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Hemiplegic Migraine or Stroke? How To Tell the Difference

Although nearly 40 million people in the United States struggle with migraines on a regular basis, only 1% of migraineurs get hemiplegic migraines. About 25% of migraine patients experience aura.1 But only about 0.01% of the population suffers from hemiplegic migraine.2 

What is a hemiplegic migraine? 

The word hemiplegic derives from hemiplegia, which means paralysis on one side of the body. During a hemiplegic migraine attack, a person might have the same symptoms as a regular migraine – severe head pain, light sensitivity, nausea, vomiting – but will also experience temporary unilateral weakness or even full-blown paralysis. Hemiplegic migraines are one of the rarest and most severe types of migraine. It is a subtype of “migraine with aura.”  Aura are neurological symptoms people with migraine may experience before or during a migraine attack. For many, this manifests as visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots.

What causes hemiplegic migraines?

Hemiplegic migraine is thought to be due to genetic mutations in three genes that affect the release of neurotransmitters. These mutations hinder communication between nerve cells. This may lead to symptoms of hemiplegic migraine.

There are two distinct types of hemiplegic migraine:

  1. Familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) is due to abnormal variations on either the CACNA1A gene, ATP1A2 gene, or SCN1A gene. These genes produce proteins needed for the normal functioning of nerve cells. Children of hemiplegic migraine have a 50% chance of developing it themselves.4
  2. Sporadic hemiplegic migraine (SHM) is when someone without a family history develops hemiplegic migraine.

Current theories are that specific mutations or disruptions in these genes may make a person more likely to develop this type of migraine. This is because as many as half of the people who are diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines inherited one of these genes from a parent. However, there’s also evidence that people without these genetic mutations can get them, too.

As with other forms of migraine, hemiplegic migraine attacks can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Weather changes
  • Skipping meals
  • Certain ingredients, additives, foods, and drinks
  • Physical exertion
  • Female hormones
  • Smoke and alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Certain medications
  • Lights and sound

Hemiplegic migraine also has some connections to head trauma. In fact, in one study 24% of patients reported a head injury preceded their first migraine attack.5

Symptoms may last anywhere between a few hours or days, or in rare cases weeks! On average, the onset of symptoms begins between ages 12 to 17.2 Although in some cases, symptoms may show up much earlier. Symptoms typically fade in intensity with age, especially after age 50.

What are the symptoms of hemiplegic migraines?

Hemiplegic migraines share many symptoms with ‘regular’ migraines and may or may not include:

  • Intense, throbbing head pain, typically restricted to one side
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and/or smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tunnel vision, double vision, seeing flashes of light, or blind spots
  • Heavy or tingling sensation in the arms and legs (pins and needles feeling)
  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
  • Dizziness


Additionally, hemiplegic migraines can cause distinctive symptoms ranging from mild to severe, such as:

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, which can include one half of the face, arm, and/or leg
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fever
  • Confusion and lethargy
  • Memory loss
  • Coma

The symptoms of hemiplegic migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to several days (or even weeks, on rare occasions). In many cases, symptoms can get bad enough that the person experiencing them may believe that they are suffering from a stroke.

Since it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between a hemiplegic migraine and a stroke without a proper examination, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention or call 911 if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms during a migraine attack:

  • Trouble speaking or understanding what people are saying
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden numbness or muscle weakness
  • Seeing double in one or both eyes
  • Fainting or seizure

Occasionally, attacks may cause severe symptoms including:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paralysis on one side of the body

Call 911 if you experience any severe symptoms. Hemiplegic migraine patients are at an increased risk of stroke and symptoms often mimic one another.3 In some rare cases, severe attacks led to cerebral atrophy, permanent brain injury, and even coma.2 So getting immediate medical attention is critical.

Migraine vs. Stroke

While symptoms may be similar, during a stroke, blood flow to part of your brain is cut off. The cells in the brain that don’t get enough oxygen begin to die. There can be two causes of stroke. Either a blood vessel is blocked such as with a blood clot, or a blood vessel tears or bursts and causes bleeding in or around the brain.  The kind of stroke that tends to be mistaken for a migraine is called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. It’s also known as a “mini stroke” because blood flow to your brain is cut off only for a short time. Symptoms are less severe than with a regular stroke and may last less than an hour.

Can a hemiplegic migraine lead to a stroke?

Hemiplegic migraines have not been shown to cause strokes. However, it is important to point out that getting any kind of migraine with aura can double your risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack, according to a large-scale longitudinal study.

How to get diagnosed

Getting diagnosed with hemiplegic migraine can be tricky. Diagnosis is based on symptoms, along with a detailed health history. Since hemiplegic migraine has a strong genetic component, a thorough family history is needed as well. Diagnosis criteria include having episodic, reversible weakness on one side of the body, along with at least one other kind of aura.

CT scans and MRIs are often done to rule out other health conditions. Typically, people with hemiplegic migraine have normal brain imaging. However, a small portion of patients may show atrophy of the cerebellum.6

Hemiplegic Migraine Treatment: What Are Your Options?

Living with hemiplegic migraine can be scary. Migraine attacks can strike anytime. And while migraine attacks are never fun, hemiplegic migraine attacks are especially intense.

So let’s dive into some treatment options that may help you manage or even prevent future migraine attacks. Remember – always work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s ideal for your own body and lifestyle.


Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter meds such as NSAIDS to manage the pain. Anti-nausea medications may be prescribed for related symptoms. Triptans and ergotomines are often prescribed for other forms of migraine. But they’re NOT recommended for hemiplegic migraine, as they can increase the risk of stroke.2

Many medications interact and symptoms of hemiplegic migraine are intense. So preventative treatments using lifestyle and supplements can be invaluable.

Lifestyle Habits

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to hemiplegic migraine. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits helps limit your triggers, lessening the frequency of attacks. Here are some lifestyle habits that may help prevent future migraine attacks:

  • Avoid trigger foods such as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, nitrates, and MSG. Staying away from processed foods is a good place to start.
  • Exercise regularly but don’t overdo it. Remember, too much physical exertion may trigger an attack. Start with walking, yoga, or stretching, and work your way up from there.
  • Manage stress with calming activities such as meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, or journaling.
  • Don’t skip meals and always have snacks on hand. Low blood sugar can trigger migraine attacks. Fasting may be trendy, but it’s NOT for everyone!
  • Get enough sleep, but not too much. If you struggle with sleep, consider a natural sleep aid.


Research shows certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs can reduce the number of migraine attacks in patients. Here are the top defenders:

  • Magnesium is a mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body! Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is extremely common in people with migraine. Over time, low magnesium can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Stress also depletes the body of magnesium and living with migraine is certainly stressful! Supplementation can help you replenish your stores.
  • Riboflavin (aka vitamin B2) plays a key role in helping your mitochondria produce cellular energy. Research has shown that a mitochondrial defect may reduce an individual’s threshold to migraine triggers and lead to migraines. A deficiency of mitrochondrial energy reserves has been observed in many people exhibiting poor cerebrovascular tone.
  • Feverfew has been recorded as a medicinal remedy for millennia.  Its anti-migraine effects are believed to be due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce blood platelet aggregation.


A hemiplegic migraine is a rare form of migraine headache that causes temporary weakness or paralysis to one side of the body. Sometimes hemiplegic migraines can resemble a stroke, so if you experience muscle weakness or paralysis, trouble speaking, and vision changes, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention to rule out other conditions.

If you have recurrent migraines, talk to a doctor to ensure you have an action plan for when an attack hits. It may also be a good idea to discuss your diet and lifestyle habits to see if there’s anything you could do to reduce the frequency or severity of migraine episodes in the future.  For more information on migraine treatment options, download the Migraine White Paper.






10 Healthy Drinks for Migraine Relief + Healthy Recipes

If you’re one of the 39 million Americans that suffer from migraine, you know how debilitating attacks can be. Between the throbbing headache and medley of other bothersome symptoms, migraine can severely affect your daily functioning. Migraine attacks often strike out of nowhere, wrecking your plans, and making you feel miserable in the process. That’s why when it comes to migraine, prevention is the secret sauce. Diet, lifestyle, and nutritional support can provide massive relief from migraine symptoms and even dial down the frequency of future attacks.

Certain drinks may even help soothe migraine attacks. What’s more, these drinks have little to no side effects, unlike many migraine medications. So the next time your head starts pounding, reach for a glass of one of these ten drinks for potential migraine relief.

10 Best Drinks for Migraine Relief

1 – Water

You knew this one was coming, right? While water might not be the most exciting drink option, it’s crucial for migraine prevention. Dehydration is one of the most common migraine triggers.1 So staying well hydrated is key to keeping migraine attacks at bay. Everyone’s daily water needs will vary depending on their diet, weight, and activity level. But drinking half your body weight in ounces of water is a good place to start.

If drinking enough water is a struggle for you, try these tips:

  • Drink two large 16 oz glasses of water right when you wake up.
  • Set a timer on your phone with reminders to drink up every hour.
  • Purchase a fun water bottle and carry it wherever you go.
  • Infuse water with berries, cucumber slices, or mint to make drinking water more enticing.

2 – Coconut Water

coconut water
If you suspect dehydration triggered your migraine attack, try some coconut water. It’s packed with key electrolytes and other nutrients to help you rehydrate.

Plus, coconut water makes an excellent swap for sugary sports drinks such as Gatorade. Sports drinks are often packed with artificial colors and flavors that can trigger migraine. So opt for a natural electrolyte boost from coconut water instead.

3 – Almond Milk

Almonds are rich in magnesium, an important mineral that’s often low in people with migraine. Research shows magnesium may relieve migraine headaches and even prevent future migraine attacks. Almond milk makes an easy swap for cow’s milk and serves as a delicious base for smoothies.

almond milk

4 – Green Tea

If you’re weaning off caffeine and need a healthy alternative to your morning java, sip on some green tea. Green tea only has 30-50 mg of caffeine, while the average cup of joe clocks in at 80-100 mg. Green tea is also packed with antioxidants to help your body fend off harmful free radicals.

Keep in mind, caffeine is a known migraine trigger. Yet for some people, it can relieve migraine pain in small amounts. Remember – everyone has their own unique triggers. So if you’re extremely sensitive to caffeine, pass on the green tea, or choose a caffeine-free version.

5 – Peppermint Tea

peppermint tea
If migraine attacks trigger tummy troubles, try sipping on some peppermint tea. It’s been used as a folk remedy for nausea for hundreds of years. One study showed peppermint eased IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain.4 Animal studies suggest peppermint offers pain-relieving effects as well.5

Another plus to peppermint tea is that it’s caffeine-free. So you can enjoy it any time of day without worrying about it spoiling your sleep. However, hold off on peppermint if you struggle with acid reflux. For certain folks, it may trigger heartburn.

6 – Ginger Tea

Ginger tea is another go-to remedy for migraine nausea. This spicy root has been used as a safe and effective treatment for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, pregnancy, and yes…migraine.678 Ginger also boasts potent anti-inflammatory effects. One study showed ginger eased migraine symptoms just as well as the popular medication Sumatriptan, without any negative side effects.9

Ginger tea is easy to prepare. Simply slice up an inch or two and boil in a few cups of water for 10 minutes. Ginger tea is delicious on its own or with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of honey.


4-6 thin slices of raw ginger
1  1/2 – 2 cups of water for steeping
juice from 1/2 lime, or to taste (may use lemon instead of lime)
1-2 tbsp honey or agave nectar, or to taste

For variety, mix your favorite ingredients into the basic ginger tea recipe, for example, fresh mint leaves.  You can also add just a few slices of ginger to a variety of teas; black, white, green, cinnamon, or chamomile tea. Note: Store fresh ginger in a cool, dark, dry place. Do not keep them in the refrigerator, even after cutting them, or they will shrivel up.

7 – Feverfew Tea

Feverfew is a perennial plant with small daisy-like flowers with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows feverfew may reduce migraine frequency and ease symptoms of migraine attack including pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.10

To make your own soothing migraine tonic, simply steep feverfew leaves in a cup of hot water for five minutes. You can also add in a spoonful of honey or a splash of almond milk for more flavor and benefits.

8 – Green Juices & Green Smoothies

Nutritional deficiencies can trigger migraine attacks. That’s why optimizing your diet is the ultimate migraine prevention tool. And green juices and smoothies provide an easy way to get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to keep migraine at bay.

Green juices and smoothies are packed with foods rich in folate, such as leafy greens and bananas. Studies show that folate influences the frequency of migraine attacks.11

For extra migraine support, try making smoothies with almond milk or coconut water. If you need some inspiration, try this refreshing green juice for migraine headache help. And stay tuned for even more recipes in a later section.

9 – Warm Lemon Water with Cayenne Pepper

lemon drink
Cayenne pepper is famously used for pain and inflammation thanks to its compound capsaicin. Capsaicin blocks one of the neurotransmitters that send pain signals to your brain.

But drinking cayenne water on its own can be intense. Many people opt to add some fresh lemon juice to enhance the flavor and add a potent dose of vitamin C. The citric acid in lemon juice also stokes your digestive fire, which can get sluggish during migraine attacks.12  Keep in mind, drinking cold water can dampen those digestive benefits. So try drinking lemon water warm, or room temperature at the very least.

The next time you feel a migraine coming on, combine:

16 oz of warm water
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
The juice of half a lemon


10 – Golden Milk

Glass of golden milk
Golden milk is a traditional Ayurvedic drink that’s made waves in the wellness space in recent years. It’s made with a combo of turmeric, milk, and other spices. But turmeric is the shining star of the show. It contains curcumin, a compound with powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies show curcumin supplementation decreases migraine symptoms and the frequency of attacks.13 To reap the most curcumin benefits, always add a pinch of pepper. Pepper contains piperine, a compound that increases curcumin absorption by as much as 2,000%!14

3 Healthy & Delicious Migraine Drink Recipes

The drinks above are a great start for helping you sip your way to migraine relief. Yet, if you want an added boost, try the three tasty recipes below. They each include a combo of several superfoods known to ease migraine attacks.

Golden Milk with Ginger and Honey
For powerful anti-inflammatory support, sip on a warm mug of Golden Milk. It’s packed with antioxidants and minerals that support a robust immune system.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 ½ cups almond milk
1 tsp ground turmeric
1-inch fresh ginger, sliced
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Small pinch pepper
1 tbsp honey

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently.
Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Strain and serve warm or store in mason jars to enjoy later.

Green Tea Lemonade w/Fresh Mint
Whether you’re looking for migraine relief or a refreshing drink to cool off on a hot summer day, this Green Tea Lemonade will hit the spot. Fresh mint is added for extra flavor and migraine support.

Ingredients (serves 6):
3 bags of green tea
2 cups boiling water
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
3 tbsp honey (or stevia to taste)
4 cups cold water
Fresh mint leaves (optional)
Lemon slices (optional for garnish)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add tea bags. Steep for 3 min.
Remove tea bags and add honey (or stevia), lemon juice, and zest. Stir well.
Add 4 cups of cold water and stir some more.
Serve over ice garnished with fresh mint leaves and lemon slices.

The Ultimate Migraine Smoothie

This smoothie is not only delicious but packed with ingredients to tame migraine symptoms. Here’s why this smoothie is the ultimate migraine prevention tool:

Migraine Smoothie

Ultra-hydrating featuring electrolyte-rich coconut water and cucumber, which has a 96% water content!
Excellent source of magnesium, thanks to the combo of spinach, banana, and berries.
Eases digestive upset that often comes with migraine with fresh ginger.
Includes healthy fats and protein courtesy of chia seeds and hemp hearts to lower the glycemic index. This is key as blood sugar imbalances can trigger migraine attacks.

1 handful spinach
1 cup mixed berries
1 frozen banana
½ inch piece of ginger
½ cucumber, chopped
1 cup coconut water
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp hemp hearts

Note: Feel free to swap the chia seeds and hemp hearts out for a scoop of protein powder!

Combine all ingredients into a high-powered blender.
Blend until smooth and serve immediately.


Migraine attacks can severely disrupt your life and make simple everyday tasks challenging. That’s why prevention is the best course of action for managing migraine. Lifestyle habits and eating a healthy diet free of migraine food triggers are good places to start. Yet certain drinks may offer impressive migraine relief as well. Teas, green juices, and smoothies can supply the essential vitamins and nutrients to tame future attacks or prevent them altogether. But remember – everyone has their own unique migraine triggers. What works for one person may aggravate another. So while the drinks we’ve covered will offer relief for many, you know your body best.

If you notice one of these drinks for migraine trigger you, make a note in your migraine diary. And if certain drinks offer major relief, be sure to add those to your migraine toolkit for the future!

Looking for more tools to add to your migraine toolkit? Check out Migrelief. It includes a unique combo of Magnesium, Riboflavin, and Puracol Feverfew and has been helping people with migraine get their lives back for over 25 years!

To the best of health!






Food Cravings? A Migraine May Be On The Way

If you are one of the 39 million Americans living with chronic migraines, you’re probably pretty familiar with the concept of migraine triggers. A trigger, sometimes called a precipitating factor, is anything that contributes to the development of a migraine attack. Things like high stress, lack of sleep, bright lights, loud sounds, intense smells, changes in weather, and certain foods and drinks, are known migraine triggers. 

Since no two migraineurs experience the same triggers, keeping track of yours is a great way to identify the elements in your lifestyle and environment that could be causing your migraine attacks. Plus, it can help you recognize some of the earliest symptoms of a migraine (known as the prodrome stage), so you can be better prepared when the actual attack strikes. 

There is a laundry list of foods and drinks that seem to increase the risk for migraines in susceptible individuals. The most commonly reported triggering foods are alcohol and chocolate, but foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as fatty and processed meals, are also high up on the list. 

Interestingly, a large number of migraineurs also report intense cravings for sugary, salty, fatty, or processed foods in the days or hours leading up to a migraine attack. So this contradiction has left many experts wondering whether there could be a sort of “chicken and egg” dilemma when it comes to migraine and carb-y, comforting foods: if you eat a bag of chips and a couple of hours later you get a migraine, was the attack triggered by the chips, or was the craving for chips a warning sign that a migraine was on the way? 

comfort food

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Brain Research says that it may be the latter, and that the explanation for this phenomenon could lie in a small but important area at the center of the brain called the hypothalamus. 

The Hypothalamus Connection

The hypothalamus is the main area of the brain controlling appetite. It does so by producing two proteins called neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti-related peptide (AGRP), which, when activated, create a sensation of hunger (and sometimes cravings) in the body. 

