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8 Reasons Not to Ignore Episodic Migraine

8 Reasons Not to Ignore Episodic Migraine

People with episodic migraine receiving inadequate treatment are three times more likely to progress to having chronic migraine than those who have an effective treatment, according to the American Headache Society.1

Please, please, please, if you have migraine attacks that aren’t quickly and effectively treated by an over-the-counter medication, see a doctor. Not only can effective treatment prevent episodic migraine from becoming chronic, they can make the migraine attacks you currently have much less debilitating.

Here are eight common reasons people cite for not seeing a doctor about migraine… and my responses to them.

  1. A ‘headache’ isn’t a reason to go to the doctor.
  2. Yes, it is and, more importantly, migraine is not a headache, but a neurological disorder. If it goes untreated, there’s a risk of episodic migraine attacks becoming chronic.

  3. My doctor dismissed me when I mentioned my migraines.
  4. Make an appointment specifically for migraine. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan takes more time than can be tacked onto an appointment for other issues. If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, find one who will.

  5. I’ve taken over-the-counter medications and they didn’t work.
  6. Prescription migraine abortives are entirely different than over-the-counter painkillers. As long as you don’t have other medical issues that would prevent their use, a class of drug called triptans is an excellent migraine abortive medication for many people. Imitrex (generic: sumatriptan) is the first one you’re likely to be prescribed, but there are six others, two more of which are available as generics. If you can’t take triptans, other options include Migranal, DHE, Midrin, and Fioricet.

    A daily preventive medication to reduce the frequency and/or severity of episodic migraine attacks is another treatment option. This article reviews preventive medications and explains which patients are best suited for preventive therapies.

  7. I don’t want to take opioid painkillers (‘narcotics’).
  8. Perfect! Opioids aren’t recommended for treating migraine. See the previous answer for details on effective migraine abortive medications.

  9. I don’t want to take medication.
  10. Supplements, particularly magnesium, are often effective at preventing migraines. Biofeedback and relaxation techniques can help both prevent and lessen the impact of migraine attacks, as can acupuncture (which uses tiny needles that are almost imperceptible, nothing like the ones you’re used to seeing when you get your blood drawn). Diet modification can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks for some people. So can regular exercise and keeping to a sleep schedule.

  11. My grandma/dad/aunt has migraines and just suffers through them.
  12. That doesn’t mean you have to. There are effective treatments that probably weren’t available when your family members started having their attacks. Maybe if you get effective treatment, your loved ones will discover they don’t have to “tough it out” and will also see a doctor.

  13. I don’t like going to the doctor.
  14. You’ll spend a lot more time at the doctor if your migraine progresses to chronic. And there’s evidence that the more frequent your migraine attacks are, the harder they are to treat. The sooner you find an effective treatment, the better off you’ll be.

  15. I don’t want to deal with it.
  16. Ignoring migraine won’t make it go away. It could even make it worse. If you don’t deal with it now, you’re likely to spend a lot more time dealing with it in the future.

    Knowledge is power, but it’s only useful if you harness that power. If I’d had information like this 25 years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have spent the majority of my 20s and 30s disabled by chronic migraine. You don’t have to, so I beg you to see a doctor and get adequate treatment. Episodic migraine is bad enough; chronic migraine is hell.

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.


  • Califmom1
    2 months ago

    You left out #9, which is that migraines can be deadly. They can become ischemic strokes, they can have effects on our brains if we have too many of them. They NEED to be prevented if possible. I have white matter lesions on my brain because my blood vessels have burst so many times and then healed from migraines. I’m sure many of you have as well. Maybe you know it, maybe you don’t . But not going to the doc doesn’t help. My knowing it may help me in the future as far as a diagnosis, especially if I have any cognitive issues. Here’s some info:

  • tammay
    5 months ago

    I definitely see what you’re saying but I’m one of those who believes that doctors don’t always have the solution. I have always had episodic migraines and since I hit my 40’s, my migraines have been confined only to hormonal times (PMS, minor ones, and the big whammies coming during my TOM). I did go to a doctor last year to try and see what I could do about it and the doctor gave me Trokendi which I did not take, as reading on the side effects scared me off, not to mention hearing from other migraineurs who had taken it about how it works, it seemed like it was the wrong thing to give me (his theory was that I should take it a day or two before my TOM and that “might” prevent the migraines from coming). Now I am trying to reduce the hormonal migraines through diet, exercise, supplements, and stress reduction. It’s definitely reduced the frequency and duration of the migraines. I’m well aware that hormonal migraines are very, very difficult to get rid of and about the best I can hope for is reduction of severity so that I can function during those days when I have migraines. I accept that.


