Among the most amazing facts about migraine is that no two people experience it in exactly the same way. Sure, you share a general diagnosis with a billion other people. Yet your migraine is as unique to you as your fingerprint.
That’s because migraine has many features, which mix and match into an experience that’s totally personal to you. This seems obvious for migraine with aura, which can create visual distortions or lightning flashes, disorient your spatial awareness, make you walk like you’re drunk or spin your world around. But even “common” migraine (which accounts for 80 percent of cases) has many nuances whose factors combine to make each person’s headache truly unique.
Here are a few examples of the different factors that mix and match to build a migraine.
- Food cravings
- Trouble thinking
- Neck pain
- Light and sound sensitivity
Timing and duration
- Frequency of attack:
- 15 or more days a month (Chronic Migraine)
- Less than 15 days a month (Episodic Migraine)
- Infrequent migraine (less than 4 days a month)
- Sense it coming beforehand?
- Duration of a typical attack (treated/untreated):
- Less than 4 hours
- More than 4 hours
- One day
- Multiple days
- Coincides with menstrual period
- Weekends only
- Starts only at night
- Starts only in the morning
- Mild (0-3 on the pain scale)
- Moderate (4-6)
- Severe (7-10)
- Side of the head: Right, left or both
- Face: eye, cheekbone, forehead, jaw
- Teeth or tongue
- Hair or scalp hurt?
- Does the pain stay in one place, or move during the attack?
- Stabbing, throbbing, tingling, pulsing?
- Tightness, pressure?
- Do pain sensations change over the course of an attack?
- Flashing lights, blind spots, blurred or temporary loss of vision
- Visual distortions or changes in perceptual awareness (things seeming bigger or smaller)
- Speech problems or loss of speech
- Numbness or weakness, mild paralysis
- Nausea, vomiting, stomachache
- Light sensitivity
- Sound sensitivity
- Odor sensitivity
- Dizziness or vertigo (sensation of spinning)
- Mood changes
Throw in the various triggers and exacerbating sensitivities that influence a headache, and you can see why migraine is different in everyone — and why there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. Two people diagnosed with the same condition might respond differently to the same medication, or to different types of therapies! That’s why treatment works best when it is personalized. For you and your doctor, that means working together to figure out personalized approaches for your one and only migraine brain — so you can reclaim your one and only life.