Other Types Of Headaches
You might be wondering about the difference between symptoms of a period migraine headache and another type of headache, like a tension headache.
While period headaches are sex hormone-related migraines connected to your menstrual cycle, tension headaches have different symptomsmost commonly:
Dull pain that’s all over the head
Usually does not cause nausea or vomiting
It could be worse in the scalp, temples, or back of the neck
Both fatigue and stress can bring on either a tension or a migraine headache, but migraine attacks can be triggered by altogether different factors, such as certain foods, hormone levels, or even the weather!
Regular Exercise Can Help Prevent Menstrual Migraine
When we consider all the strategies to prevent migraine attacks, I love it when people choose to make lifestyle modifications that can make a real difference, says Hindiyeh.
There’s lots of evidence to suggest regular aerobic exercise can work as a preventive medication all on its own, and there are some studies to suggest that yoga and HIIT can be helpful as well, says Hindiyeh.
Not only can regular exercise help prevent migraine attacks for some people, but also, if the headache is mild, a short bout of exercise can actually help relieve that headache that’s happening, according to Hindiyeh.
On the other hand, overexerting yourself can be a trigger for migraine, especially if you are already having a migraine attack, she says.
One of the cardinal definitions and features of migraine is that normal activity can make you feel worse. If you’re already in the middle of a severe migraine attack, moving around excessively is going to make things worse for you its probably not the best time to go for a jog or do some aerobic activity, says Hindiyeh.
How To Prevent Menstrual Migraines
Treatment and prevention go hand in hand when youre talking about period migraines. A headache diary can be helpful for tracking when you get a migraine and where it falls in relation to your cycle.
Armed with that information, you can act by either stepping in with a migraine-stopping medication in the days before your expected migraine, take a migraine preventive medication, or start hormonal birth control.
Managing triggers and practicing self-care, especially around your period, will help prevent migraines. For example, if you know that changes to your sleeping habits set off an attack, make a plan to prioritize a regular sleep scheduleand stick to it. If you know that missing a meal leads to a migraine , be sure to eat at the same time each day and keep healthy, nourishing snacks on hand.
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How To Prevent Or Treat Period Headaches
While theres no guarantee you can stop those pesky headaches around your period before they pop up, there are preventive measures you can take throughout the month that may help.
Brightens suggestion? Make a few simple diet and supplement tweaks. Magnesium-rich foods think leafy greens, nuts and avocados may help reduce the frequency or severity of headaches, she said.
Vora agreed with the magnesium tip, noting that when women have a magnesium deficiency, the symptoms around their period are a lot worse. The body has an increased need for magnesium related to the contraction of the uterus during menstruation, she said. This ends up pulling magnesium away from the rest of the body, which can create muscle tension. Tension in the muscles of the neck and the small muscles around the forehead, temples and scalp is a common contributor to headaches.
Vora also recommended getting some exercise. Her personal favorite? Pilates. Since headaches can come from muscle tension, she said, any exercise that strengthens the core and leads to better posture can help quite a bit.
And dont forget to work on reducing overall stress, she said, adding that some people consider acupuncture helpful. You can also try other stress-relief techniques like reading, going for a walk, talking to a friend or whatever works for you.
Sounds like prescriptions worth following.
Why Do Some Women Get Period Headaches
Blame estrogen, says Sheeva Talebian, MD, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM in New York and a Womens Health advisory board member. Most menstrual-related headaches are due to the rapid drop in estrogen right before the onset of your period, she says.
A mini menstruation lesson: When you ovulate , your estrogen peaks and your ovary makes progesterone. For a while, your womanly hormones stay up. But if youre *not* pumping pregnancy hormones a week or so later, your body halts estrogen and progesterone production, triggering your period, Dr. Talebian explains.
That sudden drop in estrogen tweaks chemicals in your brain that affect how you experience pain, and up goes your sensitivity, the U.S. Department of Health & Human ServicesOffice on Womens Health explains. Add to that constricted blood vessels, which happens to some women when theyre low in estrogen, et voilà: the dreaded period headache.
