I have noticed something strange. First, when I went to get my prescription for my tripan… there was a shortage that has never happened before. Someone in the line was also picking up triptans for her spouse who was getting migraine attacks for the first time in three years. A friend of mine who is episodic is getting very frequent migraine attacks- enough to put her in the chronic category- all of a sudden.

Now I get daily migraine attacks so I have not noticed anything different myself. What I have noticed is Intensity has been severe this last year or so. And I tried to explain it in several ways. But the Main factor seems to be Pandemic Stress.

Title: Have your migraine attacks become more frequent during the pandemic?
Image: Woman holding hand in front of her face. On palm is black X

If your migraine attacks seem to be more frequent during this pandemic, you are not alone

“Everybody has been having more headaches. More frequent headaches,” says Dr. Aashrayata Pandit.

A recent study, by the Headache and Migraine Policy forum, reveals 70 percent of people with migraines report an increase in attacks during the pandemic.

“Even my regular migraine sufferers who used to have one migraine per month, are now coming in with migraines lasting for 15 days,” Dr. Pandit says.

She explains the constant stress of everyday life isn’t only impacting mental health, but likely taking a toll on the body as well.


Changes in routine

One factor could be that the pandemic has altered our routines. Some due to the pandemic. Some due to the stress it has caused.

And this means changes in:

  • Our sleep patterns or lack of sleep
  • Our eating habits
  • Our level of screen time
  • How we interact with people
  • The social isolation
  • Financial stresses
  • Stress due to job loss
  • Excessive worry
  • Anxiety/depression

Some of us even find wearing a mask too long is a trigger. I have found the masks at the ER have an odour to them that triggered an immediate migraine. And certainly I wouldn’t have gone to the ER at all if it had not been an asthma issue- so there is a reluctance to go to the ER when we may need to, or even a reluctance to see our doctor when we may need to. There can also be delays in seeing specialists like our neurologists for treatments we need to manage our migraine disease. So there are a whole lot of factors for why our migraine frequency or intensity may be currently impacted.

What a recent study showed:

In comparison to pre-pandemic period, 607 respondents

  • 59.6% reported increase in migraine frequency,
  • 16% reported decrease in frequency,
  • 10.3% transformed to chronic migraine.
  • Severity was reported to increase by 64.1% respondents.
  • 61.5% didn’t communicate with their neurologists,
  • Botox injections cancellation had a negative impact on 66.1% from those receiving it.
  • 4% were infected with COVID-19; 63.4% reported worsening of their headaches amid infection period.
  • Sleep disturbance was reported by 78.1%
  • 79.5% reported having symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

Some things that may help us during these ‘unprecedented times’ are

  • Trying to maintain consistent eating habits
  • Good sleep hygiene
  • Reducing any unnecessary screen time and always using a blue light filter on the screen when possible. Or wear migraine tinted glasses.
  • If you don’t use a headache diary or tracking app, start one again to see what sort of new triggers may be impacting the frequency or intensity of your attacks.
  • Starting an exercise routine or walking outside
  • I find some de-stressing is pretty necessary for me. So more relaxation breathing, meditation. More social media breaks and breaks from watching the news.

The pandemic has caused some pretty consistent stress factors and some stresses we may not have anticipated like job loss and income stresses. Even when you think it hasn’t impacted you, it has. Just all the constant influx of information, the isolation, the changes upon changes, and adapting. And subtle changes to our routine- migraine disease likes routine and some small changes can just throw us right off. I know sleep changes for me can have quite a dramatic effect on my migraine intensity and frequency. I maintain a pretty consistent routine even though I no longer work. My brain just likes the consistency.

I find it vital to focus on things that help reduce my stress. Some mild exercise. Getting outside which will be easier as the weather improves. Focusing some set time a day for my hobbies. Trying to have some sort of social time. And some self-care when I need it.

It has been a long haul for all of us. And we are not through it yet. I do hope soon we will see improvements with vaccine roll outs. We will have to see what the future brings. My spouse still doesn’t have a job to replace the one he lost (some temp jobs came up last year but nothing permanent) and that is something that has impacted us a great deal- I sure hope that will change soon with the coming spring.

See more pandemic posts

How is mental health affected during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Chronic pain and the pandemic
Chronic illness: pandemic stress

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5 thoughts on “Have your migraine attacks become more frequent during the pandemic?

  1. Absolutely! I was just talking to someone saying that my migraines haven’t been this bad in at least a few years. In addition to having them more frequently, and they are more intense. the last two have lasted a week each and they weren’t even a week in between. the last one went away the day I was going to go to the doctors looking for Toradol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been complaining about how intense they have been. But my friend is now technically chronic which worries me… going chronic no matter why well, she could get stuck like that. So many people are affected because of all this. It is definitely worrisome.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is interesting. Like a global stress factor phenomena. I haven’t gotten COVID and hope I don’t but apparently that too nails us with severe ones, as you had.

      Liked by 1 person

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