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.)