Migraine Myths: Busted
You may be surprised by the true causes of migraines.
There are headaches, and then there are migraines. Confusing the two is a common mistake, but it’s only one of the many misunderstandings that can make head pain hard to understand. Discover the real triggers and treatments for migraines.
Myth: Chocolate causes migraines.
Truth: Chocolate lovers are in luck! Studies show that the risk of developing migraines after eating chocolate is about the same as it is after having a placebo. Even in cases where a few people got head pain after eating chocolate, scientists found that the risk was three times lower than the chance of getting a migraine from triggers such as stress, fasting, and lack of sleep.1
Myth: It’s not a migraine unless the pain is only on one side of your head.
Truth: It’s true that one-sided head pain is a hallmark of migraines. But research has found that in a third of migraines, both sides of the head feel the throbbing agony equally. Whether one side or two, migraine attacks also often come with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light, smells, sounds, touch, and visual disturbances.2
Myth: Gluten triggers migraines.
Truth: There’s little evidence that gluten has an effect on head pain for the average person. But if you have Celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder in which gluten can damage the intestines) or a diagnosed gluten sensitivity, you may be more prone to migraines.3, 4
Myth: The older you are, the more likely you are to get migraines.
Truth: Migraines are most common between the ages of 25 and 55.2 Consider the lower likelihood of them in senior years to be a benefit of growing older.
Myth: As soon as the head pain clears, you’ll be back to your usual self.
Truth: Migraine attacks may leave you with a sort of “hangover.” For about 24 hours after a migraine attack, you may also feel confused, moody, dizzy, weak, and still have some lingering sensitivity to light and sound. It’s totally normal to find yourself a little washed out after a migraine.5
Myth: Drugs are the only things that help migraines.
Truth: While both over-the-counter and prescription drugs are highly effective in treating migraines, some alternative therapies may also be helpful in reducing the pain and even the frequency of migraines. Acupuncture and biofeedback have been found to be effective in easing head pain; massage may be able to cut down on the frequency of attacks.6 Talk with your doctor, though, before trying these options alongside traditional medications.
Myth: Migraines can really hold you back.
Truth: No question, they can be debilitating when they happen—as many as 150 million workdays a year are lost to head pain in the U.S.2 But treatments for your migraine pain and other related symptoms do exist. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor on a treatment plan that’s right for you—so you can get back to your life.
1. Lippi, Giuseppe, et al. “Chocolate and Migraine: the History of an Ambiguous Association.” Vol. 85, no. 3, 2014, pp. 216–221., www.mattioli1885journals.com/index.php/actabiomedica/article/view/3449.
2. “Migraine Facts.” Migraine Research Foundation, migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/.
3. “What Is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/what-is-celiac-disease/.
4. Dimitrova, Alexandra K., et al. “Prevalence of Migraine in Patients With Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, Blackwell Publishing Inc, 5 Nov. 2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02260.x/abstract.
5. “Migraine: Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 26 Apr. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434.
6. “Migraine: Diagnosis and Treatment.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 26 Apr. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/diagnosis-treatment/dxc-20202471.