WATCH: For migraine awareness month, we ask a neurologist about a popular #migrainehack

The migraine hacks shared by TikTokers aren't backed by science, but that doesn't mean they may not help.

Emma Jones 4 minute read June 21, 2022

It’s Migraine Awareness month, and TikTokers are sharing their favourite #migrainehacks. While these tricks may not necessarily solve the problems that cause migraines, experts say they may be a welcome source of relief when combined with medical treatments.

In one video with more than 5 million views, user paigeandbroch climbs onto her bathroom counter, where she puts her feet in a sink of warm water and places a cool pack on her neck, explaining the conflicting sensations help with migraines relief. Multiple other videos also share this hack, or shorten it to focus on using ice on the head or neck.

There does seem to be support for this particular trick, although migraine sufferers say it helps symptoms to ease up, as opposed to being a complete game-changer. One blogger on migraine.com writes that she uses this trick as a “comfort measure,” to help keep the symptoms at bay while she waits for her migraine medication to kick in.

There are some claims that the cold/heat combo helps circulate blood flow away from the brain, but Elizabeth Leroux, MD, neurologist and chair of Migraine Canada, says there’s no scientific evidence for why these hacks help some patients. It could simply be due to the placebo effect, which can have real results on debilitating symptoms.

Leroux says if users feel this or other tricks help — and they don’t cost money or pose any other health risks — there’s no harm in trying. However, she stresses that there are many medical treatments available for migraine sufferers, and while ice or pressure points may help hedge symptoms a little bit, there are many more effective options that a doctor can recommend.

“There are medical treatments,” says Leroux. “I’m not saying they’re perfect … but I’ve seen in my office, people who’ve lived with migraine[s] and then they try things — medications, modulation devices, or injections, or antibodies — and their lives improve greatly.”

Treatment for migraines are available

Although a serious headache is a symptoms of a migraine, it’s not the same thing. Migraines are complex and will often involve other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, dizziness, seeing flashing lights and sensitivity to light or sound. Some patients may also experience auras, which can impact speech, vision and other motor function.

Everyone will experience a headache at one point or another in their lifetime, Leroux explains, and while headaches can be severe and require medical intervention, they’re not the same thing as migraines.

“[A] migraine is a neurological disease,” says Leroux. “It’s more than a headache… Think of a migraine as a bit of inflammation or an electrical storm or chemical storm in the brain. The brain does a lot of things, so there’s a lot of different symptoms.”

Approximately 12 per cent of Canadians will experience migraines, according to Migraine Canada, and they are more prevalent in women. One to two per cent of Canadians will also experience severe, chronic migraines, defined as more than 15 episodes during a 30-day period.

There are no known causes for migraines, but they can be specific events such as certain foods, stress or flashing lights. Keeping a headache journal can help patients identify what, if anything, triggers their migraines.

Readers looking to learn more about migraines can check out Migraine Canada, Migraine Quebec (for French speakers) and the American Migraine Foundation.

 

Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Instagram and Twitter @jonesyjourn.

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