Supporting Someone with Migraines

Not your Typical Headache pain!

You are sitting at your computer working like you do most days, however as you are working to finish the latest news report for the upcoming edition you begin to feel a pounding in the back of your head. Trying to ignore it you continue to research and look over the notes you have, soon enough the pain becomes unbearable so you decide to take a couple ibuprofen and go lay down thinking that in a few minutes you will begin to feel better.

It isn’t until a couple hours later that you realize that this isn’t your normal headache, your head is throbbing and you feel so dizzy and sick to your stomach you know it is best not to get behind the wheel and drive. Concerned, you call your friend and see if she can take you to a nearby urgent care, luckily she is free and will be at your place in minutes. When you get in the car you close your eyes and ask for the music to be turned off. You sit there hoping that whatever it is that the doctor at urgent care will be able to prescribe something to relieve the head pain. You thank your friend after getting out of the car and she tells you that she will be waiting in the parking lot for you to come back out so that she can drop you back at home.

While at urgent care you learn that the head pain that you are suffering from is actually a migraine, thankfully with some rest and a prescription to relieve the pain you go home and get ready for bed to relax and sleep off the pain. With the combination of the medication and the rest your head feels better in the morning. You are lucky that your migraine went away as soon as it did and that the symptoms weren’t the worst that they could have been. 

As you continue reading you will learn more about what a migraine is, the various degrees and causes of them, and finally how to best support someone who suffers from migraines.

What are Migraines?

A Blinding Pain

A woman with her eyes closed holds her hands clasped in front of her face. She rests her face on two pointer fingers pressed against her brow.
Migraines don’t care who you are or what the time of day is, they will strike at any given time. Image courtesy of huffpost.

As we all know headaches can be quite the pain, but what feels even worse are migraines. Now this is a pain that not everyone knows, and for that you should count yourself lucky. Ask most people and they will likely describe migraines as a form of shooting pain, this can be felt throughout your head, one side, or even behind your eyes. But what exactly is a migraine?

Migraines are similar to headaches in the sense that they cause pain in your head, however they tend to give the sufferer an extremely intense pain that tends to make you feel very nauseous and sensitive to bright lights and sounds. This is an inconvenience to someone’s everyday lives. Some make it possible to continue working through them, even though you may not feel the best. While others, depending on their intensity, can make working through the day close to impossible.

It may not be common knowledge to most but there are at least nine different types of migraines that one may experience. As you go through the different types, you may find that you have a type that you occasionally get that you didn’t even know had a name. Like most things in the world, we like to simplify things and call them by the single categorical name of migraines. Continue on to see what different types of migraines there are.

  • Migraine without Aura: This is one of the most common forms of migraines out there and those who  frequently get migraines tend to suffer from them. The typical symptoms consist of pulsing headaches or pain on one side of the head, which is caused by exertion of physical activity, leading one to feel nausea as well as sensitivity to light. According to International Classification of Headache Disorders, in order to be considered one to suffer from this form of migraine you must have a minimum of five a year and be diagnosed by a medical professional.
  • Migraine with Aura: With migraines with aura, individuals tend to have an idea that they are about to have a migraine. This is due to the fact that they will start to feel a number of migraine symptoms at once such as flashing lights, part of your vision being blurry, as well as other sensory and motor problems. Unlike migraines without an aura, you can have a migraine without having an effect after.
  • Chronic Migraine: Someone is considered to have chronic migraines if they occur for half the month, within the period of three months. Individuals with these particular migraines tend to develop headaches that can be caused by stress, illness, or by increasing the usage of pain meds.
  • Abdominal Migraines: Commonly seen in children under the age of ten but has the ability to manifest in adults as well. At a young age individuals who suffer from this particular form of migraine don’t suffer from head pain until they are older. However, other symptoms this form of migraine carry with it include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Acephalgic or Silent Migraine: Unlike the other categories of the migraine mentioned above this form of migraine is known as the “silent" migraine, as you can suffer from your typical migraine symptoms without the actual headache. They most commonly cause vision problems and can alter your perception of color. This particular type of migraine is most commonly seen in individuals aged fifty and up and can be misdiagnosed as a stroke.
  • Migraine with Brainstem Aura: Similar to the silent migraine it too can be confused as a stroke because it  causes slurred speech, vertigo, unsteadiness, and numbness. Good news is that it isn’t a common form of migraine, however, it does tend to occur in adolescent aged girls.
  • Hemiplegic Migraine: Although it’s possible to get migraines without having a family history, this particular form of migraine tends to run in families. Good news is that it is rare, however, for those that suffer from it may experience weakness on one side of their body, and potential confusion or speech slurring.
  • Retinal Migraine: These migraines cause flashes or sparkles of light, or partial/total temporary blindness in one of your eyes. This typically occurs before the migraine starts, and although the pain in your head may go away quickly, it is possible for the visual symptoms for at least three days. Only your physician will be able to rule out other potential causes of blindness.


