Home > Personal Finance > What My Migraines Have Cost Me (So Far)

Comments 0 Comments

I vividly remember the first time I learned I had a migraine. I was in my early 20s and had gone in with what I thought was a sinus headache. I had felt terrible for a few days, and figured I had a sinus infection. After spending a few minutes with me, my physician told me he had just received a new drug and asked me if I was willing to try it. I was. He gave me an injection, left me to lie down in a darkened exam room, and 20 minutes later the pain that had been throbbing behind my life eye and radiating through my head was gone. It was then I he told me what was wrong. The new drug he used was for migraines, and that’s what I had.

Since then I have dealt with migraines off and on (a lot of on) for decades. I feel incredibly fortunate that the medication that worked for me then, Imitrex, still works now, and usually provides relief. But not always. There have been periods of time when they were much worse and nothing seemed to relieve them. They went away when I was pregnant but came back with a vengeance after, and dealing with both migraines and the sleep deprivation that came with having a young child was often overwhelming. I remember one stretch where I suffered daily for almost a month.

My Treatment Costs

As a result, I have tried lots of different remedies (conventional and not-so conventional) in hopes that something will work, and looking back, most of my spending has been on things that did not seem to help or work. Here are a few of the things I’ve tried, along with my best recollection of the costs:

  • Botox: ($1,250)
  • A mask that flashes red lights in specific patterns ($90)
  • Acupuncture (not covered by insurance — $750)
  • A headband that delivers electrical impulses through the forehead ($350 + electrodes $25/3 pack)
  • Lots of chiropractic visits at $25 to $35 a pop (total unknown)
  • Various supplements ($500+)
  • MRI ($125 after insurance)
  • Three ER visits ($2,500+ due to high deductibles)

That’s a grand total of at least $5,600, if you’re counting. I’ve also tried special diets, a nasal pepper spray (only once!), and assorted other remedies. I once booked a session with a Russian healer who was visiting the U.S. (a friend raved about him) but I got lost trying to find the location and saved the $150 he would have charged.

My standby medication is now available in generic form and with health insurance I only pay $10 for 18 pills. But there was a time when it wasn’t so affordable and a single dose cost more than $20. When you’re getting as many migraines as I have had at certain times in my life, it can add up quickly. One of my insurers limited me to six pills a month (too bad my body didn’t know the limit!) so I resorted to ordering the extras from Canada where they were somewhat cheaper but still not inexpensive. I am sure I made some of them worse by waiting to take my medicine, hoping they would somehow magically disappear.

Again, I feel very fortunate that I respond to medication and am able to work, even on days when I get one. Plus, I get health insurance through my employer. I know many people are not so lucky. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, about 36 million Americans suffer from migraines and “American employers lose more than $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to headache or migraine.”

When I was self-employed, and before the Affordable Care Act restricted health insurers from tying coverage to pre-existing conditions, health insurance was much harder to get. I remember one insurer saying they would charge me $500 more per month due to my medical history (I’m otherwise quite healthy) — and would then exclude my migraines from coverage.

Making Money From Migraines?

On the other hand, I have participated in two clinical trials and those pay, rather than cost money. The first was for a new drug delivery system for a medication I have already taken. I was paid $50 a visit. For me, it wasn’t so much about the money or the medication. After I learned it wasn’t a new miracle drug I’d be trying, I agreed to participate because the new technology sounded like it could help children and others who can’t take pills. (The Migraine Research Foundation says 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine!)

I am now in another trial involving a medication that has been getting rave reviews from previous study participants. Even if it turns out to be as wonderful as it sounds, it may be years before it is on the market, and who knows how much it will cost.

I am thankful for the medical professionals and medication that have helped me deal with this condition. But at the same time, I truly feel for those who end up going into debt to pay for their treatments. I can understand their desperation. There were times when I would have paid any amount of money to just make them go away for good, and would have gladly gone into just about any amount of debt to do so. (I do remember charging the botox treatment on a credit card, and knowing there was a good chance I was throwing my money away, but going for it anyway.) Without good insurance — and even sometimes with it — medical bills can mount and wind up in collections (here’s a collections crash course if they do) and even lead to bankruptcy. Chronic pain can cloud our financial decision making, creating even more stress in the long run.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: DigitalVision

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team