The Migraine Sisterhood and Telling Your Story

I suffer from headaches and occasional migraines, as do many of my female friends in their thirties, forties and fifties. Some of my girlfriends fight the battle against chronic migraines, which affect their lives greatly. When we get together as a group, our planning often takes into account not only our family and work schedules, but our avoidance of migraine triggers.

Gone are our former Bridget Jones-esque nights of drinking too much wine and devouring wheels of fancy aged cheeses. The coffee bars have been replaced with herbal tea shops. Weekend nights of dancing until dawn under flashing lights to loud music? Please. Now you will find us in a yoga class. Our journey towards reducing possibility of a migraine is bringing us closer together (and healthier!).

Although I often use the word “migraine” to communicate when a headache I have is very painful, true migraines are a distinct type of headache. Migraines can be accompanied by several variations, and can include nausea, light sensitivity or sound sensitivity. Left untreated, migraines last four to 72 hours. One criteria for chronic migraines is when an individual suffers headache symptoms of any kind for 15 or more days of the month.

Because migraines are so common in my circle, I was interested in working with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around migraines and chronic migraines. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company serving physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. I had the chance to participate in a conference call with two Med-IQ neurologists who are focused on helping us live well with migraines and receive effective treatment for them.

Robert G. Kaniecki, MD, is the Chief of the Headache Division and Assistant Professor of Neurology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Stewart J. Tepper, MD, is a Professor of Neurology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Although I was prepared for a plethora of neurological information that I would not understand, I was completely surprised:

The doctors shared that the most important item migraine sufferers can do to increase their quality of life is to learn to tell their story to their doctors.

Drs. Kaniecki and Tepper explained that a migraine sufferer has only a critical 15 minutes to inform their doctor of their exact migraine characteristics in order to receive the most effective treatment. Thus, we need to prepare for our doctor’s appointment in order to make the most of our limited appointment times.

Here are the three crucial information categories that you should be prepared to explain to your doctor when seeking migraine treatment:

  1. Time: How many days per month do you experience headaches? How long do they last? Go through your calendar of past months to provide as much data as possible.  
  2. Symptoms: When you experience a migraine or headache, do you have throbbing pain? Does nausea, light or sound sensitivity accompany your headache? Provide as much information about the characteristics of how your headaches feel.
  3. Impact: How does the headache impact your life? Does it inhibit your ability to move through your day? Does it prevent you from going to work or taking care of your children?

The doctors on the call stated that if we as patients arm ourselves with this information, we will receive a quicker diagnosis and clearer path to migraine relief. I found this information so valuable and helpful! The infographic at the end of this blog breaks it down for us, too.

What is YOUR experience with migraines? Med-IQ would love your feedback through this online survey about migraines. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete, and 10 survey respondents will each win a $100 gift card. (No personal information will be kept, sold or stored in the survey completion process.) Participate in the migraine survey for a chance to win. 

This post is sponsored by Med-IQ and supported by an educational grant by Teva Pharmaceuticals. All opinions and experiences are my own.

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