NPY is also associated with migraine headaches. In animal studies, higher levels of NPY were shown to enhance the firing of trigeminovascular neurons, and we know that migraine pain occurs when there’s an increased activity of these neurons in the brain. These specific events almost exclusively occur during the prodrome phase of a migraine, or the “pre headache” stage, when the person may not even know that an attack is about to start. This is why a lot of people misattribute their prodromal symptoms to something that triggered their migraine, instead of something that warned them of the attack. 

Other common prodromal warning signs include:

  • Irritability 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety and hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Yawning
  • Nausea
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Neck pain or stiffness 

In Closing

We tend to put great emphasis on diet and nutrition as preventative measures for migraines, but evidence shows that this may not be the case for all migraine sufferers. To date, the vast majority of migraine triggering food lists have been created by patient self-report, and most of these claims have not been scientifically studied in migraineurs. Eating a specific food and getting a migraine shortly after is not necessarily indicative of the food being a migraine trigger, as new evidence suggests that sudden food cravings could actually presage an impending attack, not cause it. 

migraineur cravings

According to the authors of the study, “the take-home message is that certain lifestyle modifications, such as specific dietary restrictions, are not evidence-based recommendations to treat or prevent migraine due to lack of randomized clinical trials.” They further added that “the fact that specific neuronal populations govern appetite and play a role in migraine pathophysiology is relevant because unlocking this overlap of neural networks will help determine locations (and its pharmacology) with which to target for migraine therapy.” 

In the meantime, if you are intensely craving a slice of chocolate cake, a migraine may already be underway – so why not eat it anyway? And perhaps, while you are at it, consider reaching for your bottle of MigreLief-NOW, our fast-acting nutritional-support supplement that has your back when you need it most! 



Moms with Migraine: 7 Helpful Tips for Managing & Preventing Migraine Attacks

Being a mom with migraine isn’t for the faint of heart. Parenting is tough – but parenting with chronic migraine takes it to a whole new level.

Moms with migraine may worry about how their chronic migraine affects their family or feel a major case of mom guilt when an attack strikes. Plus, there’s that looming dread of wondering when the next migraine will hit. And when it does, the pain and other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound can make you want to hide in a dark room and wait for it to pass. But when you’re a mom, that’s just not possible. Yet, you can be proactive and practice healthy lifestyle habits to lessen migraine attacks and plan ahead for when they do strike. This article unravels why moms are more prone to migraine and offers helpful tips to prevent future attacks.

Motherhood and Migraine: What’s the Connection?

According to a US survey, 17.1% of women and 5.6% of men suffer from chronic migraine. That means women are three times more likely to experience migraine than men! But why? Well, scientists think your hormones may be to blame. During childhood, migraine occurs equally among boys and girls. That is, until puberty hits. Once girls begin menstruating, their incidence of migraine skyrockets. Scientists believe this is likely due to changes in estrogen. Studies show that when estrogen dips, it can trigger migraine attacks.

Women experience hormone fluctuations often, with the most dramatic changes happening before, during or after:

  • menstruation
  • ovulation
  • pregnancy
  • giving birth
  • perimenopause
  • menopause

Many moms get a reprieve from migraine during pregnancy, only to be hit hard after giving birth. Having a baby elicits an enormous drop in estrogen, which can easily trigger postpartum migraine.

Migraine During the Pandemic

The pandemic has only exacerbated migraine pain, especially for moms. According to data from Migraine Buddy, a smartphone application used to track migraine symptoms, during the pandemic:

  • 57.5% of respondents reported more migraine days
  • 26% reported a significant increase in migraine days
  • 41.8% of respondents said the severity of symptoms increased

Since stress is the most common migraine trigger, this isn’t all that surprising. We all dealt with massive stress during the pandemic, between health worries, financial concerns, and social isolation. But moms felt the brunt of pandemic stress especially hard with the added responsibilities of virtual learning.

That means it’s even more important that moms practice healthy habits to prevent migraine attacks. Granted, that’s easier said than done as moms have trouble focusing on themselves and always want to put their kids first – which is amazing. But migraine attacks can make it difficult for you to show up for your loved ones. By investing time and energy in taking better care of yourself, you’ll be better able to take care of your kids.

7 Helpful Tips for Moms Managing Chronic Migraine

1 – Know Your Triggers & Avoid Them When Possible

There are a lot of potential triggers for migraine attacks, including:

  • Stress is the most common migraine trigger. Consider stress-coping strategies that work.
  • Menstrual cycle: especially right before your period or during ovulation.
  • Weather: changes in barometric pressure are known to trigger migraine.
  • Blood sugar imbalances can spark a migraine attack. So don’t skip meals.
  • Trigger foods: They’re different for everyone, but some common offenders include aged cheeses and meats, MSG, and aspartame.
  • Strong scents such as perfume, cigarette smoke, and vehicle exhaust can aggravate migraine.
  • Alcohol can trigger migraines. So don’t overdo it.
  • Dehydration can set a migraine off. Drinking plenty of water is crucial.

Every person’s experience of migraine is different. Knowing your unique triggers can help you avoid them or plan ahead for when potential triggers may strike.

So keep track of your triggers and see if you notice any patterns. You may want to record them as they occur in a migraine diary (download here). This will clue you in on what to be mindful of or avoid altogether.

2 – Preparation is Key
As said before, skipping meals can trigger a migraine attack. So no matter how busy you get, don’t skip them! Also, when you’re out and about, always have snacks handy for your kids and YOU. Dehydration can stir the migraine beast as well, so carry a water bottle wherever you go. Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces every day. And since you never know when a migraine might hit, plan ahead. Do some meal prep or make freezer meals on your migraine-free days, so you have less to do when those bad days pop up.

3 – Talk With Your Kids
Explain to your kids how a migraine attack feels in language they can understand. You might tell them that a migraine feels like ‘brain freeze,’ but instead of lasting a few seconds, it lasts for hours or even days. Tying it in with an experience they’re familiar with can help them understand migraine better. That way, they’ll realize why you need the lights dimmed and quiet time when an attack strikes.

Talk with your kids about migraine

Talk with your kids about migraine

Another huge reason to talk to your children is that they may experience migraine themselves one day. Children with one parent who struggles with migraine have a 50% chance of having them. If both parents deal with migraine, the risk increases to 75%. Educating them now may help them recognize signs in the future.

4 – Get Support
Tell your friends and family about your chronic migraine and how it affects you. Give them a heads up that there may be days you need some help. That might look like having your kiddos join a carpool to school or having an impromptu playdate if the pain gets bad. You may even want to talk with teachers, so they’re aware of your migraine struggles. Also, there are several delivery services for groceries and meals that can be a lifesaver during an attack. So don’t be afraid to use them!

5 – Plan ‘Quiet Day’ Activities
When you chat with your kids, give them a heads up that migraine days are ‘Quiet Days.’ Have plenty of puzzles, Legos, crafts, coloring books, and Playdoh ready for those times when you need some rest and recovery. ‘Quiet Days’ can even be an opportunity to bond! You can snuggle up and read books together in bed or pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and have a movie marathon. However, if the pain is terrible and you need some peace and quiet, that’s okay. In those cases, screentime can be a savior to give your body the rest it needs.

6 – Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Many things that prevent migraine attacks are easy to let slide, especially for busy moms! But making time for healthy habits will allow you to be fully present with your children more often.

Here are some lifestyle habits that can lessen migraine attacks:

  • Get quality sleep: Having a consistent sleep schedule is important for your kids AND you! Research shows that poor sleep quality can trigger migraine attacks. Yet, it also shows that preventative migraine treatments improve sleep.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise boosts your mood, improves sleep, and eases stress. It also releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. So make time for regular exercise whenever you can! Try getting the kids involved and go on a walk or bike ride together. Or squeeze in a quick workout video while they’re enjoying screen time.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Processed foods contain harmful preservatives and flavorings such as nitrates and MSG, known migraine triggers. Opt for wholesome, nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
  • Manage your stress: Practice regular stress relief to keep migraine at bay. You can try journaling, breathwork, yoga, or meditation. If you’re not sure where to start, there are several helpful apps like Headspace and Calm that can help guide the way. You may also want to consider a natural combination supplement formulated to reduce the physical and psychological impacts of stress. There are also various techniques used to relax the body, including deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation (a technique of tensing and relaxing various muscles in a specific order).

Many of the habits above are healthy for your children too! So by taking good care of yourself, you’ll be setting them up for their own self-care success in the future.

7 – Build a Migraine Toolkit
It would be nice to say if you religiously practice the six tips above, you’ll never have another migraine attack. But we both know that’s a longshot. Yes, you can do a great deal to help prevent a migraine attack. But it also helps to be prepared for when they do strike. Having a migraine toolkit can be a godsend during those tough times.

Here are some things to consider adding to your own migraine toolkit:

  • Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to keep the noise level down
  • Sleep mask for those light-sensitive moments
  • Ginger chews in case nausea hits
  • Ice packs to dull the sensation of pain
  • Heating pad to relax tense muscles
    MigreLief-Now for fast-acting nutritional support and neurological comfort. It contains a combo of magnesium, ginger, and Boswellia to provide neurological and whole-body comfort when you need it most.
Be prepared - build a migraine toolkit

Be prepared – build a migraine toolkit


Motherhood is challenging on its own. Adding migraine into the mix can make it even more difficult to keep up with everyday responsibilities. While migraine attacks can strike at any time, you hold more power than you think. Prevention is key when it comes to managing migraine, especially for moms with migraine. Prioritizing healthy habits like quality sleep, exercise, nutritious food, and stress relief can be tricky as a mom. You may even feel selfish investing time and energy into yourself. However, the more you care for yourself, the better you’ll be able to care for your family. And the less likely those migraine attacks will happen.

Want an extra boost of targeted nutritional support? For those of you who don’t already know about this once, best-kept secret… try Migrelief. This unique original patented formula contains magnesium, riboflavin, and Puracol feverfew and has been helping migraine sufferers reclaim their lives for over 25 years.




Many people assume there’s just one single type of migraine, but in fact, there are many different types of migraine and migraine variants. The 2 most common ones are classic migraine and common migraine. These are also referred to as migraine with aura (classic) and migraine without aura (common).

Classic Migraine – Classical migraine has been described as a familial disorder characterized by recurrent; attacks of head pain, often on one side (often two sides in children), that varies in intensity, frequency, and duration and accompanied by aura.  The aura associated with classic migraines are visual hallucinations such as jagged lines or being partially blinded in one or both eyes, disruptions in sight, smell or touch, or even speech.  The aura actually serves as an early warning sign.

Common Migraine – Most people with migraine have common migraine or migraine without aura. This type of migraine causes a throbbing pain on one side of the head. The pain is moderate to severe and gets worse with normal physical activity. You may also have nausea and vomiting and may feel worse around light and sound. The headache lasts 4 to 72 hours if it’s not treated. A common migraine doesn’t begin with an aura.

Hormones & Migraine

Headaches in women, particularly migraines, have been related to changes in the levels of female hormones estrogen and progesterone before, during, and after a woman’s menstrual cycle. Estrogen, progesterone, and even testosterone levels can fluctuate significantly a few days before and after menstruation, leading to migraines. Women approaching menopause can also experience hormonally-related migraine.

Menstrual Migraines – Fueled by the drop in estrogen levels just prior to menstruation, true “Menstrual Migraines” occur at the time of menstruation. “Menstrually Related Migraines” occur throughout the menstrual cycle. They are often more severe, last significantly longer, and are more resistant to treatment than the usual non-menstrual migraine attacks.  Menstrual migraines are now considered a separate disorder from other types of migraine.


Retinal or Ocular Migraine vs. Visual Migraine– Not all migraine sufferers experience the head pain commonly associated with migraine attacks. Some people experience a type of silent migraine with visual disturbance but no head pain. “Ocular migraine” also known as “retinal migraine” is often confused with “visual migraine” which is a symptom of visual changes or vision loss resulting from the aura phase of the common migraine.  Ocular or retinal migraines happen in the eye, so only affect the vision in that eye, while visual migraines occur in the brain, so affect the vision in both eyes together.

ocular migraine

For people who experience ocular migraines, the visual changes are a little different and can be very frightening as they most often include temporary vision loss that can last up to an hour. Both ocular migraines and visual migraines can occur with or without a headache.

Hemiplegic Migraine – Hemiplegic migraine is a rare subtype of migraine with aura characterized by the presence of motor weakness (hemiplegia). Typically, migraine aura has visual symptoms as aura, but occasionally impairment of speech may also be seen. Symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine attack are similar to a stroke that typically includes sudden severe headache on one side of the head, weakness on one side of the body, ataxia (poor muscle control), and aphasia (speech impairment) which can last for hours, days or weeks, Hemiplegic migraine may run in the family (familial hemiplegic migraine) or occur sporadically in an individual (sporadic hemiplegic migraine). (1)

Nocturnal Migraine – Although nocturnal migraine is not a true migraine variant, it is unique in that it occurs during the middle of the night or the early morning hours. It is thought to be related to the circadian activation of certain neurotransmitters during sleep, which are known to trigger a migraine attack.

Basilar Artery Migraine (Migraine with brainstem aura or  MBA) – This is a type of migraine that begins in the brainstem and includes aura, or preceding symptoms like vertigo, speaking and hearing difficulty, and loss of muscle control. A throbbing at the back of the head which can lead to dizziness and difficulty speaking occurs in this migraine form. (2)

Abdominal Migraine – This is a type of silent migraine with abdominal pain and typically no head pain. The pain usually causes nausea and vomiting and is most often seen in young children, but is starting to be recognized in adults as well. Abdominal migraines are diagnosed in children who meet these criteria:

  • At least five attacks of abdominal pain that each last 1 to 72 hours
  • Dull pain around the belly button, moderate to severe in intensity
  • At least two of these symptoms: appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, pale skin

Abdominal migraines usually follow a pattern, same type of appearance, same time of day, and the same duration with the symptoms going away completely between migraine attacks.


migraine diary


A migraine diary is a tool for managing your migraines by tracking your symptoms and recording important facts about your migraines – before, during, and after they occur. Use this MIGRAINE DIARY or look up an application on your smartphone, to help you identify potential triggers and monitor the effectiveness of treatments and alternative therapies.  The data you generate can also help your doctor correctly diagnose migraine or other disorders. Continue to record in the diary each migraine experienced.


To the Best of Health,

Curt Hendrix, MS, CCN, CNS







Feverfew for Migraines – A Real Plus!

Peter Rabbit’s mother was onto something when she put him to bed with a cup of wild chamomile tea after his escapade in Mr. McGregor’s garden. People in the modern world often think of chamomile as a sleep or digestive aid. But wild chamomile is another name for the herb Feverfew. A tea of feverfew would not only have relaxed the hapless rabbit but would also have routed his headache, calmed his upset tummy, put his mind at ease, and soothed his jangled nerves after his terrifying turn in the garden.

Feverfew Health Benefits

Native to southeastern Europe, feverfew is now widespread throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. Feverfew is a short perennial that blooms between July and October, and gives off a strong and bitter odor. The herb Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium) has been recorded as a medicinal remedy for millennia. One can find references to the Latin “febrefugia” from which Feverfew gets its name in Old Saxon records. Hildegard of Bingen, a great 12th-century abbess and healer made mention of it in her herbal tomes. Febrefugia literally means “Fever flies,” and has always been used as a fever reducer among other purposes. In even more ancient times, the Greeks used Feverfew to treat melancholy which was characterized as much by debilitating headaches as it was by long-term depression.

Studies have confirmed that feverfew has activity similar to  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin. Extracts of feverfew have been shown to inhibit the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes as well as the synthesis of compounds that promote inflammation, including inflammatory prostaglandins, leukotrienes, thromboxanes, lactones and tanetin, a lipophilic flavonol. Feverfew constituents have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity and other immune-supporting effects.

Historically Feverfew has been used as a dietary supplement for headaches, constipation, diarrhea, and dizziness. But one of the greatest boons in the modern era is the discovery of Feverfew as an aid for migraine headaches.


Commonly recommended for its ability to support cerebrovascular tone, Feverfew is rich in compounds known as sesquiterpene lactones. One of the more important of these compounds is parthenolide, which represents 85% of the sesquiterpene lactone content in Feverfew. Some scientific studies indicate that while parthenolide may be important there may very well be other phytochemicals in Feverfew that are as of yet unidentified and play a role in its effectiveness.


In addition to its many anti-inflammatory properties, feverfew also inhibits platelet aggregation, the clumping together of platelets in the blood (part of the sequence of events leading to the formation of a blood clot), and secretion of allergic mediators, e.g., histamine and serotonin. Its parthenolide component has been shown to produce a tonic effect on vascular smooth muscle, inhibiting the contraction of smooth muscle normally caused by serotonin and phenylephrine.

Over aggregating of platelets in the blood appear just before a migraine forcing a release of serotonin. Serotonin causes the blood vessel to constrict.  Scientific studies have found parthenolide (one of the many beneficial phytochemicals in feverfew),  inhibits platelet aggregation and the release of serotonin from platelets and polymorphonuclear leukocyte granules thus keeping the blood vessel normal. It has also been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory prostaglandin synthesis and the release of arachidonic acid. Each of these phenomena is associated with migraines. Studies have shown the benefits of Feverfew on long-term cerebrovascular tone in multiple human studies. (1-10)







Though the exact cause of migraines is unknown, certain triggers like tyramine in aged cheeses, chocolate, scents/perfumes, bright lights, changes in weather/temperature/humidity/altitude, over-use of headache medications, stress, hormonal fluctuations, and many more, can activate certain processes that increase the risk of migraines occurring.

The dysfunctional processes that these triggers can activate are:

*  Excessive platelet aggregation which can result in changes in blood vessels associated with migraines.

*  Decrease in the cellular energy reserves in the brain that is common to migraine sufferers.

NUTRITIONAL APPROACH – When Migraine Sufferers Get These 3 Factors Under Control – The Results Can Be Life-Changing

1.  Maintain normal platelet aggregation
2.  Maintain healthy cerebrovascular tone and function (blood vessels in the brain)
3.  Maintain healthy mitochondrial energy reserves (the powerhouses of cells)
A Nutritional Approach for Migraine Sufferers:  Riboflavin, Magnesium, and Feverfew for maintaining normal cerebrovascular function.

All 3 are listed in the American Academy of Neurology’s Guidelines for Migraine Prevention.

