An estimated 38 million Americans suffer from migraines on a regular basis, but scientists are still uncertain about exactly what causes migraines to occur. A new study that examined migraine headache triggers encountered a surprising potential new cause: relaxation. While stress has been tied to headaches, the study published in the journal Neurology shows that a period of relaxation directly after a stressful event is a bigger trigger for migraine attacks than stress itself.
Participants in the study were five times more likely to experience a headache attack within the first six hours after a decline in stress. Researchers blamed the hormone cortisol, which increases in response to stress and masks pain levels. When the stressful event passes, cortisol levels drop, leaving patients more susceptible to a migraine attack.
The study included 17 adults with migraines and 110 eligible migraine attacks tracked in three-month electronic pain diaries. Participants recorded headache episodes, stress levels, and common triggers like sleep, certain foods, drink, alcohol consumption, moods, and menstruation.
Researchers recommended that patients take efforts to monitor their stress levels throughout a highly stressful period, rather than letting it build up. “This study highlights the importance of stress management and healthy lifestyle habits for people who live with migraine,” observed co-author of the study, Dawn C. Buse, Ph.D., of the Montefiore Headache Center. Earlier research has also indicated that treatments aimed stress reduction can assist children with migraine headache.
Patients with migraine can benefit from regular checkups with a chiropractor. Studies show that chiropractic care can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Chiropractic adjustments have been tied to reductions in the stress hormone cortisol, allowing you to take care of stress as it comes, rather than letting it escalate. Chiropractic adjustments can also ease chronic trigger points that could be contributing to headache.
Migraine attacks increase following stress let-down. MedicalXpress. March 26, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-03-migraine-stress-let-down.html.
Lipton RB, et al. Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger. Neurology 2014; doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000332.