The Relation between stress and Headache/Migraine

  • The Headache Clinic
  • Category Parenting

We all lead busy lives. Between going to work and picking up the children from school, it’s no wonder our stress levels are on the rise. But can the stress in your life actually cause you to have more headaches and migraines? According to a recent study there is enough evidence to show there is an association between stress intensity and headache frequency.

The study, that was published in Cephalalgia, the official journal of the International Headache Society, was conducted on a population-based sample of 5159 participants between the ages of 21 and 71 years. They were asked quarterly between March 2010 and April 2012 about the presence of headaches and stress in their lives.

The association between stress intensity – measured on a modified visual analog scale (VAS) from 0 to 100 – and headache frequency (days/month) were determined and adjusted for sex, age, frequent intake of acute pain drugs, drinking, smoking, BMI and education. Log-linear regression in the framework of generalized estimating equations was used to estimate regression coefficients presented as percent changes were used to determine this.

Dr. Elliot Shevel, a South Africa’s migraine surgery pioneer and the medical director of The Headache Clinic, says the study clearly shows a link between increased stress and the frequency of headaches.

“Tension-type headaches (TTH) was reported in 31% participants, migraine in 14%, migraine with coexisting TTH (MigTTH) in 10.6%, 23.6% were unclassifiable, and 20.8% had no headache”.

“In participants with TTH an increase of 10 points on VAS was associated with an increase of headaches days/month of 6.0%”. Higher effects were also observed in younger age groups and slightly lower effects were observed for migraine and MigTTH.

When do I consult with a medical professional about my migraines?

“People should not leave a migraine untreated,” says Shevel. “It is imperative that you undergo a multidisciplinary investigation to diagnose the specific factors behind the recurring headache. Yours might be stress-related, but it is important to undergo a thorough examination.”

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