Migraines have afflicted humans for centuries, from ancient Egyptians and Julius Caesar, to Elvis Presley and you. If you’re one of the 28 million Americans suffering from migraines, you know the unique agony. Armed with the information from this guide about diagnosis, treatment plans, prevention, medications and behavioral therapies, perhaps you’ll be able to reduce the severity and frequency of your own headaches.
It's estimated that up to 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men suffer from migraines. But what exactly are migraines, and what causes them? How much do we know about preventing and treating them? There's plenty of information to be had online; in this section adults will find support and information for themselves, and parents can find information about children with migraines.
- Reading all this information about headaches can give you a headache! That's because as a migraine sufferer, you most likely have vivid sense memories of the pain and anxiety produced by migraines. Reading detailed descriptions of migraines (the physical pain, difficulties with medications and side effects, insurance problems) might feel as though it's all pointing you back toward the pain, so read text, especially text presented on a computer screen, in small doses.
- You don’t have to be a doctor to understand online information on migraines. Even places such as the Mayo Clinic write about this condition in layman’s terms. Although articles geared toward medical professionals might detail what seem to be intriguing breakthroughs and connections, don't hesitate to ask your doctor or nurse for a helpful “medicalese” translation.
- Use this guide to do research and seek preliminary relief, but do not substitute this information for the advice of a medical professional.
For an overview of migraines …
(Migraine Awareness Group: A National Understanding for Migraineurs) is the National Migraine Association. The Web site offers a good overview of different aspects of migraine, such as diagnosis, treatment, management, disability and impairment, and managing your career and family when faced with migraines.
offers an abundance of material in a clean layout. One highlight includes the "Top 101 Migraine and Headache Questions and Answers," providing an excellent overview of migraine symptoms and triggers, treatments, hormonal issues, and more.
The National Women's Health Information Center
provides a comprehensive overview of migraines in women, with a particular focus on the role that hormones play. Find articles on the different kinds of migraine headaches, and how menstrual cycles, pregnancy, birth control pills, and menopause might affect migraines.
For children and migraines …
The National Headache Foundation
offers a great introduction to migraine disorders in children. There are two guides, one for parents and one geared toward children and teens, and each is written in simple, straightforward language. The guides walk you through the ins and outs of triggers, diet, managing stress, and various treatment options.
has only one page on migraines for children, but the site is still worth a look. With a colorful, organized design and kid-friendly language, the article starts with a pronunciation lesson on “migraines,” and progresses in an easily understandable way to migraine causes, treatments, and prevention suggestions.
shows how women process pain differently than men, with an emphasis on the role of hormones in headache pain. In addition, the site offers comprehensive information on migrane causes, treatment, management and more.
Though there is little consensus on migraines’ causes, or how best to prevent them, there is a wealth of trusted information to help you treat migraines. Find out how treat your migraine and track the potential for a rebound headache. Learn the importance of keeping a “rescue” medication on hand if your migraine medicine doesn't work to avoid a costly emergency room trip.
- Trying to improve or reduce your migraines can feel a bit like being a detective. You might need to sort through lots of information to find the relevant bits that apply to your situation. In the face of anecdotal evidence such as, "Oh, this medication totally worked for me!" or "This painkiller made me feel so much worse. Steer clear," it's hard not to feel overwhelmed and confused. Be patient; it can take time to find that “Eureka!” moment. In addition, medications affect people differently, hence the adage that one man’s pill is another man’s poison.
- Keep a headache diary to decipher patterns and identify triggers. If this is too arduous (with too many headaches on too many days), think instead of keeping a "clear head” diary, making special note of the days you were headache-free. You'll still be tracking the same information, such as sleep, diet, stress levels, and head pain, but changing to a more positive perspective might seem less dispiriting than an ever-growing list of setbacks. Both types of logs can be kept online or off; for nicely designed examples of online logs, visit Migraine Survival and Imetrix.
- Although pharmaceutical company Web sites are function primarily as promotional vehicles, you can still glean some worthwhile information from them. Visit the Web site of your brand of medicine for useful information, such as tips and advice on self-care methods.
For information about migraine medications …
features an 11-part examination of rebound headaches, one of the most common complications of self-treatment for migraines. The module explains what causes a rebound, how to prevent it, and when to seek medical advice.
