Tuesday, May 27, 2008

disappointing article on migraine in Body & Soul magazine

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I was pleased to see an article about writer Hillari Dowdle's experiences with migraines in the June 2008 issue of Body & Soul magazine.

Body & Soul has a nice focus on whole living and alternative medicine for both body and mind. Given this I started reading the article with high hopes. As so often happens when we read about migraines in popular media, my expectations went largely unmet. The article relied far too heavily upon antiquated stereotypes.

The article started out promising in its discussion of the author's experiences with migraines and her exploration of acupuncture and craniosacral therapy for treating them. She also interviewed neurologist and pain specialist Dr. John Claude Krusz, who is my doctor and unquestionably an expert in the field. So far so good.

Things took a sharp turn downhill when the article turned to her discussion of how facing her emotional issues helped her have fewer migraines. To suggest as this author does that every time she has a migraine it is her body's way of reacting to a "bad decision" is irresponsible and insulting.

Migraine is a neurological condition. Attacks may be triggered by stress, consumption of particular foods or beverages and many other factors, but one will not experience a single migraine without the genetic predisposition for the disease.

I agree with the author that we should treat ourselves kindly and take good care of our bodies and minds. I encourage people to not only learn as much as they can about traditional medicine, but also to explore alternative medicine and seek out therapy for help dealing with the often devastating effects of living with migraine disease and the depression that so often accompanies it. I rely heavily upon a combination of traditional Western medicine, psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy) and alternative treatments to manage my own health conditions.

However, I find it naive to suggest it is possible to reverse the effects of a neurological condition by working on your emotional health. By suggesting this the article ultimately does little more than reinforce a common stereotype that migraineurs are hysterical, overly emotional people who could have less pain in their lives if only they'd get a grip on their moods. Anger can certainly exacerbate a migraine attack, but it is simply one of many relevant factors. Promoting this message under the guise of advocating holistic living does all migraineurs, the author included, a grave disservice.

If you're interested you can read the article online. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it after you've had a chance to read it, even if you disagree, so please leave me a comment.

Fighting Migraines

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