Panorama of an outdoor location with hazy, blurry, multicolored shapes at the outer edges. A visualization of symptoms of a retinal migraine.
One may see blurred rainbow colors, sparkles, or flashes of light with a retinal migraine. Image courtesy of excedrin.
  • Lastly, Status Migrainosus: This form of migraine is perhaps the most painful. It lasts more than seventy hours and doesn’t let up. In the case of these migraines, it is important to go to an emergency room as at this point what could have initially been considered a migraine may in fact be something much more serious.

Causes of migraines

When it comes to migraines, doctors aren’t entirely sure about the exact cause, but it seems that a combination of factors like genetics and the environment play a role. For example, if either of your parents experiences migraines, you might be more prone to them too. However, it usually takes some external trigger to set off an attack.

The various symptoms

Infographic depicting the stages of a migraine and their symptoms. This information can help in supporting someone with migraines.
There are so many different migraine symptoms, you may experience some at once, but very rarely will you experience all symptoms listed at once. Image courtesy of Pharmacy Planet.

A few of the symptoms were mentioned above, however let’s get into the list of different symptoms you may experience when suffering from migraines. The symptoms include but aren’t limited to:

  • Pain in the face or neck
  • Dull pain
  • Vary in headache pain
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Distorted vision
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Irritability
  • Nasal congestion
  • Scalp Tenderness

As you can see there are a number of different symptoms that one may suffer from when they have a migraine. Some may get lucky and have the migraine itself without any symptoms, it all varies from person to person. One important factor to keep in mind is that you should take note of the symptoms you suffer from, as well as how often you may be faced with a migraine. 

If you notice that you get migraines frequently it is important to consult a physician as soon as you can. And if you notice one or a combination of the following we recommend heading to the nearest emergency room near you right away: a migraine that lasts for 3 or more days without responding to any attempt of treatment, intense nausea and vomiting, a fever or stiff neck, severe head pain and finally any neurological problems such as sudden changes to your vision. In the final section you will learn about the different ways one can support others who suffer from migraines.

Supporting Someone with Migraines

There are lots of ways you can help out a loved one who deals with migraines.

Two smiling women sit side by side on a couch, one wraps the other in an embrace.
With the love and support of friends and family you can get through most everything in life. Image courtesy of NIH MedlinePlus.

Migraines are never fun. However through the love and support of family and friends it is possible to have the experience be less painful. Follow along to see how you can be there to support someone in your life suffering from migraines.

  • Believe them. When someone confides in you that they suffer from migraines the most important thing for you to do is to be there for them and believe them. We know for some this can be easier said than done. Migraines are one of the invisible diseases that one may suffer from, so it can be easy for one to shrug off being told that someone is suffering from a migraine. However, without having a medical degree, who are we to decide that their pain and what they may be feeling is true or not.
  • Recognize and Help them with their pain. Now how can one do this?  Believe it or not, helping individuals who are suffering from a migraine can be pretty easy. A few ways that you can do this include keeping the lights off or dimmed as possible when in the room with your friend or family member who is suffering from a migraine. Another thing to consider is keeping sounds around the person as low as possible. We aren’t saying that it has to be so low that you can’t hear anything but low enough as to not irritate their migraine even more. If you want to do more, the best thing that you can do is ask them how you can help. It’s better to ask than to assume that you know what is best.
  • Don’t give up on them. Migraines can start at some of the most inconvenient times or may occur at times when you have plans with them. If they tell you they have to cancel or change plans due to a migraine the best thing that you can do is to be understanding and as patient with them as you can, as they are trying their best to go about their lives as you and I. Being patient and flexible is really the only and best thing you can do for them.
  • Organize help through Give InKind. Work with your loved one to lighten their load by assessing what daily tasks could be handled by someone else. Create and InKind Page and use the Care Calendar to coordinate community sign ups to help with things like daily meals, help with housework, pet and child care, and more. Use the Wishlist to indicate gifts and gift cards that would be helpful to ease their suffering. Raise funds through Venmo, CashApp, PayPal, and GoFundMe to help allow your loved one to take time off work as needed so they are not forced to work through the pain.

For more information on how to support someone in your life with migraines as well as learn more about what you can do we encourage you to visit Give InKind.

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.

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