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Migraine University provides resources for young people living with migraine disease and headache disorders while trying to navigate their college experience. Would you like us to come and visit your university? Send an email to [email protected]

Send your student off to college prepared to tackle migraine attacks. With a $20 donation to the NHF, your college student will receive a zippered canvas bag that includes an eye mask, hot/cold pack, pill holder, emergency card and door sign indicating “do not disturb – having a headache”. Stressful course loads, late-night study sessions and college diets can be a trigger for headache and migraine — The Migraine University Survival Toolkit is lightweight and fits easily into backpacks for on-the-go use. **Please specify Migraine University under the campaign option.

Please share your story of living with migraine disease while going to school. Submit your story here.

Causes of Headaches in College Students

Many people experience headaches, often due to triggers related to their age, gender, health and overall lifestyle. College students are no different. In fact, these young and seemingly healthy individuals often lead lifestyles that put them at a very high risk for headaches.

Nearly all headaches experienced by college students are tension-type headaches. A tension-type headache causes non-throbbing, frequently bilateral pain. The underlying cause of a tension-type headache is likely due to chemical and neuronal imbalances in the brain and may be related to muscle tightening in the back of the neck and/or scalp.It is no surprise that tension-type headaches present themselves so frequently in the college population. Students spend much of their time in straining positions, whether it be sitting in uncomfortable lecture hall seats or hunching over tables trying to catch up on reading assignments.

Moreover, college students are no strangers to the other common triggers of tension-type headaches, including temporary stress, fatigue and anxiety. From cramming for finals to worrying over grad school applications, from late night parties to early morning hangovers, from straining to read endless pages of small-print textbooks to staring at a computer screen for hours a time, college students need to know how to avoid the headaches that can easily occur as a result of their lifestyle.

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) has prepared a list of tips for the collegians out there to make it through the best four (or more) years of their life with fewer headache. Taking these precautions may help avoid headaches:

  • Studying for long periods of time can cause eyestrain. Take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest!
  • Invest in an ergonomic chair. Uncomfortable seating can cause neck and back pain that may lead to tension-type headaches.
  • When it comes to alcohol, always drink in moderation, and with plenty of water in between drinks, to avoid hangover headaches in the morning. If hangovers do occur, treat with hydration and foods high in fructose (tomato juice, honey).
  • If you are trying to stay awake to study, drink coffee only in moderation. Caffeine withdrawal can be a common source of headache for avid coffee drinkers.
  • Though college students don’t always operate on a regular schedule, try not to vary your meal and sleep schedules too much. Irregular sleep cycles and missing or delaying meals can both trigger headaches.
  • Practice relaxation and biofeedback techniques to help relieve the daily stress and anxiety of college life.

College Accommodations

Ask your school if they provide accommodations for students living with migraine disease and headache disorders. Most schools have an office dedicated to serving students with disabilites. Check if your school has an Office of Student Accommodations or Office of Educational Accessibility. If they don’t provide accommodations, present them with a suggested list of accommodations for migraine and headache. Students with migraine disease and headache disorders deserve the same opportunities to benefit from a college education.

Suggested accommodations from a student for students

CHAMP Accommodations:

  1.  Modified homework assignmentsExtended time for assignments, as productivity can be greatly reduced during an attack. Student to receive homework volume that is needed to   demonstrate mastery/learning of the material.
  2.  Extended time for tests is medically necessary as processing speed is slowed by the cognitive dysfunction that occurs as part of migraine, chronic pain and multiple medications.
  3.  At onset or worsening of headache/migraine, allow student to take his/her acute medications and rest in a safe and quiet area.
  4.  Access to social worker when indicated. Anxiety and depression are comorbid conditions.
  5.  Testing time should not exceed 2 hours (or as tolerated).
  6.  Testing in a small quiet distraction free environment.
  7.  Breaks as needed, and not counted as part of testing time.
  8.  Access to a calculator for all math and science requiring calculations.
  9.  No scantron tests, write answers in test booklet.
  10.  Teacher or peer notes and study guides.
  11.  Ability to take tests orally when needed.
  12.  Ability to dictate written assignments.
  13.  Hydration, ability to keep a water bottle at all times.
  14.  Bathroom breaks as necessary due to encouraged hydration
  15.  Absences: encourage school attendance. However, late arrivals, absences and leaving early from school due to headache/migraine should be excused.

Share Your Story

More than 40 million people in the United States live with migraine disease and a half million are diagnosed with Cluster Headache. Yet those who have these diseases often feel isolated and alone. We want to raise awareness by sharing stories to show that if you have migraine or another headache disorder, you are not alone.

Share your story here.

Helpful links:

School forms

The Migraine Club at the University of Michigan

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