Migraines skyrocket as pandemic creates ‘perfect storm’ for pain, local doctors say

Health

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Metro doctors say patients are seeing a spike in migraines due to the pandemic. 

Nearly 1 in 4 households in the U.S. includes a person with migraines. Experts at St. Luke’s Hospital said that number has increased due to the pandemic.

Shona Stich describes the pain of a migraine like a feeling similar to being stabbed in the head with a knife. 

“And it’s just slowly pulling that knife in and out,” Stich said. “It just doesn’t go away. It doesn’t ease up at all.”

She’s struggled with them the last five years. Some days, it makes it hard to take care of her 18-month-old son. 

Since the pandemic started, her amount of severe migraines has skyrocketed. 

She went from four or five a month to at least two a week, with a headache almost every day.

“I’m grateful for opportunity to continue working without missing a beat, but it has definitely changed my day to day and has definitely increased just from having so much screen time,” Stich said.

Dr. Sarah Gibbons with St. Luke’s neurology department said the added stress, lack of routine and fear of the unknown brought on by the pandemic makes this the “perfect storm” to increase migraines or trigger them for the first time. 

“Migraine tends to thrive on things not being consistent, not eating regularly, not sleeping regularly, stress — all of those things,” Gibbons said, “and I think we’re at this point where all of that is going on at the same time instead of just dealing with one trigger at a time.”

There are ways to combat the triggers, like finding a healthy outlet for stress, such as seeing a therapist, doing yoga or meditating. 

Gibbons also encourages you to keep your days consistent, even if you work from home. 

A health diet, avoiding foods high in tyramine like processed meats, aged cheese, beer and wine will help, too.

Stich suggested talking with your doctor. She takes medication to stop a migraine when she feels it coming on. 

“There’s other times where it literally takes everything out of me and you can’t hardly function at all to care for yourself let alone anyone else. It can be very, very debilitating,” Stich said.

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