Other potential factors that can play into period headaches? Dehydration, blood loss , and poor sleep, Dr. Talebian notes. Already prone to migraines? Then theres a 60 percent chance youll suffer from menstrual migraines as well, per the National Headache Foundation . And if youre on birth control, that can bring on more headaches when you switch to your sugar pills and your estrogen levels tank .
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What Are Period Migraines
First things first: You may get torturous headaches during your period, but that doesnt mean they are migraines. Dr. Holly L. Phillips, an internist who practices in New York City, says that more than 90 percent of headaches fall into the category of tension-type headaches. Far fewer people actually experience true migraines. Statistics published in Cephalalgia state that 11 percent of people worldwide get migraines, while tension-type headaches are far more common. Theres also a socio-economic link to your risk for any type of migraine, with people from lower-income households experiencing migraines at higher rates, likely due to more stressors that can trigger them.
There seems to be some confusion about what migraines really are and it often involves the level of pain. We tend to think of migraine as causing more severe pain than other types of headaches, but thats not always the case, says Phillips.
You can spot the difference between a menstrual migraine and a premenstrual syndrome headache by taking careful note of your symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, migraine headaches typically last anywhere from four hours to three days. Migraines are characterized by throbbing pain, usually on one side of your head, in addition to other symptoms. You may also have severe nausea that can cause vomiting.
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells
- Disturbances in your field of vision, known as migraine aura
- Dizziness and exhaustion, even after the pain subsides
Consider Skipping The Sugar Pills
If youre already taking birth control, the steady schedule of hormones make migraines even easier to predict and prevent. Women who take birth control pills might ask their doctor if they can skip over the sugar pill week and start straight into a new pack, which means theyll skip their period completely and keep their estrogen levels elevated. In the same way, extended-cycle pills like Seasonale, which causes you to only have your period once every three months, could help as well, says Halker.
Other birth control-related therapies could involve taking pills with lower levels of estrogen, so that the hormone drop during the menstrual period isnt as steep, or a progestin-only pill, notes the MayoClinic.
Signs Youre Having A Period Migraine
Migraines can happen predictably, especially if youre prone to having them before, during, or after your period. You may get a migraine a day or two before you start to bleed. You may also get a migraine during the duration of your period. Or you might get one right after or during ovulation.
Certain signs make it easier to tell whether your migraine is happening in connection with your cycle. Heres what to look for:
What Are The Symptoms Of Menstrual Migraines
You can think of migraines as headaches that tend to happen again, either around a woman’s menstrual cycle or during another time of the month. Some women have chronic migraines, which they experience at least 15 days per month.
So how can you tell the difference between a menstrual migraine from a migraine that could happen at any other time of the month? Menstrual migraine symptoms are similar to other migraines without aura, that phase of a migraine where you might see flashing or bright lights. .
You might experience some of these migraine symptoms during a period headache:
One-sided, throbbing headache
Dizziness and blurred vision
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What’s The Difference Between A Headache And A Migraine
“A migraine is a type of headache,” Medhat Mikhael, MD, pain management specialist and medical director of the non-operative program at the Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, told POPSUGAR. But there are certain characteristics that help distinguish a migraine from a run-of-the-mill headache. “Migraines are unilateral, pulsating in nature, and associated with one or more of the following: photophobia , phonophobia , and nausea with or without vomiting,” Dr. Mikhael said.
Migraines are also more common in women, a study in The Journal of Headache and Pain found. Women have a 43 percent lifetime incidence of migraines, compared with only 18 percent in men. Before puberty, migraines affect both sexes equally. It’s not until after a woman gets her period and starts experiencing these estrogen fluctuations that they become much more susceptible to migraines than men.
How Are Menstrual Migraines Treated What Medicines Can I Use
A menstrual migraine is usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications . The NSAIDs most often used for menstrual migraine include:
- Ketoprofen .
These drugs should also be started two to three days before your period starts. Continue taking them throughout your menstrual flow.
Because fluid retention often occurs at the same time as your menses, diuretics have been used to prevent menstrual migraines. Some healthcare providers may recommend that you follow a low-salt diet immediately before the start of your menses.
Leuprolide is a medication that affects your hormone levels. Its used only when all other treatment methods have been tried and havent worked.
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When To See A Doctor
If period headaches interfere with daily life, talk to a doctor.
When PMS is the underlying issue, a range of treatments can help, including hormonal contraception, antidepressant medication, and calcium supplements.
The right course of treatment will depend, in part, on the severity and specific symptoms.
Healthcare professionals can recommend ways to help prevent menstrual migraine headaches. They can also prescribe stronger pain relief medication, when necessary.
In pregnant women, a persistent headache can be a symptom of preeclampsia. Anyone who thinks that they may be experiencing this potentially serious issue should seek medical attention.
Why Do I Get Period Headaches
Your hormones fluctuate throughout your monthly menstrual cycle, says James Woods, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester. Just before your period beginsassuming you didnt become pregnant after ovulationyour estrogen levels drop sharply.
People sometimes dont realize that our hormones are linked to brain chemicals and to our mental state, says Dr. Woods. Any sudden change in hormones can mean changes in mood or anxiety levels, or it can mean experiencing more symptoms like headaches.
Research suggests that up to 20% of women experience a form of migraine tied to their period, known as menstrual migraines. These tend to occur in the two days leading up to a period and the three days after a period starts.
Its hard to say whether all period-related headaches are migraines, says Dr. Woods, since the definition of migraines has changed and expanded over the years. But what we can say is that the vast majority of these headaches are linked to this drop in hormones, he says.
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What Can I Do About Headache Before Period
Strategies similar to those of non-menstrual associated migraines can be used to manage menstrual headaches effectively. Behavioural management is important in menstrual and non-menstrual migraines.
A medical practitioner can recommend the use of triptans. Triptans are medications used to block pain signals to the brain. They ease headaches in 2 hours and control vomiting. If you have a regular cycle, you can take headache preventive medication some days before your period and continue for up to 2 weeks after you start bleeding. If your cycle is irregular or the migraines occur throughout your cycles, daily medication can be prescribed. Daily medication can include beta blockers, antidepressants, and magnesium or calcium channel blockers. A doctor will help determine whether medication is appropriate for you if you have an existing medical condition.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help with a headache before period. You doctor can recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen .
1. Diet changes
For your own good, reduce your sugar and alcohol intake. In addition, completely get rid of gluten from your diet. Also, stay away from tyramine as it is a migraine trigger found in fermented and aged foods like smoked fish, old cheese and canned meat. Try this for 30 days and you will feel a change in menstrual related headaches.
2. Take supplements
3. Avoid stress
Recommended Lifestyle Adjustments For Migraines And Headaches
Not all lifestyle changes are studied, but these recommendations are fairly standard for how to help you cope with your headaches. Give them a try, see what works best for you.
Get enough sleep: Since fatigue and sleep disturbances are linked to being migraine/headache triggers , be sure to adjust your bedtime accordingly so that you wake up relaxed and well rested. If you commonly have headaches in the morning after waking up, it may be a good idea to get checked for sleep apnea .
Reduce your stress levels: Stress, whether itâs particular events, feelings, or time periods, are linked to triggering migraines and headache . For this reason, stress management techniques like relaxation therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and biofeedback could help . Itâs easier said than done, but prioritize de-stressing as best you can.
Avoid extreme weather: Weather changes, both hot and cold, can trigger migraines and headaches . Check the weather forecast and plan ahead. Be extra cautious about extreme heat and sun exposure, as exhaustion and dehydration can also cause headaches .
Find a dark and quiet space: For people experiencing a migraine headache, light and sound can aggravate migraine symptoms . Some people find relief by lying in dark, quiet rooms.
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