From actors to artists, athletes, singers and politicians, some of the world’s most prominent figures struggle to balance migraine symptoms with their busy lives, just like the rest of us who live with migraines
Migraines are characterized as severe headaches that begin on one side of the head with pounding or throbbing pain. They can cause nausea as well as sound and light sensitivity, among several other debilitating side effects.
If you get migraines you are not alone. Migraine is the third most common disease in the world with approximately 12% of the population affected. Those born female are three times more likely to get migraines, however, migraines don’t discriminate. Anyone can get them, even your favorite celebrities.
If you struggle with migraine, you may relate to the following public figures who have spoken out about how migraines affect them.
1. Tori Spelling
Related: The Confusion of Migraine
Via Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore
Those living with migraine often use a combination of medication and products to minimize their migraines, and Tori Spelling is no exception.
The “Beverly Hills, 90210” actress relies on a combination of treatments and items to keep her migraines at bay from painkillers to a makeshift frozen pea icepack.
“Tori has been using painkillers for years [to treat migraines],” an insider told In Touch in 2015. “The frequency of Tori’s migraines has increased.”
If you, like Spelling, are always on the lookout for ways to diminish your migraines, check out this list of “12 Migraine-Soothing Products People Swear By.”
2. Hugh Jackman
Via Creative Commons/Gandalf.
If you’ve ever missed an important moment due to migraine, you may relate to “X-Men” actor Hugh Jackman, who missed an important moment due to migraine. When Prime Minister Tony Blair came backstage to meet the “Oklahoma!” cast, Jackman was throwing up.
“I remember having a migraine when Tony Blair came to see ‘Oklahoma!'” Jackman told Britain’s FHM magazine. “I was going into the wings and throwing up whenever I was off stage, and afterwards Tony Blair came backstage to meet the cast, and of course I was throwing up.”
3. Kristin Chenoweth
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Actress Kristen Chenoweth, known for her roles in “The Pink Panther” and “Stranger Than Fiction,” used to get migraines so frequently she thought about retiring from acting to avoid the spotlight triggering her migraines.
Chenoweth found a solution in what many think of as an anti-aging drug: Botox. The drug is a treatment option for those living with chronic migraine, 15 migraine days per month, and reduces, on average, 9 migraines per month.
While at first hesitant about the procedure, Chenoweth said she is very satisfied with the results.
“I went to my doctor in New York, and she said she wanted to give me five shots of Botox across my eyebrows,” Chenoweth told Prevention Magazine. “And I said, ‘Oh, no. I make my living through my facial expressions.’ And she said, ‘You’re not going to have a living if you can’t work.’ So I let her do it, and I haven’t had a full-blown headache since.”
4. Michele Bachmann
Via Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore
Minnesota Republican Congresswoman and former presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s migraines were so extreme during the 2011 presidential campaign she required hospitalization.
Concerned some would question her ability to lead the country with the condition, Bachmann told voters at a campaign rally they shouldn’t assume her migraines would limit her.
“Like nearly 30 million other Americans, I experience migraines that are easily controlled with medication,” she said. “Let me be abundantly clear — my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as Commander in Chief.”
5. John F. Kennedy
Via Creative Commons/paal
While his comment might seem a bit ridiculous, science backs his finding. Sex, especially sex that results in orgasm, can halt or reduce the severity of a migraine. Unfortunately, sex can sometimes cause migraines too.
6. Kanye West
Via Creative Commons/Francois Durand
Rapper Kanye West was hospitalized for his migraine while on tour in 2014. As part of his care, West had an MRI performed as a precautionary measure. Fortunately for Yeezy fans, West was released in time to perform.
Though symptoms like vision changes and brain fog can be cause for concern, they are common migraine symptoms especially for those who have migraine with aura. Check out these “15 Migraine Symptoms That Aren’t ‘Just a Headache,’” to learn more about the different ways migraine can present.
