We're always looking for ways to get people to understand Migraine disease and it's impact on us. Myths and misconceptions still abound AND continue to feed the social stigma associated with Migraine.
In the last few weeks, I've had occasion to speak with people who don't have Migraine themselves, but care about the Migraine patient population. In a meeting with about 40 people present, one asked me how we can combat the stigma. It was a moment during which I'd know that question was going to be asked so I'd have had an answer prepared. But I didn't have advance warning, so I shared the first thing that came to mind...
We can help reduce the stigma by removing the phrase, "Migraine headache" from our vocabulary.
Here's my reasoning:
- One of the most prevalent and damaging misconceptions about a Migraine is that it's "just a headache." When a great many people hear the phrase, "Migraine headache," they don't truly hear the "Migraine" part. All they hear is, "headache," so they think of a "simple" headache that should respond to Tylenol, Advil, or some other over-the-counter remedy. They're drawing on their own experience, so they're thinking of the mild tension-type headache that about 85% of the population experiences at some time during their lives.
- Migraine attacks can and do occur with no headache. When that happens, they're described as "acephalgic" or "silent" Migraines.
- When headache does occur during a Migraine attack, it's only one symptom of the attack.
- The symptom of headache alone is insufficient for a diagnosis of Migraine. There must be accompanying symptoms.
It's easy to forget how much power words can have, but once we think about it, we can begin to harness that power and use it to our advantage in awareness and advocacy efforts.
I hope you'll join me in this simple effort that can have enormous impact. When talking about an individual Migraine episode, let's say "Migraine attack." When talking about the condition, let's say "Migraine disease" to help people realize that Migraine is indeed a genetic neurological disease. Once we do this for a while, it becomes habit, and we do it without even thinking about it.
because a migraine is NOT "just a headache"
drawing on our inner Ninja to live a full life