Migraine and Headache Awareness Week

Headaches are one of those annoying things in life. Often caused by stress or noise or sometimes even a little too much to drink, they are irritating but usually quickly treated with a couple of pills or a good lie down. Migraines, on the other hand, are a serious and debilitating condition that can rob people of a full and active life. I don’t experience migraines myself, but my daughter, Bec, does and it not only causes severe pain but also costs her socially, emotionally and academically. As far as we know, Bec is at least part of the third generation, on her father’s side, who experience migraine attacks. For a long time we didn’t know much about migraines and receiving differing diagnoses from doctors hasn’t been helpful either. We now suspect she has been having migraines since the age of seven. It has a significant impact on her life. Every month there are days spent in a dark room. Planned activities have to be cancelled. She has missed out on attending events she was really looking forward to and studying full-time is just an impossibility. Already she has come to the conclusion that her life is going to be very different from most of her peers, and that was even before Covid 19. All her goals and choices in life always have to take migraines into account. It severely diminishes her vision for the future.

It is estimated that more than six million Australians are affected by headaches and migraines, but there is a lot of misinformation and confusion about them. Migraines and tension headaches are not the same thing. Migraines are described as a throbbing pain usually felt on just one side of the head that is aggravated by physical activity. They are also often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, or light and sound sensitivity. Symptoms and experiences can vary, though, from one person to the next. Not everybody experiences nausea or auras, and this confusion can lead to a lot of misdiagnosis and even stigma. People are often accused of being hypochondriacs, when really they are suffering from an acute, blinding pain that just will not go away.

Migraines are a neurological disorder. They usually present some time in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, and not only do they affect women disproportionately, but they are often more severe and longer for women. Typical. The World Health Organisation describes migraines as one of the most disabling illnesses, on a par with dementia and quadriplegia! Technically, it meets the definition of disability, although the Australian Government refuses to recognise it as such. The cost of migraines is not just personal. It is estimated that migraines cost Australia $35.7 billion in health costs and lost productivity – every year. 

Migraine and Headache Awareness Week is organised and run by Migraine and Headache Australia, a division of the Brain Foundation. Migraine and Headache Australia was founded by neurologists and is the only organisation in Australia that offers support, education and research.  Currently they receive NO government funding for their research program, yet they believe that much of the impact of migraines could be preventable if patients had access to affordable and effective treatments.

Treatment is tricky because everybody responds differently to medication, but it was only just recently that Migraine and Headache Australia had a win with finally succeeding in getting a new medication added to the PBS. It was the first time a medication had been specifically developed for migraines, so it was a bit of a break through, but apparently it has taken years of campaigning for patients to get more affordable access.

Australians who experience debilitating migraines deserve better. They deserve to have better access to treatment that could literally change their lives. Young people, like Bec, deserve to be able to look forward to the future with optimism and hope. We are not looking for a cure; just a chance to experience a full life – physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.

For further information about migraines and headaches or ways that you can show your support please check out the Migraine and Headache Australia website here. Migraines are one of those invisible disabilities that can be quite debilitating but a little kindness and understanding can go a long way.

11 thoughts on “Migraine and Headache Awareness Week

  1. They are really debilitating and can last for days – if they affected men more than women I suspect it would be taken more seriously. Learning what can trigger or exacerbate helps but it took awhile for me to figure it out and even with the best strategies you can never avoid them completely. At least I have aura which is a great warning sign and lets you take medication to control the pain before the worst hits. Good luck Bec.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, the lack of Gov support for research is quite astounding. I expect if a majority of male politicians got migraines it would be a different story. Bec’s been having them for years, but we’re at the point now where we’re saying – this is ridiculous. There must be a better way of living. She is missing out on so much. Can’t really figure out any triggers yet but we are overhauling the diet and removing as many additives & preservatives as we can – see if that helps. And getting a new doctor!


    • Thanks May. It wasn’t until I met my first husband, Rob, that I got introduced to the world of migraines. He used to get some terrible ones that would last for days and unfortunately, Bec has inherited it. Apparently it is something you are born with, but whether it actually develops into getting attacks can vary. But I was shocked to find out how many Australians get them – nearly a quarter of our population! Of course, if it affected men disproportionately there would be heaps of money for research.


    • It’s so frustrating that a condition that is so life-limiting attracts so very little Government support in terms of research and access to treatment, the DSP and NDIS. Your last sentence sums it up so perfectly, Theresa, and yet there is this failure to recognise it as a permanent condition and give people the support they need to live a full life. I totally understand the hesitancy about events – Bec is exactly the same. So many times we have bought tickets for the ballet and she ends up staying home in a dark room instead. I just hope that with increased awareness and political pressure, eventually something will change, and people like you and Bec can experience some relief.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated for more than 25 years. My current doctor, and I’m 44, was the first to trial me on actual migraine medication and then make the diagnosis from headaches to migraines. The medication she has given me to take when I feel one coming on has changed my life. I have high levels of anxiety around head pain. If I get any head pain at all, I begin to panic. This is just a result of decades of painful episodes that last for anything from 3 to 5 days. To have that cut down to 3 to 5 hours is incredible. But it’s hard to live with. Many don’t understand and advise things like drinking more water, just take some panadol, etc. Like that’s all that’s needed. I wish!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Theresa for sharing your story. I really feel for you – all those years misdiagnosed. I am glad that you are getting much better treatment now, but you are quite right that people often don’t understand. I’ve never had migraines, but I have had one major bout of neuralgia, an experience I never wish to repeat and would never wish on anybody else either. Nothing touches that kind of pain. I can understand your anxiety about head pain, because the minute I suspect another dose of neuralgia I’m straight to the chemist for the strongest painkillers I can get. Fortunately, I’ve never had another major bout like the first one, but it certainly makes you a little paranoid.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Also, I meant to add, my eldest son looks like he’s got them as well. He’s suffered debilitating headaches since childhood. At least with my background of head pain I can hopefully advocate for better treatment for him when needed. At the moment, he can still control it with sleep and over the counter medication but I was like that as a teenager too. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I could no longer find relief that way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think my daughter’s migraines have got worse too in the last few years, she’s just turned 23. Hopefully, when there is family history, as there is in my daughter’s case too, it won’t be so much of a fight to get a correct diagnosis and proper treatment. I think the big battle is getting Gov recognition and support.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Ease the Pain | Living on the Downs

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