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Two figures in silhouette on the right discussing a car.

Not Too Bumpy, Not Too Bright: Goldilocks Desperately Searching for a Migraine Friendly Car

Finding the right car is incredibly important for a migraineur. When in the throes of a migraine attack, if we have to drive ourselves home, the design of a car has the capacity to either make us more comfortable or exacerbate our pain. In this video, Holly asks for help in finding a migraine-friendly car. This important purchase is one with which we all wrestle- but when we add migraine to the mix, finding just the right fit becomes all the more difficult.

What kind of alterations do have for your car?

What kind of car do you drive? Did you do alterations including tinted windows or any tweaking to the suspension or seats? Please share any guidance you have to offer on the topic of cars and migraine so we can learn from one another!

What migraine questions do you have?

On a related note, it’s kind of stunning to think about the buying power that lies in the hands of the many millions of people living with migraine. If you have questions regarding what kind of sunglasses are best, or what’s the most comfortable pillow, we’ve got you covered! If there is anything on your wish list that you’d like to ask the community about, please post your question here.

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

  • Joeche
    2 months ago

    The key things to look for in a car are light and sound. There have already been many comments about light. Dark tinted windows are a must and make sure that everything on the dashboard and console is a flat, dark color. Some cars have chrome pieces on the dash such as bezels around the guages, radio, etc. so certainly avoid these. (Bad for migraines but also just tacky 😉 ). Noise is a huge problem on most new cars and it is hard to find one that isn’t an issue. Manufacturers are putting chimes and bells of various kinds on everything in the car. Check to see how loud these are and if the car has a feature where they can be turned off. Check to see how loud other features are, too. We once bought a car that we found out had extremely loud automatic door locks. When you get up to a certain speed they automatically lock and it is so loud ( and very close to your ear) that it startles you. Very disconcerting.

    Most cars today also have the very annoying “feature” that will honk the horn if you continue to push the lock button on the remote. Generally if the button is pushed once it will lock the door and set an alarm if applicable but if you continue to push the button it will honk the horn. Parking lots are now a cacophony of horns honking. So, when shopping at a dealer please ask them to give feedback to the manufacturer to stop this practice. They can put a “panic/find my car” button on the remote for when we need the car to honk just don’t make it part of the door lock. Maybe with enough comments we can get that noise problem fixed.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 months ago

    Brilliant comment! Thank you so much for turning our collective eyes toward our ears when it comes to car shopping. I hadn’t really thought about the potential and literal bells and whistles that come with cars these days. The beeping alerts and literal beeping and on. Grateful for your input.

  • lisa c santa cruz
    3 months ago

    i have been driving a toyota sienna van for 3 years and before that another van for 5 years.i could not live without my van . i have no children but my van is like my emergency vehicle: i sleep in it when migraine is too bad to drive or i need a break at work to deal with nausea.i limo tinted all the windows except for front that is as dark as legal limit.i chose a lower level of sienna because of my budget yet added leather for comfort, easy care and less dust. i like sitting high in vehicles and i can control steering wheel height and driver side is electric sitting.this is essential for migraine sufferers!!! if you cannot spend $50-60.000 on a car shop lease turn ins and go in prepared. the shopping brought on a migraine just walking through the dealership door. i refuse to buy online so i had to go this route.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hi @checky– Thank you so much for chiming in on this topic to share what has worked for you. You raise the perfect point regarding the challenge involved in shopping for a car. It is indeed migraine-inducing. I’ve had to pace myself and have only been able to go to two dealerships in as many months. It’s a major time commitment as it seems impossible to get in and out of there for a test drive in less than 2-3 hours.

    You’re also very astute to point out that the lease turn-in’s are where it’s at if you want to find a good value (a car that’s in great condition with fairly low miles). There are also cars that get turned in after being used by rental companies that are similarly well cared for.

    Thank you for sharing the ways that you had it customized to help with your migraine disease. A minivan is not a bad idea at all for all the reasons you describe (high view of the road, room to lie down, and they generally have soft suspension).

    Thanks again- big help!

