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Gifting a Migraine: Virtual Reality Teaches Understanding

I wrote an article before about gifting a migraine or few individuals who seem unable to grasp what dealing with a migraine is like for someone who does have them. This seems to be something that others are either behind completely or most definitely against. As I stated in that article, I was not talking about giving somebody chronic migraine, simply an attack or two so they could be more understanding. Here I am looking at how some companies such as Excedrin are using virtual reality headsets to give family members, friends, or significant others a chance to experience some of the symptoms of the condition.

The migraine experience

This is done in the Migraine Experience created by the pharmaceutical company Excedrin. Their motto for the virtual reality experience is “Harnessing the power of augmented reality to bring true empathy to migraine sufferers. Because migraines are personal. Understanding starts here.” They used virtual reality headsets to show friends, family members, and coworkers of individuals with migraine exactly what type of symptoms come with that individual’s migraines with virtual reality headset and asked them to manage a normal day while dealing with these symptoms.

The effects that lead to empathy

The Migraine Experience program had an enormous effect on the volunteers that went through the virtual reality experience. According to the Excedrin website,

“Thanks to the power of the technology, the non-sufferers were able to see what the migraine sufferer actually goes through — leading to some amazing moments. Across the board, non-sufferers reacted with feelings of shock and surprise (“I can’t believe you function like that!”), quickly turning to true empathy (“I’m so sorry you go through this.” “I’ll never doubt you again.”)”

The videos of some of the individuals can be seen on Excedrin’s website.

This level of understanding from those without migraine would have such a tremendous effect on the lives of individuals with chronic migraine. It is extremely hard when you are surrounded by individuals who do not take your pain and struggles seriously. This is exactly why I wrote the original article on gifting a migraine. While I would never want somebody to experience living with the chronic pain and fear of the unknown that most individuals with chronic migraine do, it would most definitely be nice if those around us understood when we state how badly we feel. I cannot tell you how grateful I would be to not have another family member tell me I simply need to ‘push through’ my migraine. Personally there is nothing more frustrating in the world than to have somebody that is supposed to love me say this phrase to me because I ‘push through’ my pain in order to work a 50 hour week, maintain my household, and handle my other responsibilities. I am pretty sure the level of pain that I operate with on a daily level would be enough to send them to the hospital. Due to this, my thoughts on gifting a migraine stem from the extreme need of the migraine community to have a better support system and for others without migraine to have a better understanding of what we face.

Where the migraine experience lacks

In this virtual reality version of a migraine, there are a few places where it misses the full effect of a migraine. Since this virtual reality headset is only to provide the volunteer with the visual symptoms of a migraine, the volunteer is missing some of the extreme symptoms associated with migraine. Obviously this simulation does not give the volunteer the intense pain or nausea that we have to manage. I also think the energy drain that is experienced after a long day of pain would be missing for this simulation as well. But overall, it is still a step in the right direction. I believe the process of augmented reality can be used to lay a foundation for loved ones to at least begin to understand the true effects of a migraine. We need all the support we can get within the community.

Do you like the idea of using technology such as virtual reality glasses to try to make others understand what you go through? Have you found any other ways to make people understand what you deal with when they are skeptical?

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.

Excedrin. (2016). The Migraine Experience. Retrieved May 7, 2017 from


  • Ronan
    1 year ago

    I don’t know. I am a wheelchair user. I know what happens after one of those workshops use a wheelchair for a few hours. It’s the patronizing, poor thing, type of comments. How do you do it? But when you live with it, it different.

    I deal with migraines too. This is different. I don’t find using wheels debilitating. Just a mode of transportation for me. But even having the mildest of migraines can be debilitating. I’m not stronger for it or more courageous. In fact, I have an extremely high pain tolerance. Once a slight migraine is gone I am amazed at how bad it was. The other end of the spectum, a 10 migraine is disgusting.

    I don’t know if any virtual reality thing could give someone who doesn’t suffer them can give the actual experience.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    1 year ago

    This type of virtual reality definitely cannot give the full experience of a migraine to someone who does not have them. Unfortunately I do not think any condition has found a way to fully do that. But this is a start into being able to show somebody who is clueless some of what we go through. It’s not the full experience but it’s a start.
    Sometimes I think people say things like how do you do it etc because they just do not know what else to say.
    Amanda Workman

  • Luna
    1 year ago

    I didn’t know about the Exedrin virtual reality videos until an acquaintance of mine mentioned it. They were very pleased to see something that shows some of what a migraine attack is like. It certainly gave them a better idea of how debilitating it is. People won’t realize that migraine isn’t just a bad headache if they are not educated to all the rest of the conditions it brings on. To me it is not emphasized enough that this is a serious brain dysfunction and it is a whole body experience. It runs from mild in some people and extreme in others or it could run the whole gamut in one person.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    1 year ago

    It’s definitely a start off kind of thing and not a fully developed and fully covered experience. But as you mentioned, it does give people an idea of some of the symptoms people experience with a migraine. I think it mainly shows those people who think a headache is a migraine that there is a huge difference between the two.
    Amanda Workman

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