“What causes migraines?”
This is a question I am frequently asked by my patients. My answer is that there are many possible causes of migraines. My clinical focus is the treatment and prevention of chronic migraines, so I will answer the question “what causes migraines?” from the perspective of chronic migraines. Here are the top 10 causes you must know about (but there are others too);
1. What causes migraines? Increased stress levels
Up to 70% of individuals suffering with migraines report a close association with their daily stress levels. Managing stress levels and promoting robust relaxation regimes are a vital part of successful chronic migraines treatment.
2. What causes migraines? Disturbance of sleep
Regular patterns of good quality sleep help repair and protect the brain. Unfortunately, half of those who suffer with chronic migraines experience these attacks between 4am and 9 am. This in turn significantly disrupts their sleep patterns and a viscous cycle can then easily develop that disrupts this vital brain repair and protection, and renders the individual more vulnerable to their next attack. Successful chronic migraines treatment must first establish an individual’s current pattern of sleep, and then instigate appropriate measure to improve and maintain this.
3. What causes migraines? Hormonal changes
‘Menstrual migraines’ are a very common occurrence amongst women of menstruating age, and affect up to 75% of women who experience migraines. These occur due to changes in the level of hormones oestrogen and progesterone, that occur during each menstrual cycle.
4. What causes migraines? Alcohol and caffeine
Caffeine has an interesting relationship with migraines. In some individuals it can act as a trigger, whilst in others it can actually help (hence the inclusion of caffeine in some migraine medications. Red wine is the most recognised alcoholic trigger for migraines, but the same can be said for many other alcoholic beverages.
5. What causes migraines? Changes in the weather
It is widely known that changes in barometric pressure associated with storms can act as a migraine trigger. The same is true for excessive levels of heat. In fact, there are some very interesting genetic links between migraines and changes in the weather, brought about by the demand for early humans to adapt to the extreme cold they experienced in Northern climates.
6. What causes migraines? Diet
The subject of food and its role in chronic migraines treatment deserves many blogs in its own right, not just a short paragraph. But a key point can be made here; that is the importance of understanding the foods we CAN eat which help improve the management and prevention of migraines, not just avoiding the foods we know to be triggers. We will be developing this theme in great depth in the coming blogs.
7. What causes migraines? Dehydration
The importance of hydration to migraines can not be understated. It is so often overlooked in the treatment of chronic migraines, yet as many as one third of chronic migraines can be triggered by even the slightest levels of dehydration. The key is keeping fluid levels up, and drinking little and often. Not always playing catch up when we feel thirsty. It is often too late by then.
8. What causes migraines? Light
The condition known as photophobia is a common trigger of migraine. Natural bright light and fluorescent bulbs can both be very problematic. There are many links between chronic migraines and difficulties with sensory processing, and addressing this can be extremely effective in chronic migraines treatment.
9. What causes migraines? Smell
As with bright light, aversion to strong smells (osmophobia) is common in chronic migraine sufferers. This can also be seen in terms of the sensory processing difficulties experienced by many migraineurs. For successful chronic migraines treatment, we need to do much more than just advise individuals to avoid strong smells; we need to assess and help them improve their skills of sensory processing.
10. What causes migraines? Medication overuse
Medication overuse headache (MOH) can be a huge problem for chronic migraine sufferers. This tends to occur when acute migraine medication is administered more than 10 days per month, and must not be overlooked in the presence of persistent chronic headaches. The good news is there are established and effective ways to manage this.
Here are the top 10 causes of migraines that you must know about. As an experienced primary healthcare practitioner, I specialise in the natural treatment and prevention of chronic migraines using osteopathy, functional medicine, and CBD Oil. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.