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Why We Should Say 'Migraine' and Not 'Migraines'

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When I first started experiencing migraine symptoms as a teenager, I thought I was just dealing with frequent, painful headaches and other unexplainable symptoms. I felt very confused and lonely for a long time because I didn’t realize there was a name for the symptoms I experienced, nor did I realize how many people live with migraine just like me.

However, I now know that approximately 1 billion people worldwide deal with migraine. In fact, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, and more than 4 million adults experience chronic migraine days that span at least 15 days per month.

Just like me, though, many people don’t realize that a migraine is so much more than a “bad headache.” Instead, the term “migraine” refers to a neurological condition, and migraine “attacks” are a collection of neurological symptoms, including severe pain on one side of the head, nausea, sensitivity of the senses, and visual disturbances. Furthermore, a vast majority of the population (myself included until recently) doesn’t realize that we should say “migraine” instead of “migraines.”

Here’s the deal, though: Those who live with chronic migraine know that the condition itself is much more complex than painful headaches. It’s a serious health condition that can seriously hinder a person’s ability to live out their day-to-day life, especially if their migraine attacks occur frequently enough.

We don’t normally consider headaches to be a long-lasting, chronic health condition. Instead, each headache is its own episode or unique occurrence. While each migraine attack is its own episode, those who are diagnosed with migraine live with this condition day in and day out, making it a single condition with a multitude of symptoms, not just single small moments of pain.

For example, I have learned that I often battle neck tension and fatigue usually the day before I actually experience a migraine attack. I also know that I experience more frequent migraine attacks at specific points in my menstrual cycle, so I can plan ahead for them. I’ve become quite skilled at following a set regimen of care at the very onset of a migraine attack, especially when I experience an aura before the attack fully presents itself.

However, the fact that living with migraine is an ongoing part of life isn’t the only thing that causes it to stand out from everyday headaches. Migraine attacks are also made up of three distinct phases, which separates them from any other type of headaches. These phases include the prodrome phase, the attack phase, and the postdrome phase. This means that even on days when people who live with migraine aren’t experiencing intense pain, they may be experiencing the prodrome or battling the after-effects that come with the postdrome phase.

This is what makes living with migraine more than just the individual migraine attacks, or “migraines,” themselves. It’s a constant, often lifelong condition — not individual instances of symptoms.

It’s that fact right there that explains exactly why we should say “migraine” and not “migraines” when discussing the condition we live with. It’s a constant part of our lives, and referring to a chronic health condition in a way that only focuses on the attacks themselves diminishes the rest of the symptoms and complications we deal with on any given day.

So, if you’re like me and live with migraine, I highly encourage you to start using the term “migraine” instead of “migraines” when explaining your health to others. By making this simple change in how you view your own health, you can help others better understand all that you live with instead of diminishing your own chronic condition.

Getty image by Fizkes.

Originally published: September 29, 2021
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