Everything is hard before it is easy.
The health sciences approach that prevails today is biomedical, which implies that every disorder is assumed to have an organic cause. Migraine is not different. People insist on searching for a malfunction in the organism of a person who suffers from migraines when the issue is the opposite: that organism works too well. It is essential to learn what pain is and how it works to make this coherent triple-double and overcome migraines.
What is pain?
Pain is an emotion and an emotion is a reaction caused by an assessment. In other words, pain does not exist as something that stems from damaged tissue, a group of neurons, an enzyme, or even a protein. Just as fear arises from something perceived as dangerous, pain emerges from something perceived as threatening.
For example, if you break your leg and it hurts, it does not mean your leg’s damaged tissues can cause pain. What it means is that your organism (and not only your brain isolated) has assessed the injury, finding it dangerous to your health, so it makes it hurt to warn you. You feel pain in your broken leg, but your leg is not able to cause you pain. What is causing you pain is your body’s belief about the broken leg.
To believe that a broken leg is what causes pain is the same as believing that to be afraid of snakes is something that comes from the animals, instead of an organism that perceives it as dangerous.
Our bodies feel pain, but it emerges from a valuation. It is linked to a system formed by beliefs and judgments that warns of a thread for your health. That is why pain cannot be perceived because it is the organism’s response to a detected threat (neither objective nor real) and not an outer perceivable stimulus such as light. Thread is what is perceived; pain is the response. We should not talk about a pain threshold, either. In any case, we should talk about a threat threshold; thus, the degree of a threat to which an organism reacts with pain.
In short, just because part of your body hurts, it does not mean you have an injury. What it means is that your organism has perceived a threat. This is how it works most of the time, but there could be instances where your body responds with pain in the absence of an injury. Pain comes from awareness or what your body thinks it is happening, not from what it is going on. Quoting Paul Watzlawick: «All perception and thought is relative, operating by comparison and contrast.»
Is migraine a disease?
Migraine treatments and how the concept of ‘migraine’ is defined in books show how far Medicine is from understanding what migraine is. According to the WHO, to describe a problem or disorder as a disease, there must be a physiological disruption inside the organism something that nobody has been able to find in migraine. On the other hand, diagnostic criteria around migraine state that there is no need for either a structural or a metabolic cause to explain the pain. Paradoxically, the biomedical model, which states these criteria, cannot take action unless something can be cured or realign inside the organism. Consequently, and against its standards, it treats migraines as if there existed an organic cause, even when nobody had ever found it.
Not considering migraine as a disease leaves it apart from the messianic model from which treatments to health problems come from, leaving the patient helpless and hopeless when trying to get healed. However, considering migraine as a disease means walking away from the cure.
If the organic cause that provokes migraine has not been found, it is not because it has not been sought, but because pain is an emotion that cannot be limited to biological reasons. Pain comes from the interaction between a person and their reality and not from damaged tissue, a group of neurons, an enzyme, or a protein. It is as if to study the tides, we focus on studying water molecules of seawater and leave aside the interaction between the Earth and the Moon.
There is no need to find an organic disorder within a body for a migraine to appear. The issue arises when migraine appears without a real threat, not migraine itself. In biological terms, migraine is a perfect functional mechanism. There is no such thing as a faulty alarm; the problem is that this alarm was initiated when it was not needed: a false alarm.
«Healing» the dynamic persona-reality
Migraine resembles more a phobic disorder or an organism that reacts inappropriately to reality than a neurological disease. The person is not the problem, but their interaction with the real world.
Cured cheese, fog, southern wind, a stressful situation, a varnish smell, smoked food, or alcohol; all the triggers of a migraine (not the causes) are external. The brain of a person who suffers from migraines works well. What needs to be changed is the established response between the person and what triggers the migraine.
Stimuli, phenomena, or food that trigger a migraine as a response have something in common: not histamine, but a threat. Due to their nature, they are more likely to be perceived as a threat and, as a consequence, start a defense mechanism: a migraine.
Do you know anyone who gets migraines from lettuce, the smell of the sea, mineral water, quietness, or 73 ºF? It is quite unlikely that any of these elements will be perceived as a threat and end up triggering a migraine.
Just as a harmless pigeon may cause a panic reaction, a delicious piece of cured cheese may trigger a migraine. The problem is not the cheese nor the pigeon, but it is not the person’s brain either. The problem is the existing interaction between the person and the trigger.
When talking about treatments to cure migraine, something curious happens: how is it possible that some people overcome a migraine with Botox and others in a hyperbaric chamber o through the so-called Neuropedagogy of pain? Each of them must have a completely different drive mechanism.
They all share, randomly, that these treatments can cause a corrective emotional experience (Frank Alexander), which changes how we perceive the danger that triggers the migraine. However, a treatment that changes a person’s perception does not mean that it also changes all perceptions, as the way we perceive reality is unique. People who get rid of a migraine by reading about pain, changing their eating habits, vegetable juices, homeopathy, or piercing recommend such treatment. However, it is far from being a treatment to cure migraines, as it only, by chance, changed their perception.
Having a headache is not rare; more than 90% of people have suffered from it at some point in their lives. Therefore, although it is annoying, it is not the main issue. The key to overcoming a migraine is to pay attention to the way you behave when you have a headache. Migraine is a hypothesis that, depending on your reaction, will be accepted and become chronic or rejected and go away.
