Friendly but Unfavorable Advice
For every effective technique used to provide relief from migraines, there are about a dozen pieces of bad advice that are usually doled out by well-meaning, but ultimately ill-informed, friends and relatives. Many of these questionable recommendations have entered the pantheon of ineffective remedies that are unfortunately perpetuated through popular culture diffusion.
Here are five of the most common pieces of bad advice that migraine patients often hear:
- Go out in the sun, especially during a hot summer day
- Eat raw garlic
- Stand on your head
- Smell warm apple cider vinegar
- Get pregnant
The well-intentioned nature of the five recommendations above is based on actual therapeutic properties associated with certain foods, beverages and activities. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, eating raw garlic is a healthy approach to lowering cholesterol levels, briefly standing on your head may improve circulation to cranial blood vessels, apple cider vinegar is very rich in minerals, and many women report overall health improvements following their pregnancies.
The problem with the five pieces of bad advice above is not limited to the fact that they will not work; they may even exacerbate the situation as explained below:
- Hot weather is one of the most common climate-related migraine triggers
- Garlic is a known food-related migraine trigger for many patients
- A sudden increase in circulation to the cranium may create excitability, which often leads to stress and migraines
- Strong scents such as the one produced by warming apple cider vinegar are known migraine triggers for many patients
- Although many women report that their migraines go away while they are pregnant, this is a major life event that should not be handled like a home remedy
Dubious Recommendations by Physicians
To a certain extent, migraines are similar to the common cold insofar as the sheer amount of bad advice that surrounds these two medical conditions. Not all dubious tips for migraine prevention and relief come from popular lore; some bad advice also comes from physicians. In the case of common colds, for example, the use of nasal cold remedies containing zinc originated with faulty research, and prolonged used of these remedies could actually compromise a patient's sense of smell.
Anecdotal evidence from patients who have been prescribed medications such Kadian and Roxanol to deal with particularly strong migraine episodes reveals that some physicians do not take into consideration nausea symptoms. These pharmaceuticals contain morphine, which is known to provoke post-headache nausea in many patients, thereby prolonging their migraine episodes.
Many primary care physicians and family doctors who are not migraine specialists tend to prescribe diazepam, more commonly known as Valium, to their patients. While prescription painkillers are often part of a reactive approach to migraine management, migraine specialists know that opioid compounds and other strong tranquilizers are often contraindicated in chronic migraine cases due to issues such as nausea and a high risk of dependence.
Some doctors who do not specialize in the treatment of migraines are often too quick to refer patients to mental health physicians and therapists. While there is plenty of evidence that points to emotional and behavioral aspects of the migraine condition, referring patients to psychiatrists or psychologists before referring them to migraine specialists is counterproductive. When it comes to migraines, it is more effective to diagnose and rule out physiological issues prior to introducing mental health treatments.