  • pattyag
    3 months ago

    Hi. I have a 2010 Nissan Murano. I love it. It rides incredibly smooth. And I sit high and can adjust seat any way I want. I have leather seats that also have warmers which seems to help on cold days. This car came with some bells and whistles, but they are not my thing. I can’t use the sunroof…instant headache. I like the tinted windows. I love that the front seats recline all the way back , at least mine do. With a pillow and blanket and cold pack, I can travel with a migraine, praying meds kick in. I cannot listen to music or radio. Sounds can bring on migraine for me. I can listen to books on tape, so my iPhone and headphones are my friend. I want to purchase good headphones that block out noise. This would be a dream come true.

    Thank you for this site. I am 65 years old and have had migraines since age 2. Nothing works, I wish it did. It helps knowing I’m not alone or crazy, that this is all real.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hi @pattyag
    Thank you so much for sharing what type of car you’ve found that works for you. I’m going to look into this one, for sure. I feel the same about wanting to sit high and also am looking for leather seats that recline all the way that are heated (and cooled). I’m also a podcast and audiobook listener- those stories can often provide an effective escape to at least dampen the intense pain of migraine.

    If you are looking for good headphones that block out noise, you can pose that question on our Q&A page- and I’m sure that some of our community members will respond with ideas/information: https://migraine.com/q-and-a/

    I totally agree that sunroofs are lost on most migraineurs- and unfortunately, these days most cars come with them automatically installed. Such a waste of an expensive feature.

    Lastly, thank you so much for sharing how migraine.com is working for you. That makes us all so very happy to hear and to know. I’m sorry you haven’t found a treatment that is effective for you. Unfortunately, that is the case for many of us. In lieu of that, finding a source of support that can offer guidance and information- can help decrease those very common feelings of isolation, and that can make a world of difference. That really is one of the the primary goals of our community. We are so happy you are here with us. Please stay in touch and know we are thinking of you.

  • Heather B.
    3 months ago

    Hello, I bought a 2011 Chevy Traverse LT. It has Third row seating with leather seating. Electric adjustable seating, the seats are heated. In addition it has lumbar support for my bad back. It also came with factory tint on the windows but in VA I’m registered with DMV (got a form filled out by my Doctor) to get my windows darkened darker than the legal limit for my migraines. It has a bunch of other bonuses I like but not going to help or hinder my Migraines such as satellite radio. I hope this has helped.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hi @heatherb – Thank you SO much for chiming in here- and especially for explaining how you were able to sidestep laws regarding tinted windows with a doctor’s form. I had no idea that was even a possibility. I will look into the vehicle you mention and am grateful for the suggestion! Glad you’re a part of our community. Please stay in touch.

  • kris7293
    3 months ago

    I never did any research, nor did I give my vehicle choice any real thought, but now that you mention it, maybe I ultimately did choose based on what made me feel more comfortable. The first thing you need to know about me is that I LOVE music. The more bass and drums the better. Music to me is my way of escaping, plus I met my husband 30 odd years ago in the middle school band. So music is a must in my life. Ironically, live concerts are pure torture. I was born and raised in California, but with a dad from Texas, so I have a love of muscle cars and trucks. Both of those options may be a bad option for you, as I feel every bump and pothole in the road, but I wanted that feel. Once my two kids no longer needed me to drive them everywhere, I traded my SUV in for a muscle car. I have a 2012 Dodge Challenger, with a Bose sound system. Looking at my car now, I see benefits that may have been unconscious choices. It’s a 2 door, which means the back seat has small windows that don’t open, allowing for the car to have an automatic dark feel inside. Since I sit lower to the ground, I can get behind a flat surfaced vehicle or truck and cut down on the glare beaming off sloped windows. My car is black so most of the time there is no glare hitting me in the face from the hood. The down side is also that I sit low, therefore large vehicles headlights can reflect into my car, and that is unpleasant. Having had trucks and SUV’s I’ve been the one with the obnoxious headlights. The bumps have never really been an issue. There have been a few times, but for 30 years, a handful of times wasn’t worth trading in some of the things I wanted. The other downside of my car is the blind spots. This obviously requires a few more head turns to change lanes more safely. My truck and SUV were much better in that area because of the bigger side mirrors. Heated and cooled seats are something to consider. I’m thrilled to have those. A headrest has always been a must. Granted at this time in my life, a headrest is more of a problem. But that’s because I have had a brain tumor removed and an occipital nerve decompression with is a scar down my head and neck. But, a soft headrest was comfortable in the past. Lastly, I’m going back to the beginning with music. I love to sing and tap out the beat to whatever I’m listening to. Like I said, music is my escape. If I’m in pain, and I’m stuck in traffic, or I have a long drive, music played loud is my way of trying to ignore all the symptoms I may be experiencing. So a sound system was, and is, a must. With that being said, a nice classical piece, with soothing harps and pianos, make the worst of the worst days more tolerable. So while I love my current car, and it works for me, it may not be an option for you, especially if you have kids. On a side note, sitting in the backseat of my Challenger is very comfortable, lots of room and really dark. But getting in and out makes you feel like a contortionist. I hope you find what you need, and as always for anyone going through pain, I hope you find relief.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 months ago

