New Migraine Causes Discovered

Scientists are discovering new causes of migraine headache that could help in the development of future treatment.

Migraine affects nearly 18% of women and 6% of men in the US, but scientists are still uncertain about all the possible causes of migraine headaches. Previously doctors believed migraine pain was a type of vascular headache that occurred when the arteries outside the skull expanded. But recent research is debunking that theory.

In a new groundbreaking study, researchers from the Danish Headache Center have found evidence that migraine pain does not derive from expanding arteries outside the skull. Their findings could have important implications for treatment, since many migraine sufferers are commonly prescribed sumatriptan, a medication that narrows the blood vessels in the brain. But if migraine is not caused by widening blood vessels, that raises questions about whether sumatriptan is the most effective treatment for migraine. Indeed, some patients report that medications don't help to significantly prevent or relieve migraine headaches.

Chiropractic for Migraine

Instead of relying pain medication, patients may find better relief with natural approaches like chiropractic care, exercise, and herbal supplementation. Studies show that chiropractic adjustments can provide immediate benefits for migraine sufferers, including a 68% reduction in headache severity and a 90% reduction in headache frequency.

Causes of Migraine Study

In the Danish study, 19 women with migraine who agreed to travel to a research facility as soon as possible after a headache set in, despite experiencing symptoms of nausea and pain. The women then underwent MRI scans, so that researchers could track changes in brain arteries during a migraine attack.

They discovered that while there was a slight expansion of the arties inside the skull on the side affected by the migraine pain, there was no expansion of the arteries outside the skull during a migraine. Instead, they believe that migraine may be related to an over-sensitization of nerve fibers around the blood vessels.

Other recent research has analyzed additional probable causes of migraine, like structural differences in the brain and even genes.


Amin FM, et al. Magnetic resonance angiography of intracranial and extracranial arteries in patients with spontaneous migraine without aura: a cross-sectional study. Lancet Neurology 2013; 12(5):454-61. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70067-X.