5 Reasons Not to Tough It Out With Migraine

Why self-care is critical to managing migraine

Patient Expert

I spent many years trying to hide my rare neurological condition. I suffered the symptoms of sporadic hemiplegic migraines alone in an attempt to tough my way through them— a losing battle that landed me in the ER on multiple occasions. In recent years, I’ve learned how to live and even travel the world despite this sometimes debilitating chronic condition. One of the hardest-won lessons has been learning to acknowledge and prevent migraines rather than ignoring and “powering through” them. I hope to save you years of pain with these five reasons not to tough it out with migraine.

1. You have options.

Migraine research has come a long way. For many migraine sufferers, treatment options may be available. Rather than trying to tough your way through the next painful migraine attack:

  • Consult your doctor now and discuss your specific type of migraines and all options, including prescription medications and natural treatments that can abort an attack or at the very least, alleviate the pain.

  • Formulate a plan so you are prepared the next time a migraine arrives. For some sufferers, this may mean something as simple as consistently filling and carrying your medication and a bottle of water wherever you go. For others, it may be informing your colleague or supervisor about your condition (and the debilitating symptoms) so they are also prepared to cover for you, excuse you, or get you to a hospital if needed.

  • Give yourself a break. If you experience symptoms warning that a migraine attack is imminent, stop what you are doing and execute your plan. Your health comes first; work and other obligations can wait until after you recover.

2. It may be preventable.

Some migraines— such as hemiplegic migraines like mine—are managed only through prevention. But you can’t prevent what you refuse to acknowledge. Rather than putting energy into dismissing your pain, redirect your focus on identifying triggers:

  • What were you doing when you experienced a migraine attack?

  • What did you eat and drink that day?

  • Were you sufficiently fed and hydrated?

  • Were you traveling?

  • Were there bright lights?

  • Was there a traumatic or stressful event?

The causes of migraines vary from person to person, so taking notice of your diet, stressors, sleep habits, and other factors that may affect your health can help you determine the culprits to blame for your pain. And then you can work on implementing appropriate prevention methods—whether that means scheduling more sleep, limiting screen time, eating more greens, exercising to manage stress, or wearing sunglasses outdoors and under intense indoor lights.

3. You may be at risk for misdiagnosis or further damage.

Some migraine symptoms mimic other conditions. And unfortunately, not all doctors are educated on the various types of migraines and conditions that share similar symptoms. If you simply suffer through rather than try to understand and treat your migraines, you could be taking a bigger gamble than you realize. Recent studies have shown that hemiplegic migraines may even cause brain damage. Do your research, document your symptoms, consult your doctor, consider your treatment and prevention options, and get a second opinion if needed.

4. You have nothing to prove.

This is not a competition. There are no awards or winners when you choose to tough through rather than acknowledge and try to prevent or treat your migraines. Appearing strong on the outside does absolutely nothing to prevent or cease an actual electric storm on the inside. And if you’re concerned about being polite or burdening others, consider this: What use are you to your colleagues, friends, or family if you end up in the ER or worse? They want and need you in good health. Tell your inner critic to take a hike, and then take care of yourself.

5. You can help others.

We aren’t always aware of others that are watching, listening, and looking to us for inspiration. By addressing and diagnosing your migraines rather than dismissing your pain, you may unexpectedly encourage others to seek expert care and instill good health habits in your kids, a close friend, or a perfect stranger. The many heartfelt messages of gratitude in my inbox—most from people I have never met who have been stirred to seek diagnosis, treatment, or better self-care after stumbling on my story—are a reminder that we should never silo ourselves and suffer alone. You never know when prioritizing your own health might give someone the nudge or permission they needed to do the same for themselves.

See more helpful articles:

5 Things I’ve Learned From Living With a Rare Neurological Condition

Marriage and Migraine: What Every Spouse Should Know

The 10 Biggest Mistakes I Made in Trying to Treat My Migraine