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Let-Down Headaches & Migraines

Have you ever gotten through a super-stressful time without a headache or migraine only to be knocked out by one when the stress lets up? Although this is a pretty common phenomenon among people with headache disorders, the evidence has mostly been anecdotal. In a study published in the journal Neurology today, researchers found that a person’s risk of getting a migraine is nearly five times higher in the first six hours after stress lets up and this let-down effect lasts up to 24 hours.

No one knows exactly what’s happening biologically to cause this to happen, but one possible explanation is that a person’s cortisol levels increase during stress. This hormone reduces pain and helps to shield you from a migraine or headache. Cortisol levels drop when the stress is released and so does its protective effects.

Read more about the study and recommendations for avoiding let-down headaches, in my post on Migraine.com, Stress & Let-Down Migraines.

(The study was specifically on migraine, but people with other types of headache disorders have told me they experience let-down headaches as well, so this information could be useful even if you don’t have migraine.)

2 Responses to Let-Down Headaches & Migraines

  1. Mindy says:

    I never experienced this too terribly bad, but my father who used to have migraines in his 20’s & 30’s said he suffered from this a lot. He could get through the stressful work situation, but once he was home he was down for the count!

  2. Hi Kerrie, I left a comment on an older reply of yours from September last year (about EFT as a treatment method). Migraine seems to have to do with cortisol and serotonin levels (though that does not explain why others don’t suffer as much). However, what you can influence is what you perceive as stress. Stress is an individual assessment of a given situation. When standing on a platform in a station and the train is announced, say, twenty minutes late there are these people who will keep looking at their watch every two minutes, maybe more. That is a sign of stress, unnecessary stress, though. The train won’t come a second earlier even if we conspired to look at watches together and VERY hard … And yes, these twenty minutes are only a guess, maybe it won’t come at all. That thought does not bother me. I’ve learned to ignore it … because … it does not alter my life one bit if I care or not. Then better not care. That’s what mindfulness meditation can achieve (I arrived there on a more circuitous, and hence, stressful, route though).

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