, they ask if that’s the issue. So I end up either saying “no” providing no details, and seeming rude, or admitting that it’s chronic migraine. OMG, that opens Pandora’s Box of Everyone’s Cures flying at me. I’m 70, and I go to my favorite bead store because I’m an avid jewelry beader, and all I want is to love my more-than-a-hobby for a day, not field the multitudes of other women my age beading that day and their friends/daughters/mothers advice about my life-long struggle, as all of you are talking about here. Every snake-oil, alternative, diet or other well-meaning cure – even real medically good cures that I’ve been on – I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT MY MIGRAINES. I’ll even say that in the most sweet-honey-drippy voice I can conjure up to get them to drop the subject doesn’t work. Now, I’m a really with-it 70 year old. I’m poised and gracious and kind, educated, no bull-shit woman. But I’ve really had it with this crap. I find myself avoiding my bead store just to avoid this… Do any of you have a suggestion of what to say that will shut these women up so I can NOT get a migraine from the knot of anger in my stomach and my head screaming “Don’t you realize that when I just said I’ve struggled with this since age 15 I’ve likely tried every single trick and treatment you could possibly come up with? Plus, I just told you I didn’t want to spend a second of this ‘good’ day talking about my migraines?” Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

  • Piglet
    5 years ago

    Like everyone with migraine, I have been “prescribed” all sorts of “cures” from providers, well meaning friends, and know-it-alls. Most unsolicited. I have actually tried a fair number too. The latest is the gluten ban. No, I do not have celiac disorder or ANY allergies (but I do have sensitivities and MSG is my kryptonite). But because so many people insisted, I am trying it for one month. And that’s it. So I can say I’ve done it. The two funniest “for sure cures” from my husband’s know-it-all friends are “grounding” and “a week hiking in Colorado.” Because no one who goes barefoot on the beach or lives in Colorado gets migraines, right?

  • BayouTigress
    5 years ago

    As far as I know, everyone who has ever offered me advice has done so with the best of intentions, wanting me to feel better. So I try very hard to listen to their ideas and let them know what has and has not worked for me. Most times it is very clear they are worried about me. Keeping their worry in mind has allowed me to have patience that I am not necessarily know for having in other situations. A couple of friends are always on the look out for new or soon to be released treatments. Many of you have been living with migraines much loner than I have and I am sure that the longer we suffer, the harder it is to hear the same remedies being brought up over and over again.

  • GinaD
    5 years ago

    It’s frustrating when people give unsolicited advice, especially since chances are very good that I’ve already heard of or tried the treatment they suggest. But I try to be nice about it. Usually it’s because they care and are trying to help. If it gets out of control I rattle off the list of treatments I’ve tried, year in and year out, and that usually stuns them into silence. What really gets under my skin is when people pass judgment on the number of medications I take – they say “you should try to do things naturally” or “you shouldn’t put all those chemicals into your system.” As if I haven’t tried to do things differently, or sought alternatives, and continue to do so. It’s a constant balancing act, trying to find relief from pain and have a good quality of life, without being on too many meds that make you feel bad in other ways. People don’t get that. And they certainly don’t get that certainly get that there isn’t a magic cure for chronic migraine, that – at best – all we can do is manage it and lessen its impact on our daily lives.

  • Luna
    5 years ago

    The question I didn’t like was from a relative. “What caused this one?” “There has to be an answer.” But once I found and read “Migraine, the Scientific Story” and shared that information those questions stopped.
    I really don’t get much advice but then I don’t go out in public much more than shopping and church. The few people who have made suggestions were truly only trying to help. Am fortunate to have understanding relatives and friends. I live near a small town and the people I come in contact with seem to be quite understanding about migraines.

  • zippy36
    5 years ago

    I am fond of the advice for natural remedies…not! People just don’t realize that natural remedies still affect you just like medicine can with interactions and side effects. Please do not get me wrong: I am not knocking natural medicine! I am just saying that just because it is natural does not mean that anyone can take it and that it will work for everyone!

  • Heather Benton
    5 years ago

    After all these years (over 30 years) I admit I find it extremely frustrating when people I give me advice. Especially those that have never had a migraine!!
    I am very well aware of foods as triggers, other triggers, and those that think it’s stress, I need more exercise, and my all time favorite ~~ from family members who still don’t understand! ‘YOU ALWAYS HAVE A HEADACHE, THEY MUST BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING’ I avoid getting into to many details, however it is hard to do as I have not worked in 8 years, and they control my life. So most time I can’t commit to anything.. I go with I will if I can but can’t commit.

  • BethBlue
    5 years ago

    Heather: You quoted my mother! And here’s the kicker: SHE’S A RETIRED NURSE. She should KNOW better. But that’s what she says to me, and she remains convinced that there’s some magic bullet out there that will “cure” me. I’ve been out of work for eight years too. I’m on my way to a school reunion this weekend, and I’m actually terrified because I know I’ll get questions and “well-meaning” advice. I don’t want to be defined or remembered as “the one who has migraines.” But I fear that’s exactly what people will take away when the weekend is over.

  • JeanyB
    5 years ago

    I’m with you Heather but I try to be polite and not shout I’VE TRIED THAT ALREADY! I’ve had migraine over 40 years and it’s time it just buzzed off n left me alone now grrrrrr!
    The days of planning anything are long gone. When I wake in the morning I figure out how I feel then go with the flow!

  • migrainestl
    5 years ago

    I don’t mind the “advice” when it’s offered sincerely & succinctly. I try to grin & bear it w/ quick & short “thank you’s” to end the conversation when someone just can’t stop going on about a particular idea. However, I must admit that although the idea for trying a GF diet was always in the back of mind, having several friends ask if I’d tried it yet did push me towards it. I’m not certain if it’s helping yet, but I may not have finally tried if it wasn’t for the frequent “advice.” You can’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it…

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