Original Research

The psychosocial impact of migraines on women and alternative therapies for migraine management

Ashalya Pirthiraj, Raisuyah Bhagwan
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 28 | a2249 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v28i0.2249 | © 2023 Ashalya Pirthiraj, Raisuyah Bhagwan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 November 2022 | Published: 13 September 2023

About the author(s)

Ashalya Pirthiraj, Department of Chiropractic, Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa
Raisuyah Bhagwan, Department of Community Health Studies, Faculty of Health Science, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa


Background: Migraines are one of the leading causes of disability globally and in South Africa. There is a paucity of local empirical literature regarding the psychosocial impact of migraines on women. Although there are a variety of treatment approaches, many women prefer alternative and holistic treatment for their migraines.

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the psychosocial impact of migraines on women and their use of complementary and alternative therapies for migraine pain management.

Setting: The study was conducted in the eThekwini region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: The study adopted a qualitative descriptive design. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants for the study. Data were collected through 12 semi-structured interviews and subsequently analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Theme 1 related to the psychological and cognitive effects experienced by the participants. Theme 2 focused on the effects migraines had on personal, family and social relationships. Theme 3 discussed the self-management of migraines.

Conclusion: The pertinent psychological effects of migraines were depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and withdrawal, fear-avoidance behaviour, lifestyle changes, and acceptance of migraines. The participants experienced a lack of understanding about their migraine severity from co-workers, family and social networks. The alternative therapies that were sought to alleviate migraine symptoms included chiropractic, massage, meditation, reflexology, yoga, cupping and acupuncture.

Contribution: The awareness of the effectiveness of complementary and alternative therapies for women may be beneficial for healthcare providers seeking a multidisciplinary approach to migraine management.


migraines; female migraineurs; psychological impact; social impact; psychosocial factors; chiropractic; complementary therapies; alternative therapies

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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