Magnesium:  Research studies show that almost half of all migraine sufferers have low blood levels of Magnesium, which is critical in controlling vasospasms (the contraction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain which occur during migraines).

Riboflavin:  Migraine sufferers also suffer mitochondrial energy deficiencies, which Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) can improve when given in high dosages.

Feverfew:  Research studies show Feverfew inhibits blood platelet aggregation and helps maintain a healthy inflammatory response.

The Combination Effect

Migraines are multifactorial. They involve or depend on a number of factors or causes. Combining 3 nutritional ingredients with different mechanisms of action makes sense and is a good place to start for migraine sufferers looking for a nutritional option.


  1.  Awang DVC. Herbal Medicine, Feverfew. Canadian Pharm J 1989; 122:266-70.
  2.  Heptinstall S, Awang DVC, Dawson BA, et al. Parthenolide Content and Bioactivity of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Estimation of Commercial and Authenticated Feverfew Products. J Pharm Pharmacol 1992; 44:391-5.
  3.  Pugh WJ, Sambo K. Prostaglandin Synthetase Inhibitors in Feverfew. J Phrm Pharmacol 1988; 40-743-5
  4.  Heptinstall S, White A, Williamson L, Mitchell JRA. Extracts of Feverfew Inhibit Granule Secretion in Blood Platelets and Polymophonuclear Leukocytes. Lancet 1985; i:1071-4.
  5.  Makheja AN, Bailey JM. A Platelet Phospholipase Inhibitor from the Medicinal Herb Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Prostagland Leukotrienes Med 1982;8:653-60.
  6.  Sumner H, Salan U, Knight DW, Hoult JRS. Inhibition of 5-Lipoxygenase and Cyclo-oxygenase in Leukocytes by Feverfew. Biochem Pharmacol 1992;43:2313-20.
  7.  Johnson ES, Kadam NP, Hylands DM, Hylands PF. Efficacy of Feverfew As prophylactic Treatment of Migraine. British Med J 1985; 291:569-73.
  8.  Murphy JJ. Heptinstall S, Mitchell JRA. Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Feverfew in Migraine Prevention. Lancet 1988; ii:189-92.Brown D, Gaby A, Reichert R. Clinical Applications of Natural Medicine–Migraine. NPRC 9
  9. Condition-Specific Monograph Series, 1997.
  10.  Lawrence Review of Natural Products, September 1994.



What Research Says About Headache in Transgender and Gender-Diverse Patients

Migraine and severe headache are highly prevalent among US adults, affecting about 1 in 6 Americans. However, not all populations affected have the same experiences and needs. Even the amount of research done regarding headache disorders differs from one population to another. For example, headache disorder research in transgender and gender-diverse populations is limited. The goal of current and future research is to learn more about the effects of the disorders and find proper treatments for them.

Gender has long been known to play a role in the pathophysiology of primary headache disorders. Migraine and tension-type headaches, for example, are more prevalent in women, while cluster headaches are more common in men. Hormonal alterations and their impact on brain physiology and pain response are thought to be linked to this discrepancy in occurrence. This association is supported by the research done on headache in transgender and gender-diverse patients; it was found that the prevalence of migraine increased in transgender women using estrogen and decreased in transgender men using testosterone.

However, each person responds differently to hormone therapy. Therefore, treatment for the headache disorder should be individualized and supportive of continuing gender-affirming hormone therapy.

In this article, we will dive into the different aspects that come with headache in transgender and gender-diverse patients.

How Common Are Headache Disorders in Transgender and Gender-Diverse Individuals?

Gender-diverse people make up between 0.1 to 2 percent of the population. There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States, but little is known about how commonly migraine and other headache disorders affect them.

A Dutch study found that transgender women who had recently undergone sex reassignment surgery and used anti-androgens to suppress male sex characteristics while using oestrogens to induce female sex characteristics had a migraine prevalence of 26%. This percentage is similar to the migraine prevalence in cisgender women in the same population. Cisgender refers to an individual whose personal identity and gender correspond with their birth sex.

Though there are no statistics on migraine prevalence before and after hormone therapy, an Italian study found that two of 47 transgender women had headache before using feminizing hormones. After hormone therapy, the number of transgender women reporting headache increased to five. In addition, ten of 26 transgender men had headache before hormone therapy. However, following treatment, six had a reduction in the severity and frequency of headache, while three reported onset of headache.

The Role of Hormones in Headache

Gender differences are evident in primary headache disorders. The most studied of these disorders is migraine. Migraine impacts one in five cisgender women and one in 15 cisgender men. It is more prevalent in women after puberty. However, a second peak may occur with perimenopause around the age of 40. This prevalence is thought to be linked to hormones and hormonal changes.

The lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of estrogen in women seem to be associated with the difference in headache prevalence between cisgender women and men. Falling estrogen levels are thought to be associated with migraine without aura, while high levels are linked with migraine aura.

Migraine is common during menstruation, with up to 20% of women experiencing migraine exclusively during this period. Women with migraine appear to have a quicker drop in estrogen levels in the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, triggering migraine onset. Women during menopause could still suffer from migraine, but the migraine’s frequency often declines. In addition, the symptoms of migraine differ from gender to gender.

Tension-type headache (TTH), similar to migraine, is more common in women, but less is understood regarding this correlation. It is thought that the greater occurrence in women is due to hormonal factors, especially since the likelihood of a TTH rises during hormonal fluctuations, as with menses. In addition, unlike migraine and TTH, cluster headache has long been known to occur more frequently in men. However, studies have suggested that the frequency of cluster headache in women has increased over time.

With all this information at hand, it is expected that hormone therapy will have an impact on migraine in transgender people. Despite the data being extremely limited, the use of estrogen in transgender women has been shown to aggravate pain conditions, such as headaches.

It has been found that any shift in hormones, whether an increase or a decrease, may impact migraine. As mentioned earlier, transgender women on anti-androgens for male sex characteristic suppression and a high dose of estrogens to induce female sex characteristics have an increased prevalence of migraine. Particularly, the prevalence of migraine with aura increases, especially in those taking high doses of oral estrogen.

Animal studies have seen that oestrogen in high doses potentially stimulates increased responses in the trigeminovascular system, a mechanism that could be involved in the headache phase of migraine. In addition, oestrogen raises the risk of cortical spreading depression, which is the pathophysiological process underlying migraine aura. Clinically, this may correlate with the increased prevalence of aura in transgender women taking high-dose oestrogen therapy.


depressed person


As for testosterone, there isn’t enough evidence to tell if it is a migraine trigger in individuals. However, changes in testosterone levels may impact the frequency of migraine attacks. Studies have found that some testosterone-treated people had fewer attacks. In addition, a small case series found that after establishing testosterone therapy, transmasculine youth with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and related headache had both conditions resolved.

In transmasculine youth, suppressing endogenous estrogen with lynestrenol, a progestin medication, resulted in headache during the first six months but not after. This may be explained by the estrogen withdrawal effect in the population.

The impact of transition surgeries on migraine is not well researched. However, similar procedures can provide insight into their possible effects. Hysterectomies and oophorectomies, or the removal of the uterus and ovaries, in cisgender patients have been linked to an increase in the incidence of migraine attacks right after surgeries. If a sudden estrogen drop occurs due to the ovaries being removed, more attacks may occur due to the hormonal decline. However, in terms of causing migraine, the actual surgeries are not a big concern.

Headache Diagnosis and Treatment

Correctly diagnosing headaches in transgender and gender-diverse individuals is critical for ensuring proper headache management. If new-onset headache occurs, secondary causes need to be carefully evaluated. As headaches are not mutually exclusive, each type of headache should get its own separate diagnosis. There are validated diagnostic screening tools that can be used to diagnose headache conditions, such as migraine. Often, diagnosing aura tends to be more difficult, but its correct diagnosis is vital since it is a marker for people at increased risk of ischaemic stroke.

Managing migraine in transgender and gender-diverse patients doesn’t differ much from managing migraine in cisgender patients. If migraine does occur in transgender and gender-diverse patients, it should be managed based on national guidelines while taking into consideration the impact of hormone therapy.

Transgender and gender-diverse patients with migraine should be provided with individualized treatment plans. The treatment strategy should be tailored to fit each patient’s unique needs. Transgender headache sufferers should not have to choose between continuing hormone therapy and managing their symptoms. Instead, the treatment should be supportive of any intervention the individual wants.

In this population, the treatment for headaches should help reduce the severity and frequency of attacks while receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) or undergoing surgical interventions. Regarding the hormone treatment itself, stable oestrogen levels in transgender women are best attained using non-oral modes of oestradiol delivery, which are less likely to provoke migraine than oral forms. The treatment should begin with modest dosages that are gradually increased. If aura occurs, there should be a reduction in the dose of oestrogen, and oral oestrogens, if used, should be replaced with transdermal oestrogen if necessary. In transgender men, the possible benefits of testosterone might not be fully achieved without complete ovarian suppression.

While on hormone therapy, transgender and gender-diverse individuals can take migraine or other drugs to lessen the burden. However, some medications may interact with hormone therapy. That’s why it is critical to consider potential drug-drug interactions in transgender and gender-diverse individuals receiving GAHT or antiretroviral treatments (ARTs). Certain medications that might be avoided in certain patients’ transitions include beta-blockers. Any changes in medication or hormone therapy should be discussed with your doctor. More research is needed to understand further how to manage headache disorders in this patient population properly.

