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‘Not Just A Headache’- Michael’s Story

12 November 2018

A recent survey conducted by the National Migraine Centre revealed that 50% of chronic migraine sufferers are worried about losing their job. 25% had to change careers because of their migraines and/or headaches. Almost 16% lost their job because of migraines and/or headaches”.

In a recent report published by The Work Foundation, it is estimated that migraines are costing the UK economy £8.8 billion per year in lost work days. Hardly “project fear” but certainly a reality check.

These statistics do not surprise me. As an employer, I have been guilty of dismissing migraine sufferer`s as malingerers only to fall foul of the condition myself in later life. How I regret my lack of empathy back then.

Clearly the condition impacts on us all. Notwithstanding the obvious stigma implications, there is now a good a case for those affected to carry a migraine card. That way, at least employers would know the condition is real and plan according.

When I started getting migraines, I struggled with the fact that not much was known about this condition. Quite often well-meaning but ill-informed GP’s regard it as just a  headache. For sufferer`s this apathy often exacerbates the problem.

One of my friend’s endured migraines for years and thought he was losing his mind because doctors did not take him seriously.


For me, the worst thing was having to explain why I feel so poorly. I have heard things like “Oh, you are not holding your head again”.


I come from a generation where only women were supposed to get headaches, not men.


Thankfully, due in part to organisations like the National Migraine Centre, there is now greater awareness- providing a sanctuary for those who need it most.

I was referred earlier this year to get some help for my migraines. This is after I have been in agonising pain for months.  The headaches came and went some requiring medication others not. The pain was often preceded by dizziness and later accompanied by crippling fatigue. It was a debilitating cocktail which seriously affected my capacity to function.

Once you have exhausted the obvious: eye tests, bloods, medication, 24-hour blood pressure monitor, plus a brain scan and all is non- remarkable, the inevitable anxiety sets in.

The National Migraine Centre works very well in the first instance by making all of those who visit feel welcome. I got a real sense that at last, I was in the presence of medics who care, but more importantly, knew their subject as a speciality,  instead of the 8-minute “fob off” I had experienced in the past.

The doctors in my case (Dr Ghosh and later Dr Munro) started by asking a series of questions about headaches. I had a thorough session and they put together a medical profile, diagnosis and treatment plan.

The condition has many facets/ triggers and is different from patient to patient. Therefore there is rarely a short- term fix.


Various issues can precipitate attacks. This includes poor posture, sleep apnoea, medication intolerance, chemical/hormone imbalances, eating drinking habits, stress. The list is endless.

I was made aware that it may take time to find the cause of my headaches, even longer to find the bespoke treatment, but no one was giving up on me. Magnesium supplements together with physiotherapy and triptans have been suggested. Let`s hope this does the trick. In my opinion, follow up appointments offered in the clinic are essential.

I already feel more comfortable about the condition. Taking heed of the advice that medication works best when taken early in the attack, I now keep my meds within easy reach.

-Michael  : Broadcaster/ Journalist


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