7. Lisa Kudrow
Via Creative Commons/pamhule
For “Friends” star, Lisa Kudrow, migraine might be hereditary. Kudrow’s father, a doctor, suffered from cluster headaches. Hereditary migraines are common. If one or both of your parents have migraines, you are 50-75% more likely to have migraines as well, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Fortunately for Kudrow, her migraines diminished as she grew older.
8. Janet Jackson
Via IMDB/Jean Cummings
Janet Jackson has a rare form of migraine that caused her to cancel concerts in 2008.
9. Carly Simon
via IMDB/Larry Busacca
Carly Simon, best known for her song “You’re So Vain,” was able to reduce her frequency of migraines by making lifestyle changes.
“I don’t smoke, I sleep for eight hours, and coffee is not a part of my life,” Simon told Brain&Life magazine. She also avoids alcohol.
There are many lifestyle changes that you can make to avoid a migraine. However, reducing stress and keeping a consistent diet and sleep schedule may be key. Stress triggers migraines for 70% of people, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
If you’re having difficulty controlling migraine, check out these articles from The Mighty community:
- 12 ‘Small,’ but Significant Lifestyle Changes That Help People With Migraine
- 16 ‘Triggers’ That Can Cause Migraine Symptoms to Flare
10. Elvis Presley
Best known as the King of Rock and Roll, it wasn’t until after Elvis Presley’s death that his physician revealed the star’s severe and recurring migraines. While we may never know for sure, some suspect the Presley’s illicit drug use contributed to his migraines.
Medication can help manage migraine, but for some, especially with long-term use, can cause medication overuse or rebound headaches. These types of headaches can happen with both prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you notice your headaches change and become dull and constant after taking medication, talk to your doctor about your pain management plan.
11. Susan Olsen
Better known as little Cindy Brady in “The Brady Bunch,” Susan Olsen has been advocating for those with migraines since 1998. In 2005, Olsen told Larry King about how her migraines started when she was 11.
12. Vincent Van Gogh
Via Creative Commons/KUUNSTKUULTUR
Many people know Vincent Van Gogh lived with mental illness, but few know the painter may have also lived with migraines. The swirls in his famous painting “Starry Night” may actually be migraine auras, according to some.
Migraine auras are zigzagging, flashing or shimmering lights that can come before a migraine — though it is possible to experience aura without head pain following. Among those with migraine, 25-30% experience aura.
To learn more about the different ways aura can present, read how “17 People Describe What Visual Auras From Migraine ‘Look’ Like.”
13. Serena Williams
Via Creative Commons/TennisStreaming
Tennis player Serena Williams began sharing her experience with menstrual migraines when she became a brand ambassador for the triptan drug she uses to relieve her pain.
Triptans are a type of prescription drug that stimulate the neurotransmitter serotonin, which reduces inflammation and constricts blood vessels. While they can help relieve migraine, triptans are not a preventative medication.
14. Freddie Ljunberg
via Freddie Ljunberg’s Twitter page
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, causes Sweedish Soccer player Freddie Ljunberg’s severe migraines. Ljunberg has missed games due to the condition — and had to be carried away during a game once.
“I throw up and lose my vision and also lose all the feeling in my hands,” he told The Telegraph.
Fortunately, Ljunberg does not experience severe migraines frequently. “It was 2½ years since the last serious one,” he said. “They say that you can grow out of them and I was hoping for that to be true for me — but it wasn’t.”
To help reduce his migraines, Ljunberg said he tries to take it easy and watch what he eats.
15. Ben Affleck
Via Creative Commons/Marco Manna Photography
The stress of directing his first film, “Gone Baby Gone,” led to a migraine so significant Ben Affleck ended up in the hospital.
“So, I probably worked four times as hard as I needed to, and maybe in some ways that was probably bad, because you get so tight when you work that hard,” Affleck told The Early Show. “But I just kept on going and going and hardly slept, probably over-prepared.”
