Why Migraine Stigma is Such a Headache.

I feel bad for bench scientists. Nobody is making a prime-time documentary about their lives.

Luckily, some people still aspire to work in the unglamourous and very important field of research science.

Ruth Kagan, 17, doesn’t look especially nerdy. Wearing a thin, white V-neck T-shirt and a black eyelet skirt, her long brown curls falling down one shoulder, Kagan looks like the average high-schooler. But this girl loves science with a fiery passion. Particularly the science of migraines.

Though Kagan herself doesn’t get migraines, almost every other female relative on her mother’s side suffers, including Kagan’s 19-year-old sister, Joan. Seeing how much pain her sister endures motivated Kagan to start studying migraines two years ago as an independent research project at her high school.

This summer, in addition to taking a full course load at Harvard Summer School, Kagan is researching migraines at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and starting a migraine blog. She’s hoping that she can use her blog to dispel some of the stigma Joan faces.

“Her doctor basically told her to buck up,” Kagan said, shocked that one of Joan’s pediatricians was so dismissive of her sister’s pain. Kagan thinks migraine medication advertisements are also part of the problem, portraying migraine suffers as “whiny women.”

One of the reasons the stigma might exist is the same reason Kagan is so interested–migraine suffers experience everyday environments completely differently than non-suffers. Whether it’s painfully bright overhead lights (photophobia) or excruciating water pressure in the shower (cutaneous allodynia), the things that some migraine suffers find unendurable can leave non-sufferers shrugging their shoulders, wondering what the problem is.

Kagan wants to use her blog to help other people understand that migraine is physiological, not psycological. She plans to make the science as accessible and laymen-friendly as possible by incorporating personal anecdotes with research in her posts and by making the layout as visually appealing as possible.

If Kagan presents her blog as well as she presents herself, getting readers shouldn’t be a problem.


One thought on “Why Migraine Stigma is Such a Headache.

  1. I find this really interesting because as a non-migraine sufferer I always thought it was dumb that people had to leave work or cancel prior engagements because of what I saw as “just a headache”. One day I got a migraine and was in excruciating headache and realized that this is a real problem and could completely understand why somebody would miss work because of it.

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