One of the more common symptoms that accompany fibromyalgia is headaches. Along with muscle tension headaches, those caused by neck and back muscles that just won’t relax, there are migraine headaches – the kind that can flatten a person. It is very interesting to note the similarities between migraines and fibromyalgia. As we look at the two in tandem, you will be able to see may points where symptoms, causes and treatments overlap. Many people who are successfully treated for migraine headaches find their fibromyalgia symptoms abate and improve.
Brain Pain is Common to Both
The theory that fibromyalgia may be the result of disturbances in the brain’s pain center is very much the same as the source of migraines. There are some experts who believe that chronic pain disorders, like fibromyalgia and migraine headaches may be caused by the same type of disturbance and that both conditions are the result of a defect in the regulation of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and epinephrine. Fibromyalgia pain is connected to tender points (18 of them) and widespread pain in the body. However, it is also associated with a variety of other symptoms including sleep disturbances, light and sound sensitivities, depression, and anxiety, among many others. Migraine headaches have many of the same symptoms as those just mentioned.
Women Are Affected Most Often
Migraines and fibromyalgia share another point and that is in the segment of the population most affected. Migraine headaches, like fibromyalgia, predominantly affect women, usually between the ages of 30 and 50 as well as children and the elderly. However, the main target is female. Doctors have found that nearly half of those who suffer with chronic fibromyalgia also suffer with migraine headaches. Conversely, people with fibromyalgia can suffer with the very symptoms that trigger a migraine. It appears to be a catch-22. Sleep disorder, TMJ, low levels of magnesium and other neurotransmitters that are common to both conditions make it difficult to separate them. It is almost like the chicken and the egg in some ways.
What Triggers a Migraine?
Migraine headaches can be triggered by any number of things including genetics and environmental factors. It is thought that they may be caused by changes in the brainstem and the interaction with the major pain pathway. Brain chemical imbalance, such as serotonin, a regulator for the nervous system, is implicated. Serotonin levels drop during a migraine attack. This drop triggers a release of neuropeptides that in turn trigger a headache. Some of the more common triggers for migraine headaches include:
· Hormonal changes in women, especially estrogen fluctuations like those that occur around menses, during pregnancy and at menopause. Additionally, birth control pills and HRT can trigger a headache in some women and help ease one in others.
· Certain foods can trigger a migraine. Caffeine, alcohol (especially red wine and beer), aged cheeses, chocolate, aspartame and MSG along with skipping meals or fasting are all connected to triggering a migraine.
· Sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud music and certain smells (perfume, paint thinner and second-hand smoke) can get a migraine going.
· Sleep irregularities and jet lag are big contributors.
· Intense physical activity can trigger a migraine.
· Weather changes and barometric pressure changes are also causes for migraines.
· Certain medications aggravate migraine symptoms.
When a Migraine Hits
A migraine headache can, and usually does, cause intense, throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head or at the back of the head. It is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and hyper-sensitivity to light and sound. The attack can last from a few hours to days and can be debilitating. A quiet, cool, dark room is all a person suffering a migraine attack wants.
The attack can be preceded by or accompanied with an aura, which is like an early warning system that lets the person know a headache is on the way. Flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arm or leg are all indications of an aura. Auras may also affect speech or cause weakness in the limbs.
Common Treatments for Fibro and Migraine
Magnesium, which is often used as a way to relieve migraine headaches, is also beneficial for treating fibromyalgia. Low magnesium levels can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms and they are implicated in migraines. Researchers have discovered that people who do not respond to standard migraine treatment often are affected with fibromyalgia. The similarities between treatments for migraine and fibromyalgia are enough to convince many that there may be a dual diagnosis.
Headaches can stop a person cold. Fibromyalgia symptoms include headaches, among myriad other things. Find out more about the types of chronic headaches related to fibromyalgia and their causes in the article in this section.