- Why do you get headaches during your period?
- What’s the most common root cause of hormonal headaches?
- 20 Natural Remedies for Hormonal Headaches
- 1. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 2. Feverfew
- 3. Try Essential Oils
- 4. Bromelain
- 5. Hydration
- 6. Stress Reduction Techniques
- 7. Turmeric
- 8. EPA
- 9. Movement
- 10. Ginger
- 11. Massage
- 12. Chiropractic Care
- 13. Eat Liver Loving Foods
- 14. Apply a Cold Compress
- 15. Digestive Enzymes
- 16. Magnesium
- 17. Acupuncture
- 18. Biofeedback
- 19. DIM
- 20. Drink Caffeine
- Bonus: Cramp Bark for Menstrual Cramps
- Hormonal Headaches Have a Root Cause
- Natural Remedies to Soothe PMS Headaches
- Do you suffer from PMS headaches or ‘menstrual migraines’? We’ve pulled together 4 natural remedies to help you relieve tension and discomfort.
- 16 Natural Remedies for Headaches (could be your hormones)
- What’s one of the most common root causes of headaches?
- 16 Natural Remedies for Headaches
- Headaches Have a Root Cause
- Natural remedies for menopause migraines
- Understanding and Treating Headache Related to Menopause
- Hormones, You Win Again
- 5 Ways to Heal Headaches Naturally
- 2. Diet.
- 3. Supplements.
- 4. Stress.
- 5. Hydration.
- When Natural Is Not Enough
- Menstrual migraine
- Treating menstrual migraine
- FAQ: Will having a hysterectomy help menstrual migraine?
- What natural remedies are available for menstrual migraines?
- Download Clue to track your headaches.
- Science-backed remedies for tension-headaches
- Science-backed remedies for menstrual migraine
- Preventative menstrual migraine treatments
- Natural treatments and lifestyle adjustments for menstrual migraines
- Recommended lifestyle adjustments for migraines and headaches
- Migraine and hormonal birth control
- Learn about your body and women’s health
- Hormonal contraception for people with migraine
- Is it Common to Get Migraines Before Your Period?
- Headaches and PMS
- An introduction to headaches and PMS
- Why does PMS cause headaches?
- What can I do to help myself?
- Are there herbal remedies to help me?
- What about conventional medicines?
- My PMS Journal
Why do you get headaches during your period?
Hormones play a role in headaches because they govern the body’s pain response.
Females become more vulnerable to headaches as their levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate.
When a person experiences headaches around the time of their periods, the pain may stem from PMS or menstrual migraine.
A menstrual migraine headache typically occurs before, during, or immediately after a period. These headaches can also occur during ovulation.
Around 60% of females who experience migraine report that menstruation is a trigger for these headaches.
The symptoms may be similar to those of any other migraine headache, though the headaches that occur close to a period may not accompany sensory disturbances.
However, some people do experience auras — such as flashing lights or blind spots in the field of vision, or a tingling sensation in the hands or face — before a menstrual migraine headache.
Other symptoms of a menstrual migraine headache tend to include:
- sensitivity to bright lights
- sensitivity to noise
- throbbing pain on one side of the head
PMS headaches typically occur before a period begins.
PMS refers to a group of symptoms that 95% of females of reproductive age experience before their periods start each month.
The symptoms usually appear 1–2 weeks before a period starts.
Beyond headaches, symptoms of PMS may include:
- food cravings
- tender, swollen breasts
- fluid retention
- sleep disturbances
- joint and muscle aches
- anxiety or tension
- mood swings
Hormones affecting headaches during pregnancy
Because of the link between hormones and headaches, women may be more likely to experience migraine headaches during pregnancy.
According to an article published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, estrogen levels can increase 100-fold during pregnancy, which can influence migraine activity.
Also, it is important to note that a headache can be a symptom of preeclampsia, a potentially serious blood pressure disorder that can affect every organ.
Healthcare providers are usually able to detect preeclampsia during regular checkups. If a woman experiences symptoms, they may include:
- a headache that persists
- swelling of the face or hands
- changes in eyesight
- sudden weight gain
- shoulder pain
- nausea and vomiting
Anyone who believes that they may have preeclampsia should seek medical attention.
Learn more about preeclampsia here.
Ladies, there are natural remedies for migraines and hormonal headaches and today I want to share them with you some of the most effective strategies to be free of pain meds and headaches!
Acetaminophen—a well-known hepatotoxin… wait, Hepata, what?
Hepatotoxin is the term for substances that are toxic to the liver and acetaminophen is among the worst when it comes to over the counter drugs. In fact, it is the number one cause of acute liver failure in America!
As I’ve shared previously, NSAIDs can cause leaky gut, suppress ovulation, make headaches worse, and mask the root cause of your ailments.
The top 20 natural remedies for hormonal headaches includes (keep reading for doses and to learn why these work):
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Essential oils
- Stress Reduction Techniques
- Chiropractic Care
- Liver Loving Foods
- Apply a Cold Compress
- Digestive Enzymes
- Drink Caffeine
What’s the most common root cause of hormonal headaches?
Can Estrogen Levels Cause Headaches?
Estrogen dominance is the most common cause of hormonal headaches. This can occur when there is an excess amount of estrogen in your system either because you are making too much, not eliminating it effectively, or are being over exposed to xenoestrogens.
It can also happen if you’re not ovulating or not making sufficient progesterone.
Estrogen dominance is referred to as estrogen excess in medicine and is a diagnosable condition. Sometimes doctors will say they do not believe in estrogen dominance, but this is often because they are not testing correctly or familiar with the diagnosis (ICD-10 E28.0).
But other hormones can also cause headaches, like your adrenals and thyroid, as well as nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium.
Working with a hormone expert can help you identify the source of your headaches and support you in relieving them for good.
Finding your root cause is important to understand if something bigger is at play.
Ok, so finding the root cause is important and sure Ibuprofen and Tylenol are bad, but when there’s pain, what’s a girl to do?
20 Natural Remedies for Hormonal Headaches
Hormonal headaches are cyclical in nature and most commonly occur just before or after your period. For some women, they experience headaches around ovulation due to the spike in estrogen, which triggers ovulation.
The top 20 natural remedies for hormonal headaches includes:
1. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
At a dose of 400 mg a day many people see a reduction in the number of migraines they have. Riboflavin is more of a preventative therapy and has to be taken consistently for at least 1 month to see any effects, with 3 months being the ideal minimum amount of time to evaluate the therapy.
I generally recommend a B-Complex because B12, folate, and B6 can also be beneficial for headaches. Check out my B-Active Plus here.
This little herb has been shown to prevent menstrual migraines. I recommend women aim for at least 25 mg daily to get the most benefit of this anti-inflammatory herb.
3. Try Essential Oils
One to two drops of peppermint oil and lavender oil applied or massaged into the temples can safely alleviate headaches.
This is derived from the core of a pineapple and is a natural way to break down the inflammation-causing molecules in your body. When taken with food it acts as a digestive enzyme. But taking about 200-300 mg twice daily between meals can help lower your pain and inflammation.
Eating a hormone balancing diet can help relieve symptoms of PMS, hormonal headaches, menstrual cramps, mood swings and more! .
I know it seems obvious, but for reals, if you’re dehydrated and prone to headaches then odds are one is brewing. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Aim for about 3 liters of water, herbal tea, bone broth, and mineral water daily.
6. Stress Reduction Techniques
Catch yourself clenching your jaw? What about pulling your shoulders to your ears? Many headaches can come from tension and if your hormones are imbalanced then stress is going to take a greater toll. Try these stress-reducing techniques to help prevent headaches.
This beautiful golden root works on some of the major inflammatory pathways in the body to bring down pain and inflammation. It is excellent as a beverage (see recipe) and can be taken in capsule form at a dose of 1,000-2,500 mg daily.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful compound that has many potential health benefits. One benefit is its potent anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, studies have shown that turmeric may be as effective as NSAIDs for reducing pain!
You can read all about the benefits of turmeric in this article.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help lower inflammation and can help bring hormones back into balance.
Aim to eat 2-3 servings of fatty fish or supplement 1,000-2,000 mg daily. Yes, ladies, sardines can help your headaches!
Check out my Omega Plus, which is a high quality fish oil.
Stretching, movement and exercise can go a long way in keeping pain at bay. Consider working with an exercise physiologist, functional trainer, physical therapist, or another movement expert as part of your pain prevention regimen.
This little root is a rival to NSAIDs! It’s been shown to be as effective as NSAIDs at reducing pain. In general, a dose of 1,000 mg twice daily works well for most people. Ginger is also lovely as a tea and can be combined with turmeric for double the herbal anti-inflammatory power!
