history of migraines

What You Don’t Know About the History of Migraines

Shelly Kramer Womens Health Leave a Comment

If you suffer from migraines, you’re probably wondering why no one has found a cure for this fairly common condition. After all, surely you know other people—mostly women—who also get migraines. So why hasn’t this been a priority for medical researchers? Learning a little about the history of migraines might help you understand why.

If you’re interested in more medical research, check out: There’s a Reason Businesses Are Big on Supplements—Consumers Are All In

Who Do Migraines Affect?

You might know firsthand that migraines can be debilitating; they’re frequently bad enough for you to have to miss work. And you’re not alone. About 30 million Americans get migraines, as do about 1 billion people worldwide. Migraines are among the most underfunded health conditions. When compared to other neurological conditions, this disorder gets the least funding overall. This is why it’s important to consider the history of migraines.

What’s even more upsetting is that although women are much more likely to get migraines than men—by about three times as much—most of the migraine research has been done on male animals. This seems pretty counter intuitive, right? But when you look at the history of migraines over time, you might see this kind of treatment is unfortunately a longstanding trend.

Earliest Recorded Treatments in the History of Migraines

If you get migraines, you have at least one thing in common with the ancient Egyptians; they got them, too! And they started writing about them as far back as 1200 BC, when Hippocrates detailed the vomiting and visual issues that often come with these headaches.

As time wore on, there still wasn’t any sort of cure for migraines. In fact, it may have gotten worse for migraine sufferers—at least for the women. During the Middle Ages, there was a superstitious attitude about migraines, leading to some pretty terrible attempts at treatment. For example, some people tried to treat migraines with witchcraft, bloodletting, and even drilling holes in the skull—apparently to allow the “evil spirits” out. Can you imagine enduring that, especially considering that when it didn’t work, you’d still be left with a throbbing headache, and possibly a hole in your head?

Migraines and the Mind

Eventually, doctors started noticing that most migraine sufferers were female. That’s about the time when they decided migraines were caused by the mind. In fact, they started insinuating that most people who got migraines were poor mothers who worked too much, slept too little, and didn’t eat enough. Basically, it was considered their fault, as if they could control whether they got migraines or not. Sadly, the history of migraines is riddled with some complete nonsense.

Women who got migraines were even called hysterical, privileged, and delicate for being more predisposed to this condition than others. In fact, one doctor claimed that men only got migraines because their successful, hardworking brains were tired…while women got them because they were having trouble accepting their female duties, especially sex. Essentially, married women who got migraines didn’t want sex enough, and therefore they suffered from intense headaches. Obviously, none of this makes sense, and exposes what was simply a sexist attitude back then. But the consequences of the troubled history of migraines continue today.

What Does This All Mean for Migraines?

As you can see, the medical community has missed out on the opportunity to study migraines more for centuries. Imagine what cures we could have now if this condition had been taken seriously from the start! And it might have, if women weren’t the primary sufferers of migraines. Surely men wouldn’t have been called delicate or hysterical for all these years.

Perhaps in part due to the history of migraines, the condition is still not taken seriously enough. The study of migraines is not even considered legitimate neurology by many professionals. Migraine treatment is not normally considered a necessity, but a luxury. And the few supposed migraine treatments on the market were accidentally discovered when medical researchers were working on cures for other conditions! Not surprisingly, some of these medications have many side effects that migraine sufferers merely have to deal with if they want any relief from headaches.

If you do have to take medication for your migraines, consider this: Why It’s Smart to Compare Prescription Medication Prices Before You Buy

As of right now, things are looking up for people who get migraines. There’s a new class of drugs, called erenumab, that’s been developed specifically to treat migraines. When patients get it injected once a month, they can prevent migraines before they even begin. And what’s more, they don’t have to suffer from side effects like they do now when taking drugs that were intended for other conditions. It’s taken years to get to this point, but at least we made it!

If you want to read more about this new migraine medication, check out: New drug uses antibodies to stop chronic migraines, without side effects.

More sources on the history of migraines:

Why isn’t there a cure for migraines?
The cause and effect of migraines
Being sick isn’t socially acceptable