While stress can bring about migraines, the end of a particularly stressful event can cause pain too. “Post-stress – like you are super stressed leading into exams, then once you’re done – bam, you get hit with a post-stress migraine,” Mighty community member Laura C. said.
16. Elle Macpherson
Via Creative Commons/Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer
In addition to acupuncture, supermodel and actress Elle Macpherson drinks three liters of water per day to prevent migraines. When her kids have headaches, she reminds them that they should drink water as well.
Macpherson is right when it comes to water and migraines.
“We know dehydration is the biggest, most potent trigger for migraine,” Cynthia Armand, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the Montefiore Headache Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in an article for the American Migraine Foundation. “So hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! When it’s hot outside, when you’re inside and you’re using a heater—make sure that you drink seven to eight glasses of water a day.”
17. Terrell Davis
Via Terrell Davis’ Instagram page
Although a migraine benched Terrell Davis for part of the 1998 Superbowl, he was able to return and earned the title of MVP after scoring three winning touchdowns.
“Once it happened, I wasn’t going to let it rob me of my chance to be me for that day because I could never live past that,” Davis told People Magazine. “I was like, ‘There is no tomorrow — this is it.’”
Davis’ migraines caused mental health symptoms in addition to pain. “I didn’t want to live through that period,” he said. “Suicide crossed my mind. I didn’t plan it, but the only thing I could think of was just ending it.
If you live with migraine and struggle with your mental health, you are not alone. Pain and other migraine symptoms can make it challenging to go about your day, leading to symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Check in with others on The Mighty and share what you’re going through – we’re here for you.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
18. Simon Cowell
It’s difficult to determine what the cause of Cowell’s migraine was, however, being on a talent-based show provides plenty of migraine-triggering opportunities. From the bright lights to the long hours and various sounds, any of these are likely to trigger Cowell’s migraines as opposed to questionable talent.
19. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The unpredictability of travel can be a trigger for those who live with migraine, including basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar felt his performance in a 1982 NBA championship game was hindered by a migraine.
If traveling triggers your migraines, try these migraine-approved glasses and sunglasses recommended by The Mighty community as well as noise-canceling headphones to make loud environments less stressful.
20. Gwen Stefani
Via Creative Commons/Nathan Congleton
Pregnancy can change migraine frequency. For some, migraines occur more frequently, while others get a reprieve from head pain. Unfortunately for those who get more migraines while pregnant, many migraine medications are not approved for use during pregnancy.
The lack of migraine treatment options for pregnant women may be why singer Gwen Stefani turned to acupuncture during her pregnancy. Acupuncture helped Stefani so much, she now recommends it to friends.
If you are pregnant or looking to get pregnant, talk to your doctor to discuss your pain management plan and what medications or alternative treatments are safe during pregnancy.
21. Khloé Kardashian
Via IMDB/E! Entertainment/Nicole Weingart
While it may seem like handling stress and drama come naturally to the Kardashians, one of Khloe Kardashian’s latest stressors resulted in some pretty severe migraine symptoms.
After Tristan Thompson, Kardashian’s boyfriend and father of her child, cheated on her, the reality star’s migraine frequency increased.
“I get really bad migraines but they’ve been increasing more and more. And I don’t know if my migraines and nausea are caused by the same thing, I’m not really sure,” Kardashian said during an episode of “Keeping up With the Kardashians.” “Some days I feel great and I don’t feel nauseous at all and I don’t have a headache and I’m fine. And then the next day, the slightest thing might really upset me, and I get blindsided by them.”
In an effort to stop the pounding head pain, Kardashian did everything from considering going off hormonal birth control to getting an MRI to rule out any underlying causes.
For some birth control can intensify migraines, while for others it can provide relief.
If you struggle with migraine, you are not alone. Our migraine community is here for you to offer support and encouragement. To learn more about coping with migraine, check out the following articles:
- 23 Parts of Migraine Attacks We Don’t Talk About Enough
- Transient Aphasia Is a Different Kind of Migraine Aura
- 10 Types of Migraine You Should Know About