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Is Stress Causing Your Migraines?

With about 25% of American households including a migraine sufferer, it’s not surprising that this neurological disorder is one of the leading causes of disability. More than 90% of those with migraines are unable to function normally through an episode, and women are three times more affected than men.

While migraines can be unique to each sufferer, one common trigger of migraine episodes is stress. Once an episode starts, then chronic pain creates stress of its own, perhaps contributing to later migraines. 

Stress can make you more susceptible to other migraine triggers, and you may even trigger a migraine when your typical stress level eases. The relationship between stress and migraine is complex.

The biological effects of stress

Stress affects everyone, not only migraine sufferers, by changing your body’s chemistry. Perhaps the most vivid example is the release of adrenaline and endorphins during a dramatic fight-or-flight response, but other levels of stress create similar changes. Chronic stress can cause low-grade chemical changes that become significant over time.

Hormones themselves are often a trigger of migraines, so it’s not surprising that stress-related hormones can also be an issue. Certain types of stress, such as anxiety, shock, tension, or excitement, seem the most common. Weekend migraine sufferers may be triggered by reduced stress levels and the accompanying hormone shifts.

Events that cause stress

Major events, such as the death of someone close to you, getting married, starting a new job, or moving to a new home are obvious causes of stress, but migraines are usually due to day-to-day stressors, things like:

Managing stress

Controlling the effects of stress is never easy, even without the pressure of its effects on migraines. Avoiding stressful situations isn’t always practical or possible, so other lifestyle changes that mitigate the effects of stress may be helpful.

Prioritizing a healthy sleep schedule gives your body natural recovery time from the effects of day-to-day stress. Combining a regular sleep cycle with meditative relaxation techniques may provide even bigger benefits.

Diet and exercise also provide plenty of health benefits beyond reducing the severity or frequency of migraines. Eating fresh foods that are high in fiber with controlled amounts of saturated fats can improve blood sugar and heart health, and also provide the nutrients your body needs to cope with stress. 

Boosting your activity level by 30 minutes of additional walking most days offers stress management and general health improvements that’s usually possible to fit into an already busy day.

Since migraines themselves can add to your stress burden, keep a headache log to identify other non-stress migraine triggers, and avoid these to help break the migraine cycle.

When you need more than self-care to get past the debilitating effects of migraine episodes, Dr. Chinthagada and Dr. Kush at Valley Pain Centers have a wide range of treatment options that can help reduce or eliminate your migraine suffering. Contact the office nearest you by calling, sending a message or using the online appointment tool to book your migraine consultation today. 

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