We all get headaches from time to time, but some of us suffer from it more than others. Think of those who suffer, and I mean really suffer from migraines, having to call in sick because the headache has them in bed, literally sick. Others suffer from tension headaches, because of stress, and yet again others get headaches when it’s time for their periods. And then there are those who develop headaches in menopause.
What are headaches?
Headaches are, quite simply said, pain in your head. When there is a swelling, even only slightly, in the muscles or blood vessels, they tighten or go through other changes that stimulate the nerves around them or put pressure on the nerves, those nerves send a pain message to the brain and this causes a headache.
There are quite a number different types of headaches, and it can feel like a sharp pain, or throb in your head, or just a constant pain. A headache can form above your eyes, or in the back of your head, or it might feel like it’s just anywhere.
Hormones and headaches
When there is a change in the hormone levels, it can cause a person to have headaches. This happens to many women during the menstrual cycle when there is a dip in the estrogen levels. These changes in the hormones can even cause menstrual migraines.
Because of the hormonal changes during (peri-)menopause, women can experience more headaches, and even more so when they were prone to suffering from headaches during the menstrual cycle. Some women who suffered from migraines, notice that those get less when they enter menopause, and sadly for other, it worsens.
Suffering from headaches
When I was younger, I occasionally had a headache, just the way any other person had them too. It must have been somewhere in my thirties when I started suffering from headaches that would last for days. I started joking that they were my ‘famous 4-day headaches’, as no matter how much or which pain medicine I took, it didn’t make a dent in my headache, and after four days it would just… disappear. I frequently wondered if those weren’t migraines, but I was never nauseous, and never needed to stay in a dark room.
I still have those headaches, and then some. Over the years I have learned they are tension headaches, not migraines. This knowledge doesn’t make them hurt less, or makes them last shorter, but it helps to know where it comes from: stress.
Headaches in menopause
The same tension headaches I have been suffering from for all those years, have gotten worse in menopause. Couple those with all the stress we are going through, and you have a recipe for really bad headaches. So bad, that they sometime make me dizzy. I take over-the-counter meds that are meant for migraines, and they barely make a dent in the pain.
Thankfully, the headaches don’t always last four days. Sometimes they disappear after a day, but those that last more than one day seem to come with almost-regular intervals every 4-6 weeks. This makes me think that the 4-day headaches I had since my thirties might always have been linked to my menstrual cycle. You see, since I had a hysterectomy when I was almost 25, there is no way for me to know whether it indeed was linked.
Dealing with tension headaches
As said, the tension headaches come from stress. Some years ago a physiotherapist explained to me how the headaches form, and she pressed on some muscles in my neck and shoulders to demonstrate. Those muscles feel like bone, not flesh, because of the stress settling there. Ever since, I have taught myself to stretch those muscles when I feel a headache come up. I sort of try to make my neck longer, while pushing my shoulders down, so I feel the stretch in the muscles in my shoulders and my neck. This doesn’t always prevent the headache from growing to full force, or make it less, but sometimes it helps, and those moments are a win.
Another tip I have received from a pharmacist is to take extra magnesium. She explained that tension (stress) headaches can come or be worse because of muscles cramping up due to a magnesium deficiency. When those muscles cramp, it causes you to have a headache. This made total sense to me, as back when I did the LCHF diet, I suffered from cramps in my calves, and had to tub magnesium oil on them to ease the pain. I now have sachets of magnesium which I take when I feel a headache come on. They don’t always help, but when they do, it’s a win.
Dealing with stress
Of course I can take magnesium tablets daily, or eventually take a multi-vitamin with extra magnesium, but for now I don’t want to do it. I know it won’t harm me to take them daily, but I first want to deal with the stress, and get to a point where the stress is less. I don’t always want to seek my solace in tablets, even though those are things the body naturally needs.
Taking those tablets won’t take away my stress, I need to deal with that in a different way, and I think then the headaches will improve all by themselves. I don’t want to treat the symptoms, but the cause.
© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay