Menstrual headaches and menstrual migraines

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I often get headaches for the few days surrounding my cycle, but I don’t believe I truly suffer from menstrual migraines.  Yet, I do believe that some of those headaches are migraines and a few may be related to the menstrual cycle.  However, I do not suffer from the regularity of true menstrual-related migraines.

Menstrual migraines are believed to be associated with the drop in estrogen that is seen at the end of a monthly cycle (and the beginning of menstruation).  It can start anytime from about 2 days before the flow of menses and end a few days after.  Migraine sufferers may only experience these headaches around their cycle, while others may have their migraines exacerbated by it.  Yet, inexplicably, others may experience migraines outside this relationship.

Symptoms of menstrual migraines are similar to any other migraines.  Some experience auras while others may not.  The headaches are usually one-sided, though it may spread to the other side, and are usually described as pounding.  The severity differs from individual to individual and episode to episode, but it can be quite severe.  Other associated symptoms, such as visual disturbances, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, and confusion may be present.

I do get migraines and most of the time, I get the nausea/vomiting/dizziness more than the headache.  It can be quite incapacitating.  These migraines are usually triggered by some kind of stress, but sometimes the only “stress” I can identity is the start of the cycle.  That is why I believe some of them are menstrual migraines.  However, because I do not get them every month, I do not consider myself one of those who have a true diagnosis of menstrual migraines.

I make this clarification because in recent years, menstrual migraines have been getting public attention, especially when drug companies are trying to market medications for the treatment of such things.  I am not a pill pusher and do not like the idea of taking a pill for anything and everything.  However, I am not averse to taking some Tylenol for pain occasionally.

I may not get migraines, but I often get headaches around my cycle.  I attribute this to the tightening in the muscles in my upper back and shoulders as a result of cramping.  I know this must be the case because I can feel the tension as I do neck exercises to work it out, or when I massage myself and can feel the pain in the muscles from the scalp down to the upper back and shoulders.  I just wish I had more willing masseurs.  It’s hard to reach back and give yourself a massage without causing other parts of your arm to go sore.

Headaches are common, but it’s surprising that menstrual migraines are also very common amongst women.  It may explain why migraines are much more common in women than in men.

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