Migraine Headaches Could Be Caused By Stress

By: Ellisha Rader Mannering - February 25, 2014

If you suffer from migraine headaches, you know how frustrating and annoying they can be. While there are many over-the-counter and prescription medications that can be used to treat migraines, not everyone can find relief with medication. Getting to the root cause of the migraines allows for more treatment options.

A new study shows that stress is one of the leading causes of migraine headaches. The study was conducted on 5,000 participants in Germany over a span of two years. Researchers found that not only were migraines linked to stress, but the more severe the stress, the worse the headaches. The study also showed that headaches can lead to more stress, creating a vicious circle that can be hard to gain control over.

“Increasing stress resulted in increasing headache frequency for all headache subtypes,” said study leader Dr. Sara Schramm, of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. “[Study] participants with migraines experienced more stress than participants with tension-type headaches.”

Of the 5,000 participants, those who did not report a lot of stress in their daily life did not suffer from migraine headaches as often or at all. Researchers concluded that although there are many medications that can help lessen pain associated with migraines, the best way to deal with the pain and prevent future migraines is to reduce stress.

For many people, this is easier said than done. Many people have hectic work schedules and are busy at home. Even little stresses can build up and lead to migraines.

If you are experiencing migraine headaches and believe they may be associated with stress, look for ways to deal with the stress. Take short naps in the afternoon, go for a walk, swim, or run. Spend a few minutes in a hot tub or bubble bath or consider taking up a peaceful activity that will help clear you mind such as yoga.

Do you suffer from stress-related migraine headaches?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ellisha Rader Mannering

About the Author

Ellisha Rader ManneringEllisha is a writer, wife, and mommy to Cyrus and Milo. She enjoys fishing, hiking, being outdoors, shopping, traveling with her family and teaching baton twirling. Follow her on Twitter @lishann

View all posts by Ellisha Rader Mannering
  • CB

    Also just read something that says gluten can be the trigger. Impacted wisdom teeth can also trigger headaches, as can other things. If you are having chronic headaches, talk to your doctor!

  • cccourt

    Stress? Could menopause cause stress? YES. I had migraines during perimenopause and menopause. When my ovaries were estrogen free…no more headaches. BTW: The neurologist told me they would go away after menopause. Have I had stress since menopause…YES. Did I ever have another migraine? No.

    • LKK

      not always the case though as Lack of Estrogen can also be a cause of tiredness and headaches, sometimes one leading to the other, sleeplessness leading to headaches.

  • GrenadeCatcher

    Ive had migraines for 7 years now and most of the people who get them already knew stress was a factor. This really isnt news. The real news is how to deal with a migraine and the deficiency of magnesium in your system which can terminate a migraine progression.

  • RB

    Gee lessen stress why didn’t we think of that?

  • document finesse

    Migraines are frustrating and annoying? More like severely painful and totally life-disrupting. I would seriously question this study and the advice that simply lowering stress can lower the incidence of migraines for chronic sufferers. The stress connection has proven over the last few decades to be useless. I’ve had them for 40 years and have been in the medical system for that long trying every medication and fad out there. The very newest info from my neuro at a top New England hospital is that the brain structures of migraineurs are different than non-migraineurs. The fact is that there is next to nothing for research funding for migraines, so a cure or even better meds are probably a long way off. A change of diet, stress-lowering and other minor life changes may lower the incidence of regular headaches, but for the vast majority who have real migraines this advice is useless.

    • drmx123

      I’ve found that taking a simple generic caffeine pill like Wal-Mart’s Stay Awake is often helpful when pain relievers are proving to be ineffective.

      • lkmkash

        no, then you get rebound headaches from the caffiene. It’s all in the labeling with all of these ” migraine headache” formulas…it’s just caffeine added to whatever OTC pill, IF, like Excedrin, it’s doesn’t already contain the equivalent of a cup of coffee

  • lkmkash

    What a waste of a “study”. Totally Flawed, all stress is subjective. No kidding stress causes headaches, which cause stress. No kidding you need to find the root cause…Sheesh….BUT after being tortured for years I find a doc who finally gets an MRI and find out I have a neck problem, exacerbated by stress because of muscle stress. All of the other docs just wanted to write it off as classic “you’re a woman, you had your first on at age 13 and be condescending schmucks. Great family doc, but when I called for a refill of a med that worked for years, his partner decided it was time to try something else..wrecked two weeks of my life as even though the meds didn’t get rid of the headache, the old one at least took the edge off and I functioned. Most headache sufferers have tried diet, exercise, yoga, etc…Maybe the stress is societal…TV ads that preach take off when you have the flu but employers who “write you up” with more than 3 sick days in a quarter as a policy. Schools that don’t want sick kids in class but heaven forbid you keep your kid home and they miss work..takes weeks to catch up. Just saying, it’s ridiculous this was even published. Let’s focus on some non pharma funded studies and start looking into the impact of air fresheners, cleaning chemicals, all types of fumes in closed buildings from schools to offices and hotels and come in from a different angle. And why not look at he side effects of the meds handed out like candy at the docs, many of which cause severe rebound headaches. This is just so old news that chronic headache sufferers have struggled for years to lose, “it’s all in your head”. I’ve run the gammet and sure, therapy helps with learning how to control your internal reaction, but were all participants the same sex? taking same meds? same glucose levels? same amount of sex weekly? brain scans similar? sleep patterns similar? did they work in the same office exposed to same environmental factors? same time spent traveling? same number of children, pets, were all married? were they all earning the same dollar amount? Because I’m sure my stress would be greatly reduced if I earned twice my salary. FOR A SCIENTIFIC STUDY THEY FORGOT SOMETHING ..STRESS IS RELATIVE…

  • Mark

    There is no pre-plan for a migraine. Stressed or not, they just show up. Go take a bubble bath? Gimme a break. Pain relief for a migraine is banging your head against the wall. What a joke article.

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