The National Headache Foundation
walks you through an overview of preventative medications to help you make sense of your available choices. There’s also a section on controlling the pain without medication, and guidelines for creating an effective treatment plan.
provides a 16-page PDF document that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about triptans (abortive medications that can stop a migraine in progress)... and then some.
offers a quick look at the background of triptans, the first truly effective migraine medication, as well as the current drugs on the market and how they can help most migraine sufferers.
has a clean design and features a brief news section that details the latest progress in migraine treatment and therapy. The “Migraine Overview” includes a Causes and Treatments section, and the “Professional Abstracts” and “Research Reports” also contain treatment-related articles of interest.
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance
is a national program that helps those without prescription coverage to get the medicines they need for little or no cost. Visit the “Patients” section and answer a few questions to determine which assistance program may be best for you.
For reducing stress…
The Mayo Clinic
encourages you to take a stress-reduction break, no matter where you are. Get their take on meditation, including simple descriptions of meditations that you can begin to practice immediately.
provides a short but peppy rah-rah session to inspire you to develop an exercise routine that sticks. The site offers guidance on diet, gear, the latest news, training plans, and a forum for support.
has an article that details the potentially negative effects of exercise on migraines, explaining how physical stress—including exercise—taxes the sensitive neurological systems of migraine sufferers more than most people. Links throughout the text take you to other relevant discussions on migraines and stress.
For information on migraine clinics…
The Mayo Clinic
provides easy-to-digest capsules of information in a multipart overview on migraines, including when to seek medical advice, options for self-care, and alternative treatments.
The Kirchner Headache Clinic
offers a handy recommended-diet table and a lengthy, one-page overview of migraines, including chronic daily headaches.
The Oregon Headache Clinic
has an impressive array of in-depth information. Take a look at what's really going on inside the brain of a migraine sufferer, learn more about the interconnectedness of a proper treatment plan, and read up on the ways in which migraines affect men and women differently.
For alternative ways to treat migraines …
, also known as the National Migraine Association, provides a comprehensive overview of complementary and alternative treatments for migraines. Treatments range from magnesium, to chiropractic care, to biofeedback, to a Migra-Cap, which combines built-in ice packs with an eye mask. Company links are included to make purchasing easy.
takes a look at herbal remedies that might prove useful in treating or preventing migraines. Note the Web site’s caveat about safety at the bottom of the page, along with recommended books for further exploration.
The Nutrition for Optimal Health Association
(NOHA) takes an in-depth look at the role diet plays in both preventing and causing headaches and migraines. For over 30 years, NOHA’s mostly MD-staffed advisory board has endeavored to improve health through nutrition. Don’t be discouraged by the limited site menu; a search on migraines yields an abundance of articles for further exploration.
features a few articles on randomized controlled studies involving acupuncture and migraines. The article points out that, although the research is promising, more studies are needed. Use the "Find an Acupuncturist" function to find an acupuncture professional near you, or search on “migraine” to find articles of interest.
Touch Neurological Disease.com
reports on promising research for subcutaneous implants that provide electrical impulses to the occipital nerve, preventing or reducing the severity of migraines.
is devoted almost entirely to migraine podcasts. It includes topics such as the latest news, developing good habits to prevent migraines, and setting goals for migraine treatment. Search the archives, or read transcripts of the podcasts using the links on the right (scroll down to find them).
The personal toll of this disorder can be enormous; it includes work absences, unmet familial and social obligations, and the stress of wondering when the next migraine will come. There are medication options to balance, stresses you can't seem to minimize, and even a genetic component of this disorder, over which you have no control. The comfort and support of a listening ear can be invaluable, particularly when it comes from other migraine sufferers who know what you're experiencing firsthand.
- Spend a few moments thinking about the kind of support you want before jumping into message boards. Are you looking for help with medication side effects? Craving more information about triggers, diet alternatives, or ways to incorporate exercise into your life? Be specific about your needs. And focus on the support and commiseration that steers you in a productive, hopeful direction.
- Be careful of any unsolicited advice you get either online or off. Don’t buy unendorsed products or fall victim to quick-fix scams.
For migraine message boards and online support…
Ronda's Migraine Page
has what might be one of the most active “Discussion” forums online. Members are typically warm, supportive, and, best of all, informed. The “Journal” area provides an opportunity for migraine sufferers to share their histories and experiences, and in the “Chat Room,” visitors can talk with others online.
features another very active forum, including thousands of posts. Ask a question or share advice on topics such as complementary therapies, doctors and clinics, or advocacy issues. Use the “Find” tool to search for specific topics of interest.
