Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. The primary cause of menopausal headaches is hormone fluctuations - specifically of estrogen and progesterone. Women are more vulnerable to higher frequency and intensity of headaches as they approach menopause because of the flux of hormones during this transition. Essentially, estrogen causes blood vessels to dilate, and progesterone makes them constrict. When hormones fluctuate, it results in intense pain due to this constant expanding and contracting. There are several helpful ways to manage menopausal headaches. Keep reading to learn more.
The two most common types of headaches are tension headaches and migraine headaches. Tension headaches are the described as the everyday headaches that typically only last a few hours. Migraines are much more severe, and are characterized by frequent, throbbing pain that starts on one side of the head. Migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Women are more susceptible to these headaches when going through the menopause transition. There are, however, other triggers for menopausal headaches. These triggers include lack of sleep, dehydration, skipped meals, stress, and bright lights.
Certain management techniques can reduce headaches in the moment, while others are good for preventing headaches from striking.
Staying active and exercising regularly offers a number of health benefits, such as increased energy, improved mood, and reduced stress. Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day is ideal. Yoga is excellent low-intensity work out that significantly reduces stress and prevents headaches. Taking a brisk walk outside or swimming laps are also great activities that can help treat headaches.
Herbal remedies are a natural alternative to over the counter or prescription medication to treating headaches. Anti-inflammatory herbs like feverfew, valerian, lemon balm, and lavender are beneficial for treating painful headaches. These herbs work by soothing inflammation and preventing blood vessels in the brain from dilating.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is crucial to preventing headaches. Drinking water can also help increase energy, improve bodily functions, and reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. Urine should be pale yellow in color - anything darker than that indicates dehydration. Keeping a water bottle around at all times will help remind you to drink often.
Lying down in a quiet room with a cold compress on your head or neck can be helpful in treating headaches. Loud noises and bright lights tend to worsen symptoms.
If the above methods are ineffective, it may be beneficial to try over the counter medicine like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. These drugs help stop the migraine in progress, and are also referred to as “acute treatment.” If these over the counter medications are not strong enough, talk to your doctor about prescription painkillers.
Menopausal headaches affect millions of women every day and can range from mild to severe. There are numerous treatment options for headaches, so it is important to find out which works best relative to your pain. In addition to these treatment options, it is always beneficial to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle in order to manage menopause symptoms.
- Bruton-Seal, J. & Seal, M. (2009). Backyard Medicine. Skyhorse Publishing.
- National Health Service UK. (2013). Hormone Headaches. Retrieved November 27, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/headaches/pages/hormonalheadaches.aspx
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Migraine Fact Sheet. Retrieved November 27, 2014, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/migraine.html#n