Menstrual headaches are associated with the commencement of the monthly menstrual periods. Research shows that the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which are responsible for regulation of menstrual cycle and pregnancy, also affect some chemicals in the brain that may trigger headaches.
Menstrual headaches are more painful than regular headaches. In addition, they are less responsive to general treatment. Women suffering from migraine feel similar symptoms, accompanied by nausea, increased sensitivity to sounds and sharp lights, and throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. Being exposed to any kind of stimuli like sunshine or loud sounds can heighten the throbbing pain to unbearable proportions.
Though normally headaches are known to last 4-20 hours, menstrual headaches can last as long as 72 hours at a stretch.
What causes menstrual headaches?
There are basically 2 main causes of menstrual headaches:
Hormone fluctuation: As the estrogen level drops just before the monthly period occurs, the headaches become more unbearable. The reason is that when the hormones rise and fall, it causes headaches due to the expansion in blood vessels of the brain. With the falling level of estrogen and progesterone, the intensity of menstrual headaches increases proportionally. Maintaining a balanced level of estrogen hormones can help in relief
Headaches are also a part of premenstrual syndrome, with many women who suffer from migraines reporting their occurrence when they ovulate, and just before or during menstrual periods.from the painful menstrual headaches.
Psychological causes: Though hormones are the main culprits in menstrual headaches, the role of some psychological causes cannot be ruled out. GAD (general anxiety disorder), fatigue, lack of leisure, overwork and many other factors that can destabilize a person, can also trigger menstrual headaches. A healthy diet combined with healthy activities and emotional balance can help in keeping the menstrual headaches at bay.
Getting relief through medication
Despite the fact that the hormones are responsible for the menstrual headaches, women need not surrender to hormones and wait for their levels to be normal to get relief from the pain. The doctors prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to provide relief from attacks. In case of more frequent and severe headaches which may render the women unable to manage her everyday tasks, preventive treatment is arranged. Usually the preventive medication is prescribed for women who go through more than 3 incapacitating headaches in a month.
Women who have regular periods and get the menstrual headaches during the periods, can easily time when they should take the medication to prevent headaches. Some physicians recommend diuretics to prevent menstrual headaches as fluid retention is also associated with monthly periods of the woman.
As a final resort, doctors may prescribe the hormone level affecting drug Lupron, only when other treatments have been unsuccessful.
Home remedies may help too
There are other simple home remedies that can give relief from the pain, like application of ice packs to the area or a soothing massage which are known to be effective in many cases. Controlling intake of salt during the menstrual period is also known to help the headaches to some extent.
Though menstrual headaches can be debilitating and unbearable, fortunately women can find relief when they methodically tackle the hormonal imbalance, emotional stress, and hectic lifestyle with proper diet, well balanced nutrition, exercise, yoga and short term supplementation of hormonal pills.