Migraine Myths & Misinformation: People With Migraine Just Need to Push Through

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | July 21, 2023

Living with chronic pain can make every day feel like a struggle. Our friends, family and coworkers often don’t understand how much energy is required of us to complete even the most basic tasks. Some believe that if we just pushed ourselves, we could do more. But anyone living with migraine knows just how difficult that can be—especially on days when just getting out of bed in the morning feels like an accomplishment!

Pushing Through: The Good and the Bad

People with migraine have lives filled with responsibilities and obligations just like everyone else, so pushing through despite the pain often seems like our only option. But it is possible to push ourselves too much. The body keeps the score, as they say, and if we are consistently doing too much and not allowing ourselves to rest, we run the risk of more frequent and severe pain, burn-out, and other mental and physical health issues.

However, the opposite can also be true. When we live in pain, our instinct can often be to lay low and avoid triggers at all costs. Though pushing through can make things worse for us, sometimes it’s necessary to be up and out of bed, being active, and that can actually make us feel better. This can be true for things such as moving our bodies, connecting with loved ones, or even just getting out of the house for a change of scenery. These kinds of activities release endorphins, making us happier. They may even have the power to lower our pain.

How to Move Forward Without Pushing ThroughWoman sitting on floor gently stretching

It can be incredibly challenging to know when to stretch and push ourselves and when we just need to rest. If you find yourself in this situation, below are some questions to ask that may help make the decision easier.

  1. Did I sleep well last night?
  2. Am I well hydrated?
  3. Have I eaten enough?
  4. How is my overall stress level?
  5. Which of my others triggers may be stacking? (Hormones, weather, scents, etc.)
  6. Does the activity I am thinking of doing generally make me feel better or worse?
  7. What is my current pain level and do I have medication I can take if my pain increases?
  8. What symptoms am I currently experiencing?
  9. How long have I been experiencing this migraine?

Based on your answers to these questions, it may become more clear if you should rest or try to give yourself a push. If you opt to push – go slow – and do one or two easy things to start. When that feels okay, do a little more. If it doesn’t, back off.

When it comes to exercise this may look like starting with a little light stretching. If that feels good, perhaps you can try to walk around the block or do some light exercise at home. If that still feels okay, keep going. If it doesn’t, call it a day. Start small and build on it as long as you’re up to it.

Paying attention to your answers to the questions above can also help you make small changes to your plans that can make pushing through more manageable. For example, if you had plans to meet a friend for dinner and you think you feel okay to spend time with your friend, but going to a restaurant may tip your triggers over the edge – consider asking your friend to come over for take-out instead. That way, you can still keep your plans and reap the benefits of a social connection, but eliminate some potential triggers. If you feel well enough to exercise but the weather outside is too hot, humid or windy, then consider doing some light exercise inside instead.

Finding Balance

Making self-care and rest part of your daily routine is crucial. When we fill our cups with fulfilling activities for our minds and bodies, we have more energy to push through when we need to. Scheduling even just 15 minutes into your day to do something just for you can go a long way. Blocking the time on your calendar to ensure it happens can help you make the time a priority. Some restful activities to try include:

  • Walk in nature
  • Call a friend
  • Read a book or watch a funny show
  • Take a quick nap or lay down to rest in a quiet space
  • Gentle stretching or yoga
  • Meditation or mindfulness
  • Creative activities such as painting, coloring or crafting

Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. Do what you can when you feel up to it, and give yourself grace when you can’t. While pushing through is sometimes necessary and helpful, resting and taking care of yourself is also important!

Let Us Know

Do you feel like you are always pushing through pain? Do you have a hard time knowing when to stretch yourself and when to rest?

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