It’s not always easy to know how, exactly, to help a loved one with a chronic headache disorder. It is difficult to understand the debilitating symptoms they deal with every day. But, there are many ways to show your support.

Start By Understanding

The first, and arguably most important, thing you can do is to understand the different types of headache disorders. According to the World Health Organization, these include migraine, tension, cluster, and medication overuse.

Migraine headaches can be debilitating, with symptoms that last up to three days. People with migraines might be fatigued, nauseous, and unable to function in light and sound. Tension headaches, though potentially less disruptive than migraines, can feel like something tightening around the head. These often begin during the teenage years and affect women more often than men. Cluster headaches are rare but are more predominant in men. These are typified by frequent, severe headaches, often several times in a single day. Medication overuse headaches are caused by using the medications taken to treat a headache disorder.

How You Can Offer Hands-On Help

Once you gain an understanding of how debilitating headaches can be, you can then begin to look at ways to offer a helping hand. A few ideas here include learning more about their other health conditions, arming them with tools they need to take better care of themselves, and offering practical help that can lessen their burden. Tools that you might provide include the book, Calming the Headache Storm by Craig Sather, Doctor of Physical Therapy. This self-help manuscript offers insight on immediate pain management and hope in the form of a touching success story chronicling an individual with severe migraines.

Often, the goal is simply to help your loved one rein in those feelings of stress (which can exacerbate headaches) and foster an environment of positivity and wellness in their home. Lighting is especially important. Many migraine sufferers are very sensitive to light and struggle with light from screens. Fluorescent lighting is also problematic, so help them create alternative solutions through desk and stand lights, or even soft window coverings with blackout curtains behind them. That way, they can eliminate light if they’re in a light-sensitive period.

Practical, hands-on ways that you might also offer assistance are to reduce your loved one’s responsibilities when they are feeling bad. Providing their children a ride to and from school, bringing over a pre-cooked casserole, or arranging services when home issues, like the toilet overflowing, occur. Help them by searching “local plumbers near me” and finding the best rated option. Scheduling an in-home massage (bonus if the masseuse is experienced in head massage) or doing a self-massage are also great ways to help because they can ease migraine pain and promote relaxation.

Actions To Avoid

Sometimes, the best way we can show support is in the things we don’t do. Avoid the temptation to offer support in the form of toxic positivity. This means you shouldn’t say things like, “If it doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or, “It could be worse.” People living with chronic conditions do not need to be reminded that there are other people in the world suffering worse than they are. If you really want to offer kind and encouraging words, let them know that you acknowledge their pain is real, even if it’s invisible to you.

Living with a chronic condition that causes debilitating headaches is a sad reality for millions of Americans. Migraines are considered the third most common medical issue globally. They can leave you unable to work, depressed, and constantly wondering when the next episode will hit. People with chronic head pain need your support, and the above tips are just a few ways you can offer it when they are most in need.