Some common fallacies about migraines and stress are that one causes the other. People assume that migraines are nothing more than strong stress headaches, and that if more people could learn how to reduce stress levels, then their migraines would just cease to exist. Actually, the connection between migraines and stress is a bit more complicated…
Migraines and stress headaches
Stress headaches occur when muscles in your head, neck, and shoulders become tense, bunched up. You might experience a lingering stress headache during times of emotional distress or even joyous occasions, but that doesn’t mean you have migraines, and stress headaches usually respond well to medications that provide no relief to migraine sufferers.
Scientists aren’t certain exactly what causes migraines, but they do know that they occur in the brain, specifically the nervous system. Certain factors trigger a reaction in your nerve cells, stressing them into action, sending off pain signals to the brain, contracting blood vessels, and producing migraine symptoms like sharp headaches, intense nausea, and overwhelming fatigue. These factors are referred to as migraine triggers, and they provide helpful clues to understanding the link between migraines and stress.
And evidence regarding the link between migraines and stress isn’t completely lacking- among the many migraine triggers identified by scientists, stress is one of the most common. This still doesn’t mean that migraines and stress have a causative relationship, but rather that stress, along with other factors like the foods you eat, the weather, your sleeping habits, and your workplace environment all raise your risk for migraine attacks. The more migraine triggers you have, the more migraines you get each month. By reducing your exposure to migraine triggers, including stress, you effectively improve your chances of living migraine-free.
Good ways to manage migraines and stress include:
- Meditation- many relaxation techniques are available that help you regulate your breathing, calm the mind, and provide a sense of wellbeing. To control migraines and stress, guided imagery, practiced mindfulness, and deep breathing are beneficial.
- Exercise- in studies focusing on migraines and stress with regards to exercise regimens, scientists have noted improved health with the implementation of gentle, low-impact exercises like tai chi, yoga, and swimming.
- Natural supplementation- many migraine specialists who were concerned about stress have noted favorable results when their patients begin a regimen of vitamins, minerals and herbs. Studies focusing on vitamin deficiency, migraines and stress confirmed that increasing your intake of certain natural dietary ingredients helps migraine patients maintain healthy blood pressure, while also affecting migraines and stress by elevating the mood, boosting energy, and providing an overall sense of wellbeing. Supplements found to be most beneficial are riboflavin, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, and butterbur.