Migraine facts

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Photo by Tamsin Ross Van Lessen

Migraine: just a headache?

There are more than 180 kinds of headache. A migraine is one of them, but headache is just one symptom of a migraine. They last between four and 72 hours. The main symptom is intense, throbbing, pulsating pain, usually in one half of the head, combined with at least one of the following: nausea, vomiting, photophobia and visual hallucinations (auras). There are headache-free migraines, which often occur in children, making diagnosis difficult.

A chick’s disease?

According to statistics, women suffer four times more than men, which reinforces old stereotypes – women are hysterical, it’s just a headache, it’s just an excuse. In fact, many men will not admit or even realize that they are suffering from migraines, because it’s not considered virile. Because of this, men might be under-diagnosed.

A disease caused by modern life?

A common misperception is that migraines are the result of stress-filled contemporary lifestyles. Migraine has probably existed as long as mankind: there are descriptions of migraine symptoms in the Talmud and the Bible – and just because we have a heightened awareness of them does not mean that they are more common now than they were 2000 years ago.

Does the weather influence migraines?

Nobody really knows: it’s a controversial subject. Although German Biowetter forecasts include the daily likelihood of migraine in different parts of Germany, scientific studies conducted in Berlin showed no link between the weather and migraine attacks.

Acupuncture: a successful placebo treatment?

Several studies have clearly shown acupuncture to be effective as a preventative migraine treatment. Compared to a proven drug treatment, patients who received the needles tended to report more improvements and fewer side effects. The hitch: sham acupuncture (when the patients are randomly pricked) was just as successful as treatments where the needles were put in the correct acupuncture points. So, acupuncture works, but correct placement of the needles seems to be less relevant than is usually thought by acupuncturists. In short, a powerful placebo effect is almost as good as real drugs! “Every treatment has a placebo effect and a doctor should use its benefits,” says Charité neurologist Lars Neeb. Too bad your German health insurance won’t cover it!

19.04.2010 - 14:43 Uhr