  • AngelBunni
    5 months ago

    This would be nice if it worked for everyone. I had episodic migraines from the time I was 16 until 2012 when it became a singular migraine that never goes away. I have seen countless doctors, had counless scans, blood work, supplements, alternative medicines, preventive meds, rescue meds, ER visits. I have taken headache classes, seen headache specialists, etc. I have gotten to the point where I do not take pain meds unless my pain level is a 6 or higher, and just deal as best I can the rest of the time. My current meds seem to be keeping me out of the ER at least. I have medical PTSD and needle phobia at this point because of all the failed options and a childhood traums related to injections.

  • peeperview
    6 years ago

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that my migraines have become chronic. I’m so grateful I found this website to find support and new info!

  • peeperview
    6 years ago

    Poundinghead, I’m just now learning about the possible magnesium connection to migraines. How much do you take? Did you have to gradually increase the dosage over time or just start at a high dose? Did u experience any of the negative side effects at the beginning? I’m particularly concerned about stomach issues. Thank you for the info!

  • labwhisperer
    6 years ago

    About 6 months ago, I started taking 250mg of Magnesium daily to prevent my migraines. I was getting almost 2 migraines a week.
    I have also tried inderal and topamax, both had to be stopped due to side effects and no effect on my migraines.
    For the past 2 months I am taking Magnesium 500mg a day and amitriptyline 30mg at bedtime. I am only having 1 migraine every 2 weeks and much less pain which doesn’t last as long.
    I have had no side effects from the magnesium or amitriptyline (other than better sleep).
    If you use Slow-mag, start with 1 tablet a day and work up to 2 tabs a day if you have no side effects.
    Good luck!

  • Luna
    6 years ago

    My opinion- I personally do not think that all the best care in the world will keep episodic from becoming chronic if that is what my brain is going to do. Unless one finds triggers/lifestyle that one CAN avoid migraines change for better or worse. Drugs don’t cure migraines. They mask or relieve the symptoms.

  • poundinghead
    6 years ago

    I tried many drugs and treatments over the years to reduce migraine. Taking magnesium and sticking to a regular schedule for sleeping and exercise has helped me reduce my migraine frequency from chronic to episodic. It is tricky when I travel to places that have different time zones because sleep doesn’t happen easily. I would appreciate suggestions because sleep deprivation is a major trigger for me.

  • Editorial Team moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi Poundinghead,

    We’re happy to hear magnesium and sticking to a regular sleep & exercise schedule has help reduce your migraine frequency. Here are some helpful blogs that may help with your sleep when traveling into different time zones:

    We hope these blogs help.

    -Migraine Team

  • lara
    6 years ago

    I suffered chronic migraine through the 90s or actually ‘developed’ it in the 90s when it was supposedly a myth. I dealt with all sorts of accusations and misunderstandings. If someone had understood it better back then, it’s possible I would have had better treatment. Instead I was diagnosed as drugseeking by numerous medical personnel.

  • Miryenne
    6 years ago

    Larissa, I know exactly that feeling. I can’t help but wonder how my migraines would be today had I gotten the correct treatment when it was needed, and how many times Ive had inadequate treatment through the years due to doctors who just think I want something else…Even today, it is often me educating the new docs on how painkillers won’t work on migraines, and that pain meds are NOT the reason I came to them. I too deal with not only chronic, but chronic cluster migraines now. I didn’t even want meds for them at the time – I just wanted to know what was happening to me – and what I could do about it.
    It’s sad that it’s 20 years later, and most of the comments I see on these pages still have everyone battling to make doctors/healthcare/friends/family/work etc understand what migraines are, and how debilitating they are to not only the person experiencing them, but to everyone involved with that person as well. I love this site as we can finally get our stories out in a collective environment – and maybe, this time, people will listen.

  • lisacooper
    6 years ago

    Our pediatrician referred us to a pediatric neurologist within three weeks of my then 11-year-old suddenly developing near daily headaches or migraines. In his case we were unable to prevent him from becoming chronic, but when his older brother started having more frequent migraines getting him on a preventive probably saved him from becoming chronic. (We did of course address lifestyle and possible triggers before medicating)

  • Cindi
    6 years ago

    Good stuff Kerrie! Mine went chronic after a series of life issues hit me all at once: a divorce I never saw coming, empty nesting that hurt my poor mommy heart, and the death of my mother who lived with me. So sometimes, even when under good care, poop happens. I had hoped that once I emotionally was able to come to a place where I was dealing with all this well (finally, I can say that!) the migraine monster would return to episodic. Not. So I continue to stay under good care and fight the fight from day to day. Thank goodness I had good care to begin with. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now without it.

  • Diana-Lee
    6 years ago

    Great piece, Kerrie! I love the way you addressed this topic by taking on the common reasons people avoid seeking good care.

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