Migraine attacks can increase after a stress let down

A new study published in Neurology discusses how migraine sufferers who experience reduced stress from one day to the next are at an increased risk on a migraine attack. Migraine is a chronic condition that affects millions of Americans. Numerous triggers are believed to contribute to a migraine attack.

In the study the researchers at the Montefiore Headache Center and Einstein College of Medicine conducted a three month electronic daily diary study which recorded over 2,000 diary records and 110 migraine attacks in 17 participants.  The study compared levels of stress and reduction in stress as possible headache predictors.

The study found an association between reduction in perceived stress and the occurrence of migraine headaches. The results were found to be strongest during the first six hours where decline in stress associated with a five fold increased risk of migraine attack. The hormone cortisol rises during times of stress and reduces pain which may contribute to the headache attack during relaxation.

In the diary participants recorded information about their migraine attacks, stress ratings, hours of sleep, foods eaten, drinks and alcohol consumed, and information about their menstrual cycle.

The study is important to migraine sufferers as stress is implicated here as a trigger. Thus it is important for those at risk of a migraine attack to relax during any periods of rising stress.

Source: R. B. Lipton and et al., “Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger: Testing the “let-down headache” hypothesis.  Neurology, 2014.

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