    @kris7293 Thank you so much for sharing what has worked for you- as well as what might be on your wishlist if you could tweak your existing car a bit.

    Music can be a wonderfully transportive vehicle in its own right to help us let loose from focusing on the intensive pain that can accompany migraine. You do a great job of describing the beauty of the role that music can play in that respect.

    Also- interesting call on the black car (interior and exterior) to decrease the glare issue- something that can be a major challenge. Someone on our facebook page also mentioned avoiding chrome outfittings in the interior for the same reason.

    As to the challenge of headrests- I had an interesting conversation with my PT recently who said that car manufacturers are starting to make seats that respond to our world’s evolving slumping postures, such that sitting up straight can be a struggle as the seats are encouraging a slouch these days. She suggested a product that can be placed around the headrest that hangs down around the seat back to encourage a better posture, thereby supporting the neck. Designed by a physical therapist, I got mine a month ago and love it.

    https://www.travelbuddyposture.com/

    This might make my search for the perfect car a bit easier as I can place this pillow into any car to make the seat more comfortable.

    Again- grateful to you for your encouragement, recommendation, support and kindness. So glad you’ve found something that works for you.

  • mbabi1970
    3 months ago

    Hi Holly. I literally just purchased a new car because of all the things you described. I had been researching for over 8 months and test drove many different models. I wanted a medium sized SUV as I’m just not a “car” person. I like riding higher and I like not bending down to get groceries out of a trunk. I was also looking for a vehicle that had a very quiet interior. My last vehicle was so loud inside even with windows closed I could hear the whistling wind. And as you mentioned, suspension was important too. I needed a smooth ride. I thumbed through years of consumer reports vehicle ratings and test drove many different vehicles. This took a long time as I didn’t always feel well enough to go for test drives or deal with dealerships and people in general. After all of this I finally settled on the Lexus RX350. This particular model has been highly rated for years and the quietness of the cabin and the smooth ride sold me. I got a used one because a brand new model was cost prohibitive for us. However, after looking at many options, this was the best fit for me. I have had it for 3 weeks now and I couldn’t be happier. I’m constantly telling my husband how wonderful it is driving in peace and quiet. And not feeling every bump on the road is a dream come true. I no longer dread getting in my car with a terrible migraine because I can get through it much easier now. Good luck in your search!!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hi @mbabi1970!

    Thanks so much for chiming in on this topic! I had not heard of your car until this minute. What year did you get? Sounds like a very solid choice and good fit.

    You bring up a point I wish I’d mentioned in the article- the figurative headache that accompanies car shopping in person (dealerships, salesmen) and how to find a way to navigate the process when we are living with chronic migraine. I’ve been looking for six months now and have made it to three dealerships for test drives in that window of time. Each time the process takes nearly 2 hours- just for a test drive! Awful.

    So nice to hear that you are happy with your purchase and that it is not triggering more pain or attacks. My current car does just that. I’ll look up your suggestion for sure!

    Thanks again and great hearing from you , as always!

  • mbabi1970
    3 months ago

    I got a 2016. The model was redesigned that year and it has all the same features (mostly) of a 2019 but much cheaper!!

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