There’s a sharp, persistent throb on the side of your head, a pulse of pain that seems to quicken even while it slows down time. You have trouble concentrating, become acutely sensitive to noise and lights, feel nauseous, and maybe even experience vomiting. It’s a migraine. And if you are undergoing menopause, it could be the result of your changing hormones.
It is well known that migraines often increase in both frequency and severity during the menopausal transition, resulting in physical pain and, often, functional disruption. While these headaches aren’t the most famous symptoms of menopause, for many women they are among the most debilitating. If you are approaching menopause, taking steps to avoid migraines can help you feel your best through this pivotal stage of life. Now, a growing number of practitioners believe that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could be the best treatment for menopause headaches for some women.
Many within the medical community used to believe that headaches increased during perimenopause but decreased in menopause. However, a 2018 paper published in Current Treatment Options in Neurology, explored the link between headaches and hormones and found that the relationship is far more complex—and deeply individual. While headaches improved for about 25% of menopausal women, they were actually worse for 35.7%. Overall, up to 30% of women report higher incidence of migraines during perimenopause or menopause than before. Another 2018 study found that among women with a history of migraines, 60% experience a change in their migraine patterns and for 60% of those women, the change is for the worse.
Why does this occur? It is thought to be primarily driven by the decline of estrogen as well as, potentially, the drop in progesterone. These hormones impact critical functions throughout the body, including vasomotor and neuronal activity, which may help explain why women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience migraines. Additionally, sex hormones impact neurotransmitter activity, which is believed to play a critical role in migraine pain. As noted by researchers in the International Journal of Women’s Health, “Estrogen is associated with increased production of serotonin, reduced serotonin reuptake, and decreased serotonin degradation,” all of which may impact the development of menopause headaches. However, the fact that only some women experience an increase in migraine frequency and severity in perimenopause and menopause while others experience the opposite suggests that many factors are likely at play, including other physiological phenomena and environmental variables.
The exact relationship between migraines and menopause is still under investigation and may be more fully clarified by future research. However, we do know that there are meaningful steps you can take to minimize the occurrence of menopause headaches and alleviate your discomfort when they do happen.
While these strategies can provide significant relief for many, in recent years there has been a growing interest in addressing the root of menopause headaches themselves: hormones.
Hormone replacement therapy has been used for decades to help replenish the estrogen and progesterone that fall with age. In doing so, many women find significant relief from well-known menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. However, it may be possible to deploy HRT as a way to prevent the occurrence of menopause headaches.
For some women, HRT is associated with an aggravation of migraines, particularly if taken orally. However, the impact of both menopause and HRT on headaches is variable and deeply individual, and the fact that HRT is an aggravating factor for some women does not preclude other women from benefiting. Additionally, the idea of using HRT as a protective measure against migraine is still developing. As such, there are no guidelines on how to use it in this way and existing studies have not investigated the impact of HRT used with migraine prevention as a goal.
But a growing number of practitioners are seeing the potential. At the annual meeting of the American Headache Society last year, Dr. Yu-Chen Cheng, a neurologist and postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical school, emphasized that she and many of her colleagues do see evidence of HRT’s protective effect against migraines in the clinical setting. This means that HRT, unlike other treatments, could be used to not simply mask symptoms, but change the very conditions in which migraines develop. For many women, this could be life-changing.
If you are interested in trying HRT to alleviate your menopause headaches, start by connecting with a practitioner who specializes in hormone health and has the expertise necessary to deliver customized care. They can perform comprehensive hormone level testing, which includes running tests on blood, saliva, and urine. An analysis of those lab results is incorporated with analysis of your family history, your medical history, your lifestyle, symptoms, and more. With a full picture of your needs in place, they can create a personalized treatment plan designed to address your menopause symptoms, potentially including your headaches.
Chances are, you don’t want to mask the pain. You don’t want to just cope with the nausea or light sensitivity. You want to stop those things from occurring in the first place. And with the right hormone replacement therapy, it may be possible.
The practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are leading experts in integrative medicine and hormone health. If you’re ready to take control of your menopause symptoms and your overall health, BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners can help you set meaningful goals and create a personalized treatment plan to you achieve them. Contact a local practitioner in your area to start your journey toward optimal health, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about how hormones may be impacting your everyday life.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
The post Could HRT Be the Best Treatment for Menopause Headaches? appeared first on BodyLogicMD Blog.
“Dr. Schultz is extremely thorough with diagnosis and treatment while her testing is extensive. She has a wealth of knowledge about hormone replacement and areas relating to this. Her bedside manner is refreshing and she never rushes you out of her office. If you have ever considered looking into hormone replacement you would be well advised to start with Dr. Schultz first”
– Susan R.
“Within one week of starting HRT it felt like a thick, heavy fog was lifted from my life. I was able to get a full, restful night of sleep. With the addition of testosterone pellets my energy level, zest for life and libido went from good to fantastic!!! I feel balanced , grounded and very happy most days!”
“Since I became a patient of Dr. Schultz and FINALLY found someone who could balance my hormones, I HAVE FELT BETTER THAN I DID WHEN I WAS 20!!! I swear this is true!! Because of her diagnostic genius, the level of bioidentical hormones she has fine-tuned to my individual needs have changed my life and restored me to be the best “me” I can be! Dr. Schultz is not just a doctor, I call her my HEALER 🙂 She LISTENS to me, she educates me and encourages me to take good care of myself and to make good choices, and then she allows me to make my own decisions and choices, because she respects that I am an intelligent adult and the expert on my own 58-year-old body. She treats me as a peer and her PARTNER in maintaining my own wellness, and she respects and cares about me! Our appointments start and end with a hug, and I leave her office feeling uplifted, understood, inspired, strengthened and healed in body mind and spirit. She is very holistic, understanding that we are not just a cluster of symptoms, but that in order to have healthy bodies we must also address our issues, belief systems, and thoughts. Dr. Schultz is a wise and wonderful teacher and I am blessed to have her on my path:) And her staff is awesome too!”
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