“Message Boards” might not be extremely active, but messages tend to be a bit more in-depth than those on other boards. Indie Cooper-Guzman, a registered nurse, hosts the migraine board and offers expert advice.
(the National Migraine Association) features a link to support groups around the United States. Unfortunately, face-to-face groups do not exist in every state, but the site provides help for starting a new group and contact information for online support.
The National Headache Foundation
provides a list of local groups arranged by state. As with MAGNUM (above), not every state is represented, but the site also offers guidance in starting a new group.
is like a well-meaning friend who tries to cheer you up despite looking as though she got dressed in the dark. Written by a migraine sufferer, the site is an odd collection of news commentary, poems, and personal anecdotes presented in a clunky format with primitive design (OK, it’s just plain ugly). However, the “Migraines—Miserable Mind Missiles” section is filled with inspirational writing that takes a humorous look at life as a migraine sufferer. It is possible to laugh through the pain!
As mentioned in the support section, suffering from this disorder can often be extremely isolating. There are negative consequences to your self-esteem, reliability, and productivity (up to 157 million lost work days a year, according to the National Headache Foundation). Unfortunately, many migraine sufferers often progress to a chronic condition. The good news is that these are the very same people who are often extremely motivated to get better, so you can benefit from the wisdom found on their Web sites. Take an in-depth look at other patients’ experiences; they're typically scouring the Web and the medical world for the latest news about breakthroughs and advances in treatment. What can you learn about new medications, reductions in triggers, diet and exercise, and alternative treatments?
- There are many blogs devoted to migraine and chronic daily headaches. Find one that resonates with you and participate in their forum or contribute comments. You might end up creating a valuable community of friends who can support you when you need it most.
- Men are underrepresented on blogs, as women make up 70 percent or more of migraineurs. If you are a man suffering with migraines, consider starting your own blog. Your experiences can be a source of inspiration to other men experiencing the same condition.
For migraine blogs …
is a humorous, anonymous blog from a regular sufferer, along with all of the attendant inconveniences. Snappy writing and colorful photos of migraine-suffering Barbies make this blog a delight to read.
This is My Brain on Migraines
provides a straightforward account of living with migraines and struggling to balance the side effects of medication with a hopeful, constructive attitude.
The Migraine Girl
is written by a young woman in her 20s who suffers from chronic daily headaches and migraines. The site is updated regularly and has a clear, positive tone.
Abi's Migrainous Wanderings
is an award-winning and popular blog that combines practical migraine information with entertaining personal stories.
(National Migraine Association) outlines famous people with migraines in the article “You Are In Good Company!”
Advances in treatment of migraines run the gamut from building endorphins and serotonin levels through minerals and amino acids, to diagnosing holes in the heart where unfiltered blood can pass through, to Botox treatments. Research is also currently underway on electrical implants that block pain messages from making it to the brain for intractable migraines. The advent of triptans (abortive medications that can stop a migraine in its tracks) signaled a major breakthrough in migraine treatment in the early 90s. Have a look at these sites to learn more about the many advancements in migraine treatment.
- Be wary of any vitamin, mineral, or herbal concoction that promises permanent relief. Supplements and herbs might help, but they're still essentially medications, so treat them with caution; even herbs and vitamins can sometimes interact negatively with prescribed medicines.
- Check with your insurance company to see if they might be willing to work with you on paying for alternative treatments. Some insurance companies cover treatments such as Botox if they see that doing so will save them money on medications in the long run.
Help for Headaches and Migraine
examines the connection between migraines and the PFO (patent foramen ovale), a hole in the wall of the heart that divides the right and left chambers and allows unfiltered blood to pass through.
Neuroscience for Kids
might seem like a surprising place to find information on Botox and migraines, but you'll find a thorough analysis of the treatment here, along with many other intriguing articles on neurology written in accessible language.
examines the role of the essential amino acid DL-phenylalanine (DLPA) in raising endorphin levels to combat chronic pain. Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers and are also related to feelings of well-being.
features a searchable database of nationwide clinical trials researchers are currently conducting. Look for those with the “Recruiting” tag to find studies for which researchers are actively seeking participants.
Most Recent Guides