How Stress Can Trigger Migraines

May 31, 2018

You’re running late, the kids won’t get dressed, and you can’t find your keys. To top it off, you start to feel the early signs of a migraine. As unpleasant as this scenario is, it’s no coincidence. Many migraine sufferers attribute stress as a trigger for their symptoms. While experts don’t fully understand the relationship between stress and migraines, they have been able to identify a definite connection.

Some researchers believe the basis of this connection is rooted in peptides – protein particles that cause blood vessels to expand and become inflamed. This expansion and inflammation then causes nerve cells to be overstimulated and more sensitive, resulting in migraine pain.

While stress will frequently trigger the onset of a migraine, many other people experience what some refer to as “weekend migraines.” These migraines tend to strike when someone has been operating at a heightened level of stress for an extended period of time, only to have the stressor suddenly be eliminated – often a work week followed by a weekend, day off, or vacation.

These weekend headaches are thought to be connected to glucocorticoids, stress hormones that occur naturally in our bodies. During periods of stress, our bodies are operating in a state of fight or flight. In this state, our bodies release corticosteroid hormones to help us cope with the stressor.

One way these released hormones do this is by helping to protect against pain. Once the stressor is removed and the pain-reducing hormones begin to subside, many people will start to feel the onset of a migraine.

Symptoms will typically begin anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days after the stressor is removed. Additionally, people who are prone to episodic migraines are also at a higher risk of developing chronic migraines if they’ve experienced a recent major stress event.

Due to the nature of jobs, families, and daily responsibilities, some stress is unavoidable. The good news is that you may be able to find coping skills to help prevent stress.

Some experts advise simply taking frequent breaks when you’re submerged in a stressful environment for a longer period of time. These breaks provide relief from maintaining that fight or flight state, which helps prevent the spike and sudden drop of corticosteroid hormones.

To help lessen the likelihood of migraines during times of prolonged stress, don’t skip your regular workouts, which will help release mood-boosting endorphins. Maintain a healthy diet and be sure to not sacrifice sleep as a means to be more productive since sleep deprivation can hinder your body’s ability to cope with stress.

If you’re short on time but can feel the stress mounting, watch a funny video, go for a brisk walk, or take a few deep breaths to help bring yourself back to center. Whatever it is that relaxes you, try to find a way to incorporate it into those stressful scenarios.

If your at-home migraine remedies aren’t providing enough migraine relief, feel free to give Neurocore a call at 800.600.4096 – we’d be happy to discuss how our drug-free migraine program may be able to help.

Curejoy Editorial. (2018, March 13). “8 Common Triggers That Cause Migraine Headaches.” Retrieved from https://www.curejoy.com/content/what-causes-migraine-headaches/
Dumas, Paula. (2017, June 3). “How Stress Intensifies Migraine and Can Make You Chronic.” Retrieved from https://migraineagain.com/can-stress-trigger-a-migraine/
Miles, Otesa. (2014, August). “Stress Migraine.” Retrieved from https://migraine.com/migraine-types/stress-migraine/