Can Stress Cause Your Migraines?

If you ever had a migraine, then you are aware that migraine is not just a regular headache. It is a multi-stage condition that can express itself in various symptoms and durations, sometimes even lasting for more than one day.

Even though there are many variations of migraine treatments are available in the market, it is suggested to focus on identifying the triggers of migraine first. This could include analysing and restricting the potential triggers of migraine headaches that could be caused by the environment, lifestyle and circumstances.

Specifically, stress could potentially be the key trigger. Even though the research related to accurate and specific causes of migraines is still taking place, there are many studies that show a significant link between stress and migraine.

Therefore, in the following article, we will investigate the connection between migraine and stress, identify the actions that could be taken to limit migraines and, finally, how to manage migraine if you get one.

Migraine Explained:

Migraine headache is a condition that causes a throbbing headache affecting one side of the head as well as other symptoms like vomiting, nausea or other sensory disturbances like sensory and visiual. On average, it affects about 20% of women and 7% of men and is usually characterised by a 4-step progression:

1. Prodrome – the initial stage of migraine usually start before the actual painful symptoms of migraine where the body is subtly changing its usual patterns with symptoms like abnormal food and water cravings as well as more frequent yawning.

2. Aura – the following stage usually involves various symptoms that affect the nervous system, causing side effects like mild visual hallucinations like flashes or bright spots in your vision. Sometimes, additional symptoms like pins and needles in limbs or difficulty speaking occur. The usual duration of this stage is close to a few minutes but it could last for up to an hour.

3. Attack – in this stage, the painful effects are experienced, causing pulsing headaches, as well as potential feelings like nauseousness or feeling sick as well as high sensitivity to light or sound. This phase can last for up to three-four days without proper treatment.

4. Post-drome – the final stage can have varying symptoms, depending on the person. However, the common symptoms include feeling drained or confused but sometimes this stage may not affect some people.

What Is The Link Between Migraine And Stress?:

The researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact causes of migraines but many individuals link migraine headaches with stress. For example, a study in 2007 showed that out of 1750 people diagnosed with migraines, approximately 80% stated that the key trigger for their condition was stress.

Surprisingly, the majority of individuals tend to experience migraines after going through a stressful event, regardless of its emotional or physical nature, rather than during those events.

For example, a 2014 study confirmed that the key trigger for migraines is usually linked to a decline in perceived stress levels rather than during their peak. This is called the let-down effect, where experiencing acute perceived stress causes the body to produce “fight or flight” hormones that increase the body resistance to pain and stress as well as the immune system.

As those effects start to wear off, the migraine symptoms could start occurring. As a result, after experiencing a stressful event, a body is recovering from its response, at which stage the researchers are claiming that the migraines start to occur.

How To Reduce Stress and Manage Migraine?:

Even though the connection between migraines and stress is still being research, it is common that individuals experience stress-related migraines in cycles. In order to reduce the chances of this condition occurring, there are some lifestyle adjustments that could be made to help reduce or even eliminate the risk of migraines like:

• Change Your Consumption – sometimes individuals tend to start more unhealthy consumption like coffee, alcohol and tobacco to deal with stress. While it is a temporary relief, in the long run, it fails to completely eliminate the stress while also causing additional issues like lower sleep quality and affect your productivity, further increasing the stress pressure in the long run.

• Do Exercise – even though exercise is recommended for anyone to improve their overall wellbeing, it is even more beneficial to people experiencing stress. From exercising, our body starts producing endorphins which stimulate the brain and overall improve the mood in the long run, as well as additional benefits like better sleep quality, productivity and overall wellbeing

• Improve Your Sleep – Maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule and getting plenty of hours of sleep is linked to overall improvements in stress resistance and productivity. Avoiding screentime before bed also assists with improving the quality of your sleep.

• Recreation – make sure to always allocate time for activities that bring joy and take your mind off stress triggers. Unwinding and scheduling your free time, in the long run, can bring a bit of variety to your daily activities, allowing you to reduce the amount of stress experienced in the long run. It is especially important to be able to make the most of your free time if you’re a working parent. Learn more about parenting stress management techniques here.

How To Treat Migraine?:

Although having migraines is not a condition that has a known cure, appropriate treatment taken as soon as symptoms occur will significantly reduce the severity and duration of painful symptoms.

• Get Some Rest – many individuals experiencing migraines confirmed that sleeping or lying down tends to weaken the symptoms, especially if the environment used is dark and silent to reduce the sensory stimuli.

• Pain Relief Treatments – if the relevant treatments are taken in the early stages, the painful symptoms could be reduced and avoided. However, it is important to know that taking these medications during the “Attack” stage of the migraine might not have any effect and therefore ensure not to take more medication than the recommended dose.

• Triptans – a series of medications that narrow the blood vessels and relieve a migraine headache (e.g Sumatriptan or Rizatriptan). These treatments effectively relieve migraine headaches within 45 minutes and are effective even in the midst of the “Attack” phase.

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