An Underserved Population

Despite the transgender and gender-diverse populations’ increased visibility and the mainstream media recently adopting a positive approach, they continue to face excessive discrimination and prejudice. That is largely why this population remains underserved.

Transgender and gender-diverse individuals with migraine face discrimination from two fronts. First, they live with migraine, an invisible disease that people often overlook. In addition, society is not always accepting or understanding of people who are transgender and gender diverse. These two factors combined leave patients unheard and underserved.

There is also a lack of data and research available to help guide healthcare providers. This research limitation has to do with the lack of funding for migraine research in general, even more so for migraine in the transgender and gender-diverse community.

It’s important for transgender and gender-diverse individuals to find healthcare providers they are comfortable with. Every patient’s migraine is unique, so choosing the right doctor is critical for obtaining an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan that is effective for the patient.

Final Thoughts

Primary headache disorders are known to be influenced by gender. Research has found that in transgender women using estrogen, the prevalence of migraine increases and reduces in transgender men using testosterone.

Hormones play a role in headache disorders. The lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of estrogen in women seem to be associated with the difference in headache prevalence between cisgender men and women. In addition, falling estrogen levels are linked with migraine without aura, while high levels are linked with migraine aura. Though migraine research in the transgender and gender diverse population is limited, it has been shown that hormone therapy has an impact on some headache disorders such as migraine.

An accurate diagnosis of the condition is critical for ensuring proper headache management. Treatment plans should be individualized based on each patient’s unique needs. However, unfortunately, the transgender and gender-diverse population are underserved. More research is required concerning headache disorders in this population.

Having Migraines in Midlife Could Increase Your Risk For Dementia

Having migraines with aura in midlife can increase your chances of developing dementia later in life, researchers report.

For the study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, investigators looked at 30-year medical data from all inhabitants of Denmark born between 1935-1956. The purpose of the analysis was to see whether those who had received a migraine diagnosis in midlife were also more likely to receive a dementia diagnosis later in life compared to those without migraine.



After controlling for other factors that could potentially increase a person’s risk for dementia: past heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, renal disease, and more, investigators found that those diagnosed with migraine between ages 31-58 were more likely to have dementia in later life. Interestingly, migraineurs without aura had a 19% higher rate of dementia, and those with aura had double the rate of dementia.

Migraine and dementia are two of the most common neurological conditions globally. Dementia is more common as people grow older and affects about one in nine Americans, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association. Migraine affects people of all ages, and it is one of the world’s most prevalent health conditions. An estimated 39 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches.

This study was not the first to find a connection between migraine and cognitive decline, but it is the first large-scale one to recognize midlife migraine as a risk factor for dementia. In a 2019 paper published in Geriatric Psychiatry, a group of researchers found that having a history of migraines made a person three to four times more likely to develop some type of dementia after 65, especially Alzheimer’s disease.


midlife aura migraine


What does this mean for migraineurs?


Learning that having migraines — which is something that cannot be avoided or cured — increases your risk for dementia can be alarming. But do not panic. First, it’s important to understand that a risk factor is simply something that increases your chances of developing a disease. A person can (and usually has) multiple risk factors for multiple conditions. For example, the simple fact of being a biological woman increases a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.

Having migraines with or without aura doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be diagnosed with dementia at a later age. On the other hand, a person might still get dementia even if they avoid risk factors or are considered “low risk.” There are many other known risk factors for dementia other than having a history of migraines. According to the National Alzheimer’s Association, the two biggest risk factors are aging and genetic predispositions. Other risk factors include:


  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Obesity
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Depression

The good news is that since inflammation plays a role in both the development of migraines and dementia, taking natural anti-inflammatories like feverfew, ginger extract, and Boswellia extract — which have been shown to help with migraine pain and aura — could theoretically curb a migraineur’s risk of getting dementia later in life.

To Wrap Things Up

Studies have found a strong association between suffering from migraine attacks, particularly ones with aura, and many types of dementia — including Alzheimer’s disease. Having one or more dementia risk factors doesn’t mean you will get it for sure, but it is important to know them so you can take steps to bolster your neurological health.


Although more research is needed, supplementing with brain-healthy herbs, vitamins, and minerals that reduce inflammation may support you during migraine attacks and could even help protect you against cognitive decline.

Understanding Migraines: The Role of Inflammation

Anyone who has experienced a migraine knows it’s not just an ordinary headache. Migraine is a neurological disorder that affects one person in seven and is a significant cause of disability.

Being one of the most prevalent diseases worldwide, migraine, and its accompanying disorders, put a significant burden on individuals and societies. That is why migraine researchers strive to learn more about it and its pathology. Though the exact pathology of migraine is still being studied, it has been found that several possible factors could play a role.

Inflammation and pain commonly go hand in hand. The mechanisms underlying migraine are said to possibly involve inflammation. Migraine pathophysiology is associated with the interaction of the vasculature, neurons, glial cells, and inflammatory signaling.

In this article, we will dive into the link between migraine and inflammation.

What Is Inflammation?

We’re all familiar with the inflammation that occurs when you cut yourself. As the body detects an outside intruder like a virus or bacteria, the immune system is activated. The immune system responds by sending out inflammatory cells and cytokines, which stimulate more inflammatory cells. The cells cause an inflammatory response that will attack the intruder or heal the damaged tissue. This response is referred to as acute inflammation.

When inflammation becomes chronic, that’s where the trouble starts to arise. Chronic inflammation triggers the defense response even when there is no invader to fight off. Often with autoimmune diseases, the immune system treats normal tissues as if they were infected or somehow unusual. This prolonged inflammatory response may lead to tissue damage. Researchers believe that inflammation plays a role in a wide range of chronic diseases.

Triggered by nerve activation, neurogenic inflammation is defined as the release of neuropeptides and other inflammatory mediators from peripheral nerves. This phenomenon leads to vasodilatation and increases vascular permeability. Neurogenic inflammation results in rapid plasma extravasation and edema, contributing to pain conditions.

An adaptive reaction activated by noxious stimuli, such as injury, infection, and tissue stress, is referred to as neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation is an inflammatory response that occurs within the brain or spinal cord. It is the activation of the brain’s innate immune system when an inflammatory challenge appears and is depicted by molecular and cellular changes within the brain.

The Link Between Migraine and Inflammation

The pathophysiology of migraine is highly complex and not completely understood, but researchers have identified a great link between migraine and inflammation. In addition, experts now have a closer grasp on how this link is associated with migraine pain.

Migraine-related inflammation occurs when the cells of the immune system are activated, triggering cytokine production. Cytokines are pain mediators in neurovascular inflammation that are associated with migraine pain. Various cytokines have been involved with inflammation; inflammatory signaling, in this case, stimulates neurons and causes pain.

Inflammation that is extensively linked with several pain disorders, including migraine, is neuroinflammation. In addition, studies have found neurogenic inflammation to be involved in migraine. This type of inflammation is triggered by nerve activation and causes neuropeptide release, rapid plasma extravasation, and edema; thus, it is said to be one of the mechanisms that contribute to migraine pain. However, some studies argue that neurogenic inflammation could occur with a migraine attack but don’t believe it is the original cause of migraine.

Another well-established key factor in migraine pathophysiology is the neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP is a protein released around the brain. It is synthesized in neurons, nerve cells in the spinal cord, and the brain and is a potent vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels. It has been linked to various pain conditions, including migraine. When CGRP is released, intense inflammation occurs in the meninges (the coverings of the brain), leading to migraine attacks in the majority of migraine sufferers. In fact, research has found that if migraine patients were given CGRP by an intravenous method, most would get migraine within four hours.

Migraine attacks cause plasma CGRP levels to increase significantly. These peptides increase vasodilation and promote neurogenic inflammation, leading to further increased sensory trigeminal fiber activity, prolonged production of vasoactive peptides such as CGRP, and altered pain impulse transmission to the brain. With the use of triptans, a group of medicines used to ease migraine symptoms, studies have found that the relief of migraine pain is accompanied by the normalization or reduction in CGRP concentrations in blood.

The activation of CGRP receptors in the trigeminovascular system plays a vital role in the peripheral and central nervous events that eventually lead to migraine pain. Peripheral release of CGRP from trigeminal nerve endings is said to trigger several responses induced by CGRP receptor binding, ultimately leading to the sensitization of specific neurons. The stimulation of these neurons is said to relay the pain signal to the brain via the brainstem, leading to migraine pain.

Finally, for migraine, most preventative treatment options consisted of drugs developed for other diseases, such as depression and hypertension. Since scientists first identified CGRP, they were committed to finding ways to stop it from being activated with migraines. After 30 years of translational research, CGRP inhibitors have emerged as a possible new tool for preventing migraine attacks. Research has proven that selective CGRP receptor antagonists aid in reducing vasodilation and neurogenic inflammation. An antagonist is a substance that reduces or blocks a molecule’s effect. The CGRP antagonist seems to work for decreasing migraine pain but may come with serious side effects, so make sure to consult a healthcare professional.

Research has found that baseline levels of inflammation are higher in those with migraine than in those with no migraine. Some levels even rise during migraine attacks. For example, plasma levels of anti- and pro-inflammatory cytokines were found to increase during attacks. In addition, a 2016 study that evaluated the blood of young adults with migraine found that their migraine diagnosis was associated with elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), an inflammatory biomarker. However, human data vary, and its relevance to migraine pathophysiology remains unclear.

