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Migraine is Not “JUST” a Headache

Migraine is Not “JUST” a Headache

The biggest battle the migraine community seems to face is the gross number of individuals who believe a migraine is “just a bad headache.” The general population has very little understanding of the magnitude of this illness. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, “every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks.”1. This foundation is a tremendous source for information and statistics regarding migraine and the effects of migraine on sufferers and their families.


The stigma associated with migraine, especially chronic migraine, is such that most sufferers simply withdraw from society altogether. Others feel like people with migraine withdraw from their communities, their families, their close friends and often their spouses. The common ideologies are the people complaining of migraine symptoms are simply complainers, hypochondriacs, or worse yet, weak or lazy. I obviously cannot speak for every individual that suffers with chronic migraine, but I put everything on the line to work through each and every day, WITH my severe pain. I work, maintain my household and do everything else that people without migraines do. Despite all of this, I am still judged if I attempt to go to an emergency room to attempt to break a truly severe migraine. I have had emergency rooms demand a spinal tap to check for meningitis, which is by no means a pleasant and risk free process. I have had doctors flat refuse to do anything at all because they feel as though it is not possible that I am in as much pain as I claim. I have also been told that I am simply drug seeking, when we are asking for a shot of toradol to help break the cycle. Due to this treatment, I primarily stay home and suffer through it on my own.

According to the 2016 Migraine In America Survey, 67% of respondents said that they feel as though others do not understand that their migraine is not just a headache, 64% of respondents said they find themselves constantly worrying about disappointing people, 46% of respondents said they are embarrassed about having migraines, and 41% of respondents said they try to hide their migraine from others.


The costs associated with migraine come in several forms from the actual monetary costs, to relationships, social, and economic costs. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, “Healthcare costs are 70% higher for a family with a migraine sufferer than a non-migraine affected family. American employers lose $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to migraine.”1. A large number of people with migraine do not seek medical help for their illness due to the stigma associated with migraine. Those that do seek medical assistance are faced with the costs of missing work for appointments plus the high cost of most medications and treatment procedures.

According to the 2016 Migraine in America Survey, 93% of respondents said their migraine affects their ability to work, 89% of respondents said their migraine affects their relationship with their partner or significant other, 87% of respondents said their migraine affects their ability to attend school or college, and 86% of respondents said their migraine affects their relationship with their children. There are many families where the person with migraine is unable to work so they lose that individual’s possible income as well. Due to their migraine, one out of four individuals found it necessary to stop working, to take medical leave, or decrease the number of hours they work.

Severe underfunding

Despite the prevalence of the serious effects of migraines on individuals, their families and the economy, there is very little funding for research for migraine. Back in 2015, the National Institutes of Health spent about $.50 cents per person with migraine for migraine research1. It’s almost as if there is such a disbelief in the severity of this illness, that no one is willing to commit any serious resources to address the issues; this unfortunately speaks volumes about the medical and pharmaceutical industry.

Closing thoughts

This just shows how important it is for us to continue to be advocates for ourselves and for other. It is so important that we continue to work to find a way to convince the medical community to take this illness much more seriously than they do now. We need medical professionals who have the desire to broaden the spectrum of treatment options. An increase in funding would allow medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies to focus on the necessary research to improve or increase the treatment options currently available in order to acquire the much needed resolution to the current situation.

Have you been faced with the stigma associated with chronic migraine? Do you feel the impact of the cost of chronic migraine? Do you believe an increase in funding could help fix some of these issues?

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.

  1. Migraine Research Foundation. (n.d. ). About Migraine. Retrieved on May 8, 2017 from


  • deedeevee1
    11 months ago

    I am in awe of the fact that you still work and are able to take care of a busy family. I was able to work for the first three years of the constant head pain and other symptoms. But after that my employer had had enough. Now I’m barely surviving on my disability. Really tho kudos to you!!

  • skipper
    1 year ago

    So true. The problem with migraine disease is that those who suffer and understand how bad it can be, rarely make it through med school. We’re not represented. And those blessed few who do, are doing everything they can. Here’s a toast to you docs out there who live with migraines! Thank you, every one of you.

  • SPupp
    1 year ago

    It is true that people do not seem to understand that
    a migraine is not just a headache. Likewise, many people with an occasional migraine do not seem to understand that chronic migraine is a different beast altogether, one that does not respond as well to treatment.

  • Ellifane
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this. Just the other day, a manager said something about working through a headache if possible. I’m pretty sure she was talking about me because I had to go home a few days prior because I couldn’t work through that migraine. She has no idea how many I push through because I have so many migraine days. I don’t have anyone to lean on so I really can’t rest like my body needs. I do wish there was more research but I am sure glad I found this site with people like all of you. My migraines aren’t a headache….I wish they were. I had a headache about a month ago and I realized it didn’t even hurt, probably because my pain tolerance has built up so much. I also agree with you Luna, I really want to know WHY this is happening to me. We can medicate so much to ease the symptoms but I want a cure. Even if there isn’t a cure…I want to know why.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    “Migraine is Not “JUST” a Headache”

    Absolutely not! It is a whole body experience.

    “Do you believe an increase in funding could help fix some of these issues?”

    Stigma. Education in many forms could help and that takes not just money but also the news media’s help. There will still be the doubters that think we are just faking.

    To me what really needs more money is research. Not just for another expensive drug but to truly understand the components of what is dysfunctioning and why. There is so much that isn’t known.

    A long time friend told me not long ago that they saw an excedrin commercial showing a migraine simulation and it really helped them understand better the craziness migrainers go through. I appreciate excedrin having that educational tool out there. And talking about stigma. I feel it more from other migrainers because I use a generic excedrin. (I tried all those rx drugs for years.) It has all been said on this site. “If they can take an excedrin or OTC they don’t have a real migraine.” Really! Wish my neurological brain dysfunction knew that! Peace.

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