So far, everything exposed here is theory. However, the three prescriptions that will help you change the way you interact with reality to overcome migraine are useful, simple, and have no side effects. It is the most effective way to systematize what some treatments manage to do by mere chance.
- Stop doing everything you are doing to cure your migraine
Migraine main problem is to be seen as something to be cured and not as something to be deactivated. Healing a migraine means turning off an alarm, and that alarm can be switched off when we perceive a situation as usual—quite the opposite of a life where you monitor your brain and visit specialists who cannot help. The first step you should take is to stop doing everything you are doing to get healed because the more you do to recover, the more the alarm amplifies.
You must stop living around migraines: if it hurts because it does, and if not, just in case. You have become a puppet with your eyes broken and turned inward (G. Nardone). The fact that you pay constant attention to your head makes your organism to do the same, turning more probable pain as the response. Everyone who seeks shall find.
All attempts to stop or prevent migraines, both homemade and scientific, are iatrogenic. In the interest of healing, changing or fixing, they make the patient’s life revolve around the headache, which is the best way to extend the migraine. For example, that usual and straightforward prescription shared by neurologists of keeping a migraine diary is a great way to make it chronic. Others, such as avoiding everything that triggers the migraine, elongate migraine by not allowing your organism to learn that the trigger is not dangerous.
Every time you visit a specialist or try a new treatment, apart from the fact that you are paying attention to your head (it is not a coincidence that neurologists specialized in migraine are, by far, the group that suffers most from it), your organism perceives more of a threat and it likely responds with pain due to the frustration of not getting any better. When talking about migraines, less is better. It is more about turning off an alarm or rebalance your life rather than finding the Holy Grail.
- Keep your composure
The most common ways to react towards migraine are:
- Fight like a Spartan
- Get away from the world
Either reinforces migraine.
If you have a migraine, it means your organism has perceived a threat. If you are suffering like a Spartan despite the pain, your organism will sense the danger even more in-depth, and the probability that will keep reacting with pain will increase.
If you get away from the world, your body gets to a conclusion like this one: «I have perceived a threat and I put a migraine into motion. They get away from the world and they are still alive. It works.»
Therefore, there is no reason it will not respond by putting a migraine into motion the next time it feels a threat.
How should we react to a migraine?
The right answer to deactivate a migraine is basically to keep your composure. If you have a migraine and your schedule, do it. But avoid locking yourself in a dark room. If it hurts too much, limit your duties even more but try to keep some activity level as much as the pain allows you and always without forcing yourself. For example, it is preferable to go for a walk than lying on the couch. Ideally, do something you like, such as going shopping, having a coffee in that place you love, or going for a walk surrounded by nature. It is the fastest way to make your organism change the difunctional perception which triggered the migraine. It perceived a threat, but far from reinforcing it by fighting or getting away from the world, you do something that has nothing to do with threat but with pleasure. What your organism feels when you react like that is quietness rather than an alarm. To get rid of the migraine, you should change the way you usually respond to it.
- Start behaving as if you did not have migraine anymore
Does it sound familiar?
When I am cured of my migraine, I will go to…
If I did not have a migraine, I would sign up for…
Technically explained: you live monitoring your head, hoping that your body does not perceive a threat and giving up everyday life ̶ the best way your body to continue feeling is under threat. If you want your body to believe it is not under threat, you must start acting as if there was no threat. Every morning, while you are getting ready, ask yourself the following:
If I did not have a migraine, what would I do?
From all the things you can think of, choose the easiest for you and do it. If you force yourself too much, far from turning off the alarm, you will turn it louder. To teach your body how to stop reacting with pain, you must show there is no threat, but you must do it with care. Quoting Lao Tse: «Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.»
There are millions of migraine treatments that work for some people. But not for the reasons their theorists presume, but because they meet the premise ‘as if…’ For example, Botox. When it makes migraine stop, it is not due to a magical physiological effect, but rather to something like the following:
A person who suffers from migraine goes to a clinic to have Botox injected. A good friend said it works, so the person trusts their friend. Their body reacts well and it does not activate a migraine. At home, they have no headache and think that it has worked. The person is so happy that they start doing things they did not do before. Their focus is more and more on the external world rather than inside their head. They were increasing migraine by monitoring their head and giving up everyday life, but now they have changed how they see the world and strengthened the idea of everyday life. Their perception of reality is different. Botox does not have a physiological effect on the migraine. It does not work on some people and others get even worse—pure chance.
Another example: Neuropedagogy of pain. You go to a chat where you are told that your problem has nothing to do with a mysterious disease but a bad brain. The explanation is wrong; however, some people may feel a corrective emotional experience. The person thinks that a faulty brain causes pain. It is less likely to get a migraine by just relaxing. They start to react differently, monitor less often their head, and migraine ends up going away. It is not neuroplasticity, there has been a change in the way the person perceives reality. Other people get stuck in a constant fight with their head, and far from turning their eyes to the world, they fix their eyes on their minds, thus extending the migraine.
All the available treatments for migraine work if, by chance, they make the person behave ‘as if.’
Thanks to the biomedical model, we can enjoy a certain quality of life because it solves most of our health problems. However, if you analyze in depth what pain is, it is evident that the answer to migraine cannot come from this model. What is more, it becomes a trap. As Einstein stated, you need a new way of thinking to solve the problems caused by the old way of thinking. Migraine is not an organic disorder; your body is perfectly fine. All the suffering comes from how you perceive reality, and it is cured by actions that show your body that there is no need to react like that.
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