An Untreated Migraine Now Could Mean Chronic Migraines Later

Ignoring migraine pain with the hopes that it’ll just go away could lead to even more migraines later.

Medically reviewed in March 2020

Ignoring migraine pain with the hopes that it’ll just go away could lead to even more migraines later, according to a study.

Researchers looked at data from more than 4,600 people with episodic migraines—meaning 14 or fewer migraines days per month. Nearly half of the migraine sufferers received poor or very poor treatments, and these people were more likely to develop chronic migraines—15 or more migraine days a year—than those who received adequate treatment.

The researchers, who were from Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Vedanta Research, also found that within a year, eight percent of those who received inadequate migraine treatment progressed to chronic migraines, compared to only 2.5 percent who received excellent treatment. The study was presented at the 2013 International Headache Congress.

What is adequate migraine treatment? This raises the question, what is adequate migraine treatment? The answer is not black and white. Because no two people (and no two migraines) are the same, it’s important to work with your doctor to determine the best treatment approach for you. There are some commonalities, however, in all successful migraine treatment programs. They include:

  1. Knowing—and managing—your triggers. Because migraines affect people in very different ways, it’s important to be familiar with how they affect you specifically. This includes knowing what triggers your migraine, getting enough rest and keeping stress levels low. This also means being your own advocate. Keep a migraine journal to track your pain and speak up to your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Not sure how to talk to your doctor about your headaches? Check out these suggestions from neurologist Mark Green, MD.
  2. Being proactive. One of the best ways to treat your migraine is to stop them before they start. As soon as you realize a migraine may be in the forecast, attempt to head it off. Make sure you take all prescribed medications before the pain becomes too debilitating.
  3. Knowing your options. There is no one specific migraine treatment that’s right for everyone. But knowing which options are available to you, whether it’s medication, natural remedies or even Botox, can help you start a dialogue with your doctor that could help craft your personal treatment plan.
  4. Building a team. Whether it’s friends and family, a neurologist, primary care physician or counselor, make use of the supportive people around you. They can help keep you track and be on there on days when the migraine pain sidetracks you.

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