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Are Migraines & PTSD Related?

September 7, 2022

You survived a life-threatening traumatic incident like a natural disaster, or a bad accident. Months later, you experience severe headaches that last for hours or days. Likely, you’re experiencing a migraine – a type of headache – which is often present in trauma victims. Thankfully, the symptoms can be treated. Continue reading to learn more about the link between these two conditions.

What’s A Migraine?

A migraine is a kind of headache that can lead to severe throbbing pain or a pulsating sensation, usually on one side of your head or the other. It’s often paired with other side effects like nausea, vomiting, and intense sensitivity to sound and light. If you suffer from a migraine attack, it can go on for hours or days, and the discomfort can be so extreme as to restrict how you perform daily responsibilities.

What’s PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health ailment caused by a horrifying event — either witnessing or experiencing it. Symptoms can manifest as flashbacks, bad dreams, and anxiety, plus uncontrollable thoughts about what happened.

Most people who survive a trauma may have temporary problems adjusting and coping but typically get better over time and with good self-care. Symptoms that worsen, persist for months or years, and inhibit your daily life, could be signs of PTSD.

Symptoms & Causes of Migraines

Even though we don’t completely understand what causes a migraine, environmental and genetic influences seem to play a part in their development. Watch for symptoms which include:

  • Constipation
  • Mood changes, like depression or euphoria
  • Food cravings
  • Visual stimuli, like seeing different shapes, brightly illuminated spots, or bursts of light
  • Pain generally on one side of the head, but frequently on both sides
  • Pain that pulses or throbs 
  • Being physically exhausted for a day following a migraine attack

Symptoms & causes of PTSD

A traumatic event, stress, inherited mental health risks, temperament, and how one’s brain regulates chemicals and hormones can all contribute to the development of PTSD. Symptoms may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted, disturbing memories of what happened
  • Avoidance of activities, people, or places that are reminders of what happened
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, others, or the world
  • Memory problems
  • Being easily frightened or shocked
  • Self-destructive behavior

Are Migraines & PTSD Related?

“Migraine is a common, often disabling disorder associated with a significant personal and societal burden. The presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may increase this disability substantially. Migraine and PTSD are up to 3 times more common in women than in men. The divergence in prevalence rates of migraine and PTSD between the sexes after puberty suggests that gonadal hormones play an important role. In addition, the preponderance of PTSD in women may be related to their higher rates of interpersonal trauma, the most common cause of PTSD. However, recent data suggest that although the odds of PTSD are increased in both women and men with episodic migraine, this association is stronger in men than women,” according to a study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Further studies by the American Headache Society reveal that “PTSD prevalence rates have been shown to be increased in those with migraine in multiple cohorts. In one general population study, the 12-month PTSD prevalence rate in migraineurs was 14.3%. The lifetime PTSD prevalence rate was 21.5% in migraineurs compared to 2.1% (12-month) and 4.5% (lifetime) in those without headache disorders. Further, the 12-month and lifetime odds of PTSD in migraineurs were noted to be greater or comparable to the odds for either major depression or generalized anxiety in episodic migraineurs. Notably, PTSD symptoms preceded migraine symptoms in almost 70% of those with migraine and PTSD.”

Many symptoms of migraine and PTSD can be effectively managed with ketamine therapy.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suffer from migraines, a medical doctor may perform tests, including magnetic resonance imaging or computerized tomography scans, to uncover the source of your headaches. PTSD may also require diagnosis by a medical doctor, but in some cases, you can expect to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to understand better what’s causing the symptoms. In the case of a psychiatric examination, your doctor will compare your symptoms with diagnostic criteria before making a final diagnosis.

To treat migraine or PTSD symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend store-bought pain relievers, self-help, lifestyle changes, opioids, anti-nausea drugs, psychotherapy, or ketamine infusion therapy.

Final Thoughts

Research has shown that migraines and PTSD are inextricably related to one another. Symptoms of one can trigger symptoms of the other, and vice versa. While millions of people worldwide are affected by both, symptoms of PTSD and migraines can be effectively treated in different ways. IV ketamine therapy helps you rewrite the limiting stories you tell. Contact us today at Soft Reboot Wellness to learn more.

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