The Excedrin Ad I'm Simultaneously Thankful For and Infuriated By


Recently, Excedrin released a video called “The Migraine Experience.”

I am so thankful to Excedrin for shedding light on the fact that migraine is not “just a headache.” Migraine is a neurological disorder. Head pain is just one of the many symptoms, and it can range from nonexistent to severe in nature. There is a long list of other possible symptoms including but not limited to: nausea, vomiting, vertigo, lightheadedness, transient aphasia (temporary difficulty with speech, reading or writing), and allodynia (experiencing pain from things that don’t “normally” cause pain).

hand holding an assortment of pills
Sara’s morning medication.

For me, migraine comes secondary to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, but for many it can come alone, a product of their genes. My current migraine diagnosis is intractable migraine with persistent aura without infarction. Let me translate for you. Intractable means all of the time. Every minute of every day, I experience symptoms of migraine. Persistent aura means that in addition to the pain, and the unrelenting nausea, I live with the constant presence of sparkling lights in my field of vision. When new doctors read this they usually ask “Even right now?” I politely say yes and smile. They are my constant companion, even as I write this post, I fight to see through them. That last part (without infarction) means that I haven’t had a stroke yet. They have to note this because migraine, migraine with persistent aura for example, can come with risks. Here lies the reality that many people may not realize about migraine. Migraine is not remotely just a headache, some variations can be life-threatening. They can involve the risk of strokes and seizures. People can die from these complications.

an injection needle
Sara’s medicine.

So this is why Excedrin’s advertisements rub me the wrong way. Yes, I’m so happy that they are spreading awareness about the fact that this condition is more than a headache, but they also imply that migraine can be fixed by taking a couple of the over-the-counter pills. For a lot of people, myself included, Excedrin will never be enough; it is not even a part of my migraine tool-kit. The things that are helpful for me do not come over-the-counter. They include more than 30 pills a day, injections of Botox, injections of pain and nausea medications, nerve block (steroid and analgesic) injections, stints of IV treatment when the injections aren’t enough, physical therapy, and hospitalization when all of that doesn’t cut it. Soon, I will have a radiofrequency ablation (RFA). That means that I am going to let a doctor burn away my nerve endings. I hope that it helps, but the reality is that for many of us, nothing we try is enough to beat this monster.

There is no cure for this disease. There is not even an approved medication that is designed specifically to prevent the changes in the brain that result in migraine (although this is coming). All of my migraine medications are prescribed off-label. Borrowed from another disease or cause that gets more attention. I am grateful to Excedrin for bringing some of that attention towards us, but now that it’s here I need everyone who is willing to listen to understand that for a great many of us, Excedrin will never be enough. We need more. More awareness, more understanding, more research, more potential solutions to this problem that affects so many, but carries so much stigma. Migraine is not our fault.

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

A version of this post originally appeared on zebrawrites.com.

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