Earlier tonight, I shared The Excedrin Migraine Experience on my personal Facebook page. If you haven’t watched it yet, go ahead, I’ll wait here! Back? OK. So glad you made it!
My feelings about the video, and the medication it’s tied to are extremely conflicted.
First, the good (always). I am so thankful to Excedrin for shedding light on the fact that migraine is not “just a headache.” Migraine is a neurological disease. Head pain is just one of the many symptoms, and it can range from non-existent to severe in nature. There is a long list of other possible symptoms* including but not limited to: nausea, vomiting, vertigo, lightheadedness, aphasia (forgetting your words), and allodynia (when everything down to your hair hurts when touched).
For me, migraine comes secondary to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but for many it comes 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, and especially migraine with persistent aura comes with risks. Here lies the reality that many people do not realize about migraine. Migraine is not remotely just a headache, it can be a life threatening condition. It causes strokes. It can also cause seizures. People die from these complications.
So THIS is why Excedrin’s advertisements rub me. 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, my self included, Excedrin will never be enough. Furthermore, If you take Excedrin too much, it can actually cause rebound headaches** that are difficult to treat. This is why Excedrin 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 (a deadly toxin), 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 its 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.
*You can learn more about the symptoms of migraine here: Migraine.com
** Here you can read about the dangers of rebound headaches, and what causes them.