Migraine pain forces victims to suffer in silence
Lack of treatment causes patients to seek unorthodox relief
Calista Busch | Staff Writer
Juliana Discher | Staff Writer
Lightning bolts zapping your head, hands wrenching your brain, nails being driven into your skull – for students with migraines, this excruciating pain is common.
Migraines are painful, recurring headaches, usually accompanied with adverse symptoms like flashing lights, nausea, and sensitivity to light, noise, or smell. They are different for each person that has them, varying in length, intensity and side effects.
Sophomore Delaney Durham said her migraines feel like someone is twisting her brain.
“It feels like someone stuck their hands in my brain and is cranking it around,” Durham said. “(It’s) like someone knocking on my brain.”
According to the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute (MHNI), approximately 10 percent of children experience migraines by late childhood. Despite this, there are still very few concrete methods for migraine prevention or relief as the cause of migraines is generally unknown. As a result, patients that experience them find their own techniques to help relieve the headaches. Sophomore Taylor Kling uses art therapy to reduce her migranes.
“Doing art reduces stress and contributes to less horrible headaches,” Kling said. “It just gets your mind off things.”
Senior Nihar Rama suffers from migraines along with his mother, Priya. Priya uses her art to express the pain of migraines because according to Nihar, the two feel the field has been neglected with research.
“Some people see things when they get migraines, and my mom is one of those people,” Rama said. “She sees distorted images. She takes what she sees and paints. There has to be more research done – there is some, but not nearly to the extent of some more commonly discussed diseases.”
Though the specific cause of migraines is unknown, it is thought to be the result of a constriction in the vessels of the head. It can be exacerbated by stress or a genetic predisposition. Kling said when she stresses, she experiences worse and more frequent migraines.
Research coordinator for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Janelle Allen has intensely studied chronic migraines in adolescents. Allen said her research has found social and academic experiences can be negatively impacted by migraines.
“What we see is people who have suffered from headaches and migraines, their performance at school sometimes goes down,” Allen said. “Their ability to focus and retain information sometimes goes down. Being present in social settings is diminished.”
According to MHNI, approximately 37 percent of children that experience migraines note poorer school performance and trouble focusing in class and on homework. Rama said his migraines were so severe in eighth grade that he had to be homeschooled for two months.
“I was getting migraines three to four times a week, so I was missing school consistently,” Rama said. “My parents decided to pull me out for a bit because they thought it was something in the middle school environment that was giving me migraines. Now in high school I don’t have them as often; I have them only around two or three times a month.”
Kling said her migraines have affected her productivity.
“It’s hard to concentrate when you feel like your brain’s going to explode,” Kling said. “It hasn’t affected my grades, but it has affected my ability to work for long periods of times on things and stay on track. It does affect how easy it is to complete assignments.”
Students have learned to adapt to their migraines. Rama said he now accepts his limits.
“I had to understand that you can’t do all the things you did before,” Rama said. “You can’t be so active.”