The Role of Inflammation in Chronic Migraine

Most of the time, migraineurs suffer from attacks that occur sporadically. However, about 2% of the general population experience gradual increases in attacks over time, eventually developing chronic migraine. Experts define chronic migraine as a headache occurring 15 or more days every month for more than three months and features of migraine headache at least eight days a month. The mechanisms underlying the chronicity of migraine are complex and not yet fully known but are said to involve a degree of inflammation.

The transformation from episodic to chronic migraine appears to involve neurogenic neuroinflammation. There is a possible increase in cytokines expression via activation of protein kinases in glial cells and neurons of the trigeminovascular system. Some propose that despite inflammation not being required for acute migraine attacks, it could be associated with the “chronification” of migraine.

Aside from the pain itself, with migraine, there are no imaging indicators of chronic inflammation. However, acute or chronic inflammation could be associated with the exacerbation of migraine.

imaging indicators of chronic inflammation

Women Are At Greater Risk

Studies have found that women are two to three times more likely to have migraines than men. In addition, women are likely to experience worse and more frequent migraine attacksMigraine headaches occur more often in women between the ages of 15 and 55. It is possibly due to the influence of hormones. In fact, the onset and timing of migraines were linked to the hormonal flux of the menstrual cycle in more than half of women between the ages of 18 and 60.

Inflammation may also play a significant role in migraine in women. According to the same 2016 study mentioned earlier, the correlation between migraine diagnosis and elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein was more prominent among young women.

Woman with a migraine

Ways to Reduce Inflammation

With migraines, the pain can get so intense that people tend to forget they possess the ability to help themselves. However, some steps can aid in reducing overall inflammation, including migraine-related inflammation. Taking care of your health with the help of professionals will elevate a bit of the burden that comes with migraine disease, but it might not keep migraines at bay. The following are approaches you can take.

  • Taking control of your lifestyle is essential and only possible with consistency. Disrupting the balance within your body can lead to inflammation, so maintaining stable outside factors are necessary, especially with things like sleep, diet, and activity. For example, a poor night’s sleep can trigger both inflammation and migraines, so develop and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Consider an effective sleep supplement with proven ingredients to help you reboot and recharge your brain and body with a good night’s sleep.
  • Dietary factors have been found to have significant impacts on modulating inflammation. Managing your diet correctly, avoiding inflammatory foods, and getting adequate nutrients are among the steps you can take to reduce inflammation in the body. Consider avoiding foods or components that trigger your migraine and inflammatory foods such as fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and soda. According to a 2022 study published in Scientific Reports, the adherence of migraineurs to a diet with anti-inflammatory properties was significantly and inversely associated with headache frequency. In addition, consuming colorful fruits and vegetables should be part of a healthy diet. Finally, aim for a diet rich in omega-3 and low in omega-6 as it has been found to lessen the intensity and frequency of monthly migraine attacks.
  • Never underestimate the power of nutrition when it comes to inflammation and migraines. Here are five effective supplements proven in clinical studies to benefit migraine sufferers: Magnesium, Riboflavin, Feverfew, Boswellia Serrata, and Ginger. While low magnesium intake is linked to increased levels of inflammation, Boswellia and Ginger are especially known for promoting a healthy inflammatory response. Migraine sufferers should consider a specialty combination supplement for proper nutritional support.
  • Carrying excess body fat can increase inflammation in the body. Maintaining a healthy weight could have beneficial effects on migraine. A possibly successful strategy for underweight patients is weight gain and a weight reduction strategy for overweight or obese patients.
  • Stress is the top trigger for migraines. In addition, it can cause inflammation. Reducing stress is vital and can be achieved through stress management activities and techniques. For example, you can try meditation, yoga classes, and physical activity to help ward off inflammation and migraines.  Furthermore, consider a stress-reducing supplement with ingredients to help with neuroinflammation and balance the stress hormone cortisol. Topping the list are Ashwagandha, Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), Sage Extract, Pyridoxal-5-phosphate, Huperzine A, and Vitamin C.

woman relaxing on grass


Final Thoughts

Inflammation and migraine are greatly linked. Studies have found that inflammation may play a significant role in migraine, particularly in women. However, certain lifestyle factors can be adjusted to help reduce inflammation and migraines.

Refreshing Green Juice Recipe for Migraine Headache Help

Migraines and headaches can be caused by a variety of reasons including dehydration.  Drinking plenty of water is always helpful, however certain juices could also provide help due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Each ingredient in this recipe was selected based on benefits it could provide in this situation.


16 oz filtered water or coconut water
1 cup pineapple
1 cup kale (3-4 leaves)
1 stalk celery
½ lemon, juiced
1 cup cucumber (about ½ a large cucumber)
½ inch ginger root
1-1/2 cups ice


Place all ingredients into a blender.  Secure the lid and blend well for at least 60 seconds.

Note: You can omit the water and ice and extract the ingredients with a juicer, or leave it as is for a whole food juice by keeping the fiber.

Enjoy! (Recipe makes 2 servings)

The ingredients in this drink are very healthy and may help with headache, migraine, nausea and/or stomach upset. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and is a potent herb that has been known to help with any type of pain or swelling of the tissues. Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, a natural enzyme that has been known to be a form of natural pain relief and anti-inflammatory as well. Cucumber is 95% water and can help with dehydration. It is thought that the chemicals in celery act to cause sleepiness, increase urine to decrease fluid retention, decrease blood pressure, decrease blood sugar, decrease blood clotting, and increase muscle relaxation.

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Fibromyalgia & Migraine: How Are They Linked?

Fibromyalgia and Migraine: How Are They Linked?

Living with either migraine or fibromyalgia is a challenge on its own. They are both pain disorders that have been found to be linked. This means that fibromyalgia and migraine can cooccur and thus lead to a fair amount of pain.

Fibromyalgia and migraine have several factors in common. They both have similar symptoms, such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and sensitivity to noise or light. In addition, they both occur more in women than men.

In this article, we will take a look at how migraine and fibromyalgia are linked. We will also dive into some of the treatment options for these conditions.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that is characterized by chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain, or pain all over the body, accompanied by debilitating fatigue, mood disorders, cognitive difficulties, sleep problems, and headaches. Those with fibromyalgia often are more sensitive to pain than those without.

The most prominent symptom of fibromyalgia, widespread chronic pain, has a neurogenic origin. The pain seems to be due to neurochemical imbalances in the central nervous system associated with the central amplification of pain perception. This is characterized by allodynia, increased sensitivity to normally painless stimuli, and hyperalgesia, heightened response to painful stimuli. Stimuli are abnormally processed in the central nervous system.



Fibromyalgia affects around 4 million US adults, which is about 2% of the adult population. It is more prevalent in females than males. Despite the recent increase in understanding and awareness, fibromyalgia remains undiagnosed in around 75% of those with the disorder.

The cause of fibromyalgia is not always known. Many experts believe that repeated nerve stimulation causes a change in the brain and spinal cord of people with fibromyalgia. Sometimes genetics can play a role. Certain conditions or events could also bring on symptoms of fibromyalgia. Stressors (such as traumatic life events like abuse and accidents), psychological stress, medical conditions like infections or other illnesses, lack of exercise, or poor sleep can contribute to the development of fibromyalgia.

Symptoms might accumulate gradually over time or begin after a certain event. Common fibromyalgia symptoms include pain and stiffness in all of the body, headaches, tiredness and fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and cognitive difficulties. Many other conditions could coexist with fibromyalgia, such as migraine, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorders, painful bladder syndrome, interstitial cystitis, or postural tachycardia syndrome. However, fibromyalgia can often be effectively managed and treated.

The Link Between Fibromyalgia and Migraine

As mentioned earlier, headaches are a major symptom of fibromyalgia. Migraine is a type of headache that affects 12% of the population. It is a complex, recurrent disorder that is characterized by a throbbing headache and is often associated with allodynia, nausea, and sensitivity to light or sound.

Fibromyalgia and migraine disease are quite debilitating on their own. However, researchers have found a 2-way association between the onset of fibromyalgia in patients with migraine and the onset of migraine in those with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia and migraine are two common pain disorders that frequently coexist. This suggests that these conditions have common pathophysiological mechanisms. However, researchers are unsure why migraine and fibromyalgia tend to co-occur so often.

As both migraine and fibromyalgia are debilitating pain disorders, if present together, they can add to each other’s morbidity and thus significantly affect the quality of life of patients. Several studies reported that high proportions, around 20%–36%, of patients with migraine also have fibromyalgia. In patients with fibromyalgia, the frequency of migraine is between 45%–80%.

Impact of Migraine on Fibromyalgia

It is common for individuals with migraine to have comorbidities; however, there seems to be a significant symptomatic link with fibromyalgia. There’s a high prevalence of fibromyalgia in patients who suffer from migraines.

A 2018 study found that 36.2% of migraine patients met the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. Compared to those with migraine disease alone, those who had both migraine and fibromyalgia had higher rates of sleep disruption, depression, and anxiety. In addition, lower quality of life was found among those patients. This makes screening for fibromyalgia symptoms in the migraine population essential.

Migraine and fibromyalgia have been found to have several overlapping symptoms, causes, and treatments. Central sensitization plays a role in chronic migraine and fibromyalgia. A question raised by research is whether both conditions together result in higher degrees of central sensitization compared to one condition alone. The causes of either condition are not clear, however it has been speculated that they are related to problems with the nervous system’s pain processing.

Migraine pain is said to be due to the nociceptive activation of the trigeminovascular system that modulates central signals to numerous subcortical sites. Tonic nociceptive input with central disinhibition may be associated with fibromyalgia development.

A common condition experienced by migraineurs during a migraine attack is allodynia. With migraines, allodynia is often confined to the head and neck but could include other body areas. In addition, peripheral tissues have been shown to contribute to painful impulse input and have the ability to maintain or initiate central sensitization. This contributes to the progression of fibromyalgia.

Migraines and migraine attacks are said to trigger fibromyalgia. Repeated headaches in people with migraine disease may increase sensitivity to fibromyalgia. In addition, studies have found significantly increased headache instances and migraine severity in patients with comorbid fibromyalgia. Also, chronic migraine has been reported to increase pain episodes in those with fibromyalgia.

Impact of Fibromyalgia on Migraine

At least half of the patients with fibromyalgia report headache as a major symptom. A 2015 study found that the prevalence of migraine in those with fibromyalgia was 55.8 %. The frequency of migraine in fibromyalgia ranges from 45% to 80%. In addition, researchers have found that as patients with fibromyalgia age, they become more likely to develop migraine disease.

Early in the course of fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal pain seems to appear in the neck or shoulder area. The neck pain may induce a migraine attack. Some researchers believe that migraine and fibromyalgia are linked due to defects in the brain’s systems that regulate specific chemical messengers.

Both fibromyalgia and migraine disproportionately affect women. This may partially explain their coexistence.

Interventions That May Improve Fibromyalgia and Migraine

There is a high disease burden on patients living with migraine and fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia symptoms with episodic or chronic migraine, it is crucial to screen for fibromyalgia.

It is critical to treat these comorbidities. However, this could be tricky. Technically, attack prevention and trigger management are essential treatments for the two disorders. In addition, migraine-specific medication or supplements that can reduce attacks may be options for decreasing fibromyalgia flares.

Despite having no cure, fibromyalgia has certain medications that could help with symptom management. Other measures, such as exercise, stress reduction, and relaxation could also help.

Pharmaceutical Drugs:  Medications that have often been prescribed to address symptoms include antidepressants known as Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), such as  Cymbalta (duloxetine), could be used to address the conditions. Antiseizure medications, like Neurontin (gabapentin) or Lyrica (pregabalin), may also help ease pain but these medications are not without side effects.

Behavioral Therapies and Lifestyle Interventions: Stress management through behavioral therapies can be beneficial. Lifestyle interventions can also help with fibromyalgia and migraine disease. Getting enough sleep, following a healthy diet, staying hydrated, exercising, and staying active are a couple of habits that could be adopted to help improve the conditions.  Acupuncture may also help with fibromyalgia.  A study of 395 participants found some evidence that acupuncture may help improve pain and stiffness.

Dietary Supplements: Some of the dietary supplements being investigated for relieving fibromyalgia symptoms include

  • Vitamin D – Be sure to have your vitamin D levels checked by your physician as fibromyalgia has been attributed by some researchers to vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D is great for overall health and avoiding sickness.
  • Magnesium – Research also suggests that many people with fibromyalgia have low levels of magnesium.  A review of the scientific literature suggests magnesium supplementation may provide effective nutritional support to people with fibromyalgia.
  • 5-HPT (5 hydroxytryptophans) – According to a review published in Rheumatology International, studies suggest 5-HTP may help improve fibromyalgia symptoms. 5-HTP is a natural amino acid. It helps your body produce serotonin. This chemical helps regulate your mood.  It may help relieve pain, morning stiffness, fatigue, and anxiety. More research is needed, but scientists believe it works similarly to anti-depressants.
  • S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) – S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is a molecule that your body produces naturally and is available as a dietary supplement.  SAMe was found in a scientific review to help relieve pain, morning stiffness, and fatigue.
  • Creatine – Creatine has also been shown in recent studies to help with symptoms of fibromyalgia. Creatine is an organic acid that your body uses to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Fibromyalgia is believed to involve low levels of ATP.  A study showed adding creatine to your diet may strengthen muscles and improve neuromuscular function in people with fibromyalgia.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by debilitating fatigue, mood disorders, cognitive difficulties, sleep problems, and headaches.

Fibromyalgia and migraine disease are debilitating on their own. However, they can occur together, which makes symptoms of both worse. Migraines can trigger fibromyalgia and vice versa. Certain medications, behavioral therapies, or lifestyle interventions could help ease the burden of the coexisting conditions.  If standard medications aren’t giving you the relief you need, talk to your doctor about complementary therapies. Dietary supplements, massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or other options may help you feel better.



Exercise Headaches: Causes and Prevention

Exercising releases chemicals and hormones that temporarily trigger positive feelings and emotions. But constantly getting painful headaches or migraines after your workouts can make you dread engaging in physical activity in the first place.

Exercise-induced headaches typically fall into two categories: primary or secondary headaches. Most of the time, the headaches you get after a run or a particularly strenuous weightlifting session are primary headaches, which are triggered by exercise itself. They are usually harmless and can be easily treated with medication and natural pain management strategies.

Conversely, secondary headaches are caused by an underlying, sometimes serious health problem, such as a brain tumor or coronary artery disease. Secondary headaches are typically accompanied by other symptoms, such as double vision or neck stiffness, and may require emergency medical attention.

Workout headaches are very common and can happen for a variety of reasons. Here, we take a look at the four most common causes of exercise headaches and expert tips for how to avoid them.

What causes workout headaches?

Exercise headaches are pretty common among physically active individuals. For example, a study published in the Journal of Head and Face Pain looking at the prevalence of headaches among college athletes found that nearly 24% of participants had a personal history of migraine. And it’s not uncommon for people to report feeling throbbing, dull pain during or after intense or sustained exercise.


exercise headache


If you’ve just started getting workout headaches, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out any secondary causes. As a reminder, primary exercise headaches are not connected to any underlying illnesses and are pretty harmless. Secondary headaches can be triggered by any number of conditions and may call for immediate medical intervention in rare cases.

Dealing with post-workout headaches can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you’re just trying to do something good for your health. The good news is that you can learn to identify your triggers and risk factors to cut down your chances of getting another one of these skull-throbbers the next time you put on your workout shoes.

Risk factor: Overexertion

Scientists still don’t know what exactly causes primary exercise headaches. There are countless theories: overactivity within the structures of the brain associated with pain, dilation of blood vessels inside the skull, abnormal chemical activity in the brain, and many more. However, there’s evidence that pushing yourself beyond your body capacities can cause veins and arteries in the brain to expand, allowing more blood flow in and creating pressure in the skull, which causes pain.

Solution: The best way to prevent overexertion headaches is to work out within your limits and capabilities. If you’ve just started exercising, start slow. And if you’ve been working out for a while but are still getting these headaches, try easing into your routine instead of diving into a super-intense workout at once. Sometimes, taking the time to stretch before and after exercise can make a huge difference when it comes to avoiding exertion headaches.

Risk factor: Dehydration

Dehydration happens when your body loses more fluids than you take in, either through excessive sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting. It is one of the biggest culprits of post-workout headaches, which are usually characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, a dull ache that worsens when you move your head or bend down, and that may appear alongside other symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, and cramps.

Solution: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after working out. Most dehydration headaches resolve within a couple of hours of getting rehydrated. If your workouts tend to be on the vigorous side, consider consuming electrolyte drinks, like coconut water or Pedialyte. These drinks replenish essential minerals lost in sweat and give your body a quick boost of hydration.


exertion headaches

Risk factor: Breath-holding

Do you ever hold your breath while working out? It’s very common for people to unconsciously stop breathing, particularly when they’re doing something strenuous. We do it because it gives us a sensation of strength and stability since it requires us to contract and engage all our core muscles at once. However, breath-holding can increase your chances of getting a post-workout headache through several mechanisms, such as raising your blood pressure, limiting oxygen flow to the brain, and increasing intracranial pressure.

Solution: Pay close attention to your breathing when you’re working out. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to breathe in and out through the nose while you’re performing light to moderate-intensity physical activity. As intensity ramps up, you can start breathing through the mouth. If breath-holding during exercise is a problem for you, try counting your reps out loud to make yourself inhale and exhale more rhythmically.

Risk factor: Sun and heat exposure

Some people notice an uptick in exercise headaches during the summer months when more of us work out outdoors to take advantage of the warmer weather. Unfortunately, exercising in hot or humid conditions can lead to heat-induced headaches, further exacerbated by dehydration. Heat headaches usually feel like a throbbing or stabbing sensation that worsens if you move your head or walk around.

Solution: Be mindful of the weather when you’re planning to exercise outside. In the hotter months, consider joining a gym or working out indoors, or opt for exercising early in the morning or at dusk. Also, remember to stay hydrated and to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburns. A severe sunburn can also cause headaches and trigger migraines in sensitive people.

Getting headaches from exercising is a real pain but this is not a reason to avoid exercise, which is good for general health. Instead, be mindful of the triggers surrounding your exercise routine and create a plan for preventing headaches or migraines when you exercise.