Almost 40 million people in the United States suffer from migraines, a condition that can severely impact sufferers’ lives. Yet, for those who are fortunate enough to not be inflicted with the condition, it can be hard to understand just how debilitating a migraine can be.
“Isn’t it just a bad headache?” they might ask.
Now, thanks to a virtual reality experience created by the painkiller brand Excedrin, non-migraine sufferers are being given the chance to experience a migraine firsthand.
“Even with the number of sufferers out there, migraines are still widely misunderstood -- largely because those who don’t experience the condition can’t fully understand it,” Excedrin wrote on its website. “That’s why [we] created the world’s first migraine simulator … This technological innovation makes it possible for non-sufferers to see what a migraine is really like.”
Migraines manifest differently in different people. While they often involve severe pain, other neurological symptoms can arise as well, such as visual disturbances, nausea, dizziness and extreme sensitivity to sound, light and touch.
For Excedrin’s experiment, only a few migraine symptoms were replicated: auras, disorientation, extremely bright lights, floating spots and tunnel vision.
In the video, friends and relatives of migraine sufferers are seen donning a VR headset and attempting to navigate the world as normally as possible while enduring an onslaught of these symptoms.
“I’ve got to stop,” one man said after being overwhelmed by the experience. He later told his migraine-afflicted girlfriend, “I'm sorry that I ever doubted you.”
“Oh my God. I don’t even know how you function,” one woman told her best friend.
“It’s exactly what you just experienced, plus severe, severe pain,” the friend responded.
The reactions of loved ones to the experience “spoke volumes,” said Excedrin in a news release.
“Once the non-sufferer experienced what [their friend/relative] goes through during a migraine, their increased understanding led to a reaction full of empathy and love, which, until now, was harder to identify,” the brand wrote.
According to the NY Daily News, “The Migraine Experience” will be available for download as an app in May. The simulation can be experienced using Google Cardboard.