Body work can not be underestimated for ladies who suffer from hormonal headaches! It’ll not only soothe your stress, but it will also allow your nervous system to take some much-needed R & R while your muscles get a good release.
12. Chiropractic Care
You need a doc experienced and trained in pregnancy to help you really have all your prenatal needs met. Gentle chiropractic care can help alleviate musculoskeletal pain.
13. Eat Liver Loving Foods
The liver has a big role to play during your pregnancy, which includes supporting hormone breakdown and metabolism. A diet rich in high-quality proteins, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and root vegetables like burdock, carrots, and beets supports a healthy functioning liver.
Need help with liver loving foods? .
14. Apply a Cold Compress
Applying a cold compress to the back of your neck or over the areas you’re experiencing the headache can help reduce inflammation, constrict blood vessels and slow your nerves from firing pain signals.
Cold compresses are excellent for many types of headaches, including migraines.
You can make an icepack, soak a washcloth in ice water or throw a bag of frozen vegetables over the area. Be sure to use a towel between your skin and the cold pack and avoid applying for more than 20 minutes at a time. Brain freeze is real.
15. Digestive Enzymes
Taken between meals, enzymes like bromelain can help cut down inflammation and pain. Of course, check with your doctor first, but this may be a helpful tool to add to your routine.
This mineral has been shown to prevent headaches. It acts as a muscle relaxant and is also anti-inflammatory. Most women often need more magnesium than their diet can provide, but diet is still the best starting place.
Typical dose of magnesium is 300 mg daily and in my women’s health practice, we increase to 600 mg a day during the times that my patients are most prone to headaches. You can check out the Magnesium Plus we use in my practice.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine, involving thin needles inserted at specific points in the body, typically to relieve pain. While acupuncture likely won’t alleviate your pain completely, research shows that it can significantly reduce the pain and frequency of hormonal headaches.
Biofeedback involves the use of a device to monitor different things, e.g. muscle tension. The device alerts you when the muscles start to tighten up, so that you can consciously work on releasing that tension.
Hormonal headaches can sometimes be caused by unbalanced estrogen. DIM (Diindolylmethane) supports more balanced estrogen, by encouraging the production of good estrogen metabolites, while reducing bad estrogen metabolites.
You can check out Balance Women’s Hormone Support, which delivers a healthy dose of DIM.
20. Drink Caffeine
This may seem counterintuitive if you’re struggling with hormone imbalance symptoms, but in a pinch, you can lean on a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea to help your headaches.
Caffeine can constrict blood vessels and increase your mood. It also can enhance the effect of Ibuprofen and acetaminophen if you do need it.
But use caution because caffeine withdrawal headaches are real. This doesn’t mean you’ll get a headache if you have a cup of coffee and then you metabolize the caffeine. Instead, if you consume high amounts of caffeine daily and then stop then you may experience a headache.
Bonus: Cramp Bark for Menstrual Cramps
This is one every woman should keep in her medicine cabinet. If you have menstrual cramps taking Cramp Bark two days prior to your period and during may be just herb you need to break up with those NSAIDs. Women generally report relief with 1-2 droppers full (30-60 drops) three to five times daily.
Hormonal Headaches Have a Root Cause
Hormonal headaches are more than just a monthly inconvenience or burden—they are a sign that something is out of balance in your body and in need of attention.
Grab your Hormone Starter Kit, which includes a hormone balancing meal plan and recipe guide.
Your hormonal headaches have a root cause. We’d love to help you find it!
About The Author
Dr. Jolene Brighten
Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.
Natural Remedies to Soothe PMS Headaches
Do you suffer from PMS headaches or ‘menstrual migraines’? We’ve pulled together 4 natural remedies to help you relieve tension and discomfort.
According to stats, 60% of women experience ‘menstrual migraines’. So, if you’re prone to getting a headache on the build-up to your period, you’re not alone! For some people, a throbbing head can also be accompanied by nausea, fatigue and other pains in the body. Whilst severe symptoms should always be checked up on with a trip to the GP, there are also natural ways to ease this PMS related pain.
Why do we get PMS headaches?
Yet again your hormones are to blame! Throughout your cycle, your hormones will naturally fluctuate. Changes to estrogen and progesterone levels can cause headaches (and other PMS symptoms).
Easing a PMS headache, naturally
If you prefer a natural remedy, then here are 4 methods to consider to ease and soothe your headache:
Pressure point massage
Acupressure is a natural pain relief method, based on traditional Chinese medicine. It’s said that by stimulating points in the body you can relieve blockages and can speed up your body’s own healing response. With acupressure, you use your fingers to press away tension. It can be really relaxing so can also help you unwind at the same time – bonus.
If your forehead is feeling tense using your index finger and thumb, press gently on the crease of the thumb on your opposite hand. Place your right thumb on the base of your left thumb. Press gently. Using your index finger, also press this area on the palm side of your hand. Gently press this point and take deep breaths.
Good news for bath lovers! If your PMS headache is leaving you feeling rundown, then a bath might be just what you need. It can ease stress and muscle tension that can worsen your headache.
Top tip is to add magnesium salts (or Epsom salts) to the bath water. Hormonal fluctuations can lead to low magnesium levels, which can worsen PMS symptoms. A magnesium bath is a natural way to absorb this nutrient into the body. Magnesium reduces inflammation and pain in the body, so it can also ease menstrual cramps.
If baths aren’t your ‘thing’ but you need a magnesium boost, whip up a magnesium-rich smoothie. Try an avocado, banana and almond milk blend.
Willow bark is known as a natural pain relief. It contains salicin which is similar to a component found in aspirin. Willow bark is often hailed as a go-to natural solution for headaches, and it’s also linked to menstrual cramp relief.
To give this a go, try brewing up a willow bark tea, or you can also find body balms containing willow bark which will absorb naturally in the skin. Just remember, it’s advisable to always check allergy ingredients when trying any plant remedy.
Our final tip tackles the root cause of PMS headaches and can help long-term sufferers. Whilst hormones naturally fluctuate, a hormonal imbalance can also worsen PMS symptoms. If your period arrives with a whirlwind of PMS discomfort, including headaches, then it’s advisable to see an expert who can advise on how to keep your hormones in check. There are several factors that can disrupt hormonal balance; diet and stress play a crucial role for example. A holistic therapist or medical expert can help you restore hormonal balance.
Websites such as Doctify can help you locate experts in a range of fields that are in your area.
Most importantly, if you have a PMS a headache, remember to look after yourself. Self-care is always important and is sometimes you really need this when your period. Catch up with our top self-care tips here. Or if you have any helpful tips, drop them in the comments below.
Photo cred: Hadis Safari
16 Natural Remedies for Headaches (could be your hormones)
Chronic headaches. Yup. They are red flags my body frantically waves around whenever my thyroid medication dosage is off. When I was first diagnosed I had no clue those headaches were a sign of my hypothyroidism but once my doctor would adjust my thyroid meds and got my Free T3 back to the top quarter of the normal range where I feel my best VOILA my headaches were gone. Just like magic, right? No, actually there are many studies linking headaches and migraines to our hormones (not just our thyroid hormones, but also our sex hormones and the hormones produced by our adrenal glands) but I wonder how many doctors and their struggling patients know this.
Written by Jolene Brighten, ND
Ladies, There are natural remedies for headaches and today I want to share them with you some of the most effective strategies to be free of pain meds and headaches.
Acetaminophen—a well known hepatotoxin… wait, Hepata, what?
Hepatotoxin is the term for substances that are toxic for the liver cells and acetaminophen is among the worst when it comes to over the counter drugs. In fact, it is the number one cause of acute liver failure in America.
As I’ve shared previously, NSAIDs can cause leaky gut, suppress ovulation, make headaches worse, and mask the root cause of your ailments.
What’s one of the most common root causes of headaches?
An imbalance of sex hormones such as in the case of estrogen dominance is a common (yet overlooked) cause of headaches and migraines. Have you noticed a relationship between your headaches and hormonal changes? Do you notice, for example, the onset of your headaches around the time of your menstrual cycles when hormone levels are naturally shifting? Or are you pregnant or postpartum, times when your body experiences dramatic changes in sex hormones, and experiencing headaches? Have your headaches troubled you through perimenopause and/or menopause? Did your headaches and migraines begin (or stop) when you started taking birth control?
But other hormones can also cause headaches, like your adrenals and thyroid. Nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium can also be the cause.
Finding your root cause is important to understand if something bigger is at play.
Ok, so finding the root cause is important and sure Ibuprofen and Tylenol are bad, but when there’s pain, what’s a girl to do?
16 Natural Remedies for Headaches
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
At a dose of 400 mg of Riboflavin a day many people see a reduction in the number of migraines they have. Riboflavin is more of a preventative therapy and has to be taken consistently for at least 1 month to see any effects, with 3 months being the ideal minimum amount of time to evaluate the therapy.
This little herb has been shown to prevent migraines. It has been used for centuries. I recommend women aim for at least 25 mg daily of Feverfew to get the most benefit of this anti-inflammatory herb.
One to two drops of Peppermint Oil and Lavender Oil applied or massaged into the temples can safely alleviate headaches.
This is derived from the core of a pineapple and is a natural way to break down the inflammation causing molecules in your body. When taken with food it acts as a digestive enzyme. But taking Bromelain between meals can help lower your pain and inflammation. It also reduces the accumulation of mucus in sinus headaches.
I know it seems obvious, but for real, if you’re dehydrated and prone to headaches then odds are one is brewing. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Aim for about 3 liters of water, herbal tea, bone broth, or mineral water daily.
Catch yourself clenching your jaw? What about pulling your shoulders to your ears? Many headaches can come from tension and if your hormones are imbalanced then stress is going to take a greater toll.
This beautiful golden root works on some of the major inflammatory pathways in the body to bring down pain and inflammation. Golden Milk (high in turmeric) is an excellent beverage. Turmeric can also be taken in supplement form at a dose of 1,000-2,500 mg daily.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help lower inflammation and can help bring hormones back into balance. Aim to eat 2-3 servings of fatty fish or supplement 1,000-2,000 mg daily. Yes ladies, sardines can help your headaches!
Stretching, movement, and exercise can go a long way in keeping pain at bay. Consider working with an exercise physiologist, functional trainer, physical therapist, or other movement expert as part of your pain prevention regimen.
This little root is a rival to NSAIDs! It’s been shown to be as effective as NSAIDs at reducing pain. In general, a dose of 1,000 mg twice daily works well for most people. Ginger is also lovely as a tea and can be combined with turmeric for double the herbal anti-inflammatory power. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of migraines and ginger can also be helpful in relief of these symptoms.
Body work can’t be underestimated for ladies who suffer from hormonal headaches. It’ll not only soothe your stress, but it will also allow your nervous system to take some much needed R & R while your muscles get a good release.
Gentle chiropractic care can help alleviate musculoskeletal pain.
Liver Loving Foods.
The liver supports hormone breakdown and metabolism. A diet rich in high quality proteins, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and root vegetables like burdock, carrots, and beets supports a healthy functioning liver.
Apply heat. Also, alternating hot and cold therapy can be very effective.
Taken between meals, Digestive Enzymes can help cut down inflammation and pain.
This mineral has been shown to prevent headaches. It acts as a muscle relaxant and is also anti-inflammatory. The diet is the best starting place. Foods rich in magnesium include spinach, chard, pumpkin sees, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, and banana. Magnesium can also be taken in supplement form. If taken before bed, magnesium supplements also improves sleep and relieves constipation.
And sometimes, you just might need a medication and that is ok. I would still recommend seeking adjunct therapies and work with your doctor to ensure you are taking the right supplements for your body and maintaining a safe dose, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Bonus: Cramp Bark for Menstrual Cramps.
This is one every woman should keep in her medicine cabinet. If you have menstrual cramps taking Cramp Bark two days prior to your period and during may be just the herb you need to break up with those NSAIDs. Cramp Bark is also helpful for menstrual migraines. Women generally report relief with 1-2 droppers full (30-60 drops) three to five times daily of Cramp Bark.
Headaches Have a Root Cause
Headaches are more than just a pain—they are a sign that something is out of balance in your body and in need of attention.
About Jolene Brighten, ND
Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, best selling author of the book Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth, speaker, and mother with offices in Portland, OR and Oakland, CA. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.
READ NEXT: Hypothyroidism? Hair Loss? Fatigue? Heavy Periods? Check Your Iron
- Mirouliaei, M. et al. Efficacy of Levothyroxine in Migraine Headaches in Children with Subclinical Hypothyroidism, Iran J Child Neurol. 2012 Autumn;6(4):23-26.
- Moreau T, Manceau E, Giroud- Baleydier F, Dumas R, Giroud M. Headache in hypothyroidism. Prevalence and outcome under thyroid hormone therapy. Cephalalgia 1998;18:687–689.
