Tips for helping a person with migraine from our support group
Living with migraine isn’t easy, so people with the disease depend on their migraine support system to give them the peace of mind that people have their back. Because small actions can go a long way for those with migraine, we asked our members of our online support community, Move Against Migraine, what advice they would give to someone to best support a person with migraine.
If your friend, family member or partner lives with migraine, these tips can help you show your support:
Migraine is an invisible disease. Because people cannot see an attack (outside of the visible symptoms of migraine), there are many misconceptions about migraine, and it can often be disregarded as “just a headache.”
“It is heart-wrenching to see someone not believe you because this disease is mostly invisible,” says MAM member Cindy. Supporting someone with migraine requires that you believe them when they say they are in pain, they need to rest or they need less stimulation.
Recognize and Help Alleviate Migraine Pain
Every person experiences migraine attacks differently. To support someone with migraine, it’s important to listen before offering advice. “Migraine sufferers have different experiences, triggers and types of migraine,” says member Ashley.
Helping to alleviate pain can take many shapes and forms. “Sometimes [support] is as simple as turning off the lights,” Ashley said. “Other times, it’s more of a life change like not wearing perfume or being understanding when they cancel last minute or leave an event early.”
The best way to know how to help someone is to ask them! “How can I help during your migraine attack?” may be too broad for a person in pain, so we recommend starting small: “Can I get you a blanket or close the blinds?” This makes it easier for the person experiencing the attack to answer simply “yes” or “no.” The more you support someone, the more you will know how to help them.
Don’t Give Up
“More than anything, we want to be able to live normal lives and be with people,” says member Wendy. “But this invisible disease grabs us at every turn.” Supporting someone with migraine involves rescheduling, dialing back and respecting limitations. A good tip is to remember not to take things personally–those with migraine want to be there but it might not be an option today.
For MAM member Theresa, she wishes others would know what life with migraine looks like under the facade. “Understand that just because we have a smile on our face during a conversation doesn’t mean we aren’t hurting,” Theresa says. “We’re trying to live life the best we can through all the hurt.”
Practice patience during all phases of an attack
“Migraine doesn’t just exist during an attack,” says MAM member Bridget. “When others are flexible and understand that it is a disease that is unreliable and unpredictable–not the person–it makes people with migraine feel supported and validated.”
During the different phases of a migraine attack, a person will experience a variety of symptoms. Depending on how someone manages their migraine symptoms, different phases may require medication, relaxation or stress-relieving practices to reduce the severity or abort the attack. For example, the first phase of an attack, known as prodrome, acts as a warning sign that an attack is coming and abortive medications may need to be used.
In summary, supporting your friend, family member or partner with migraine looks a lot like how you would support anyone—with patience, compassion and an open mind. For more resources on helping those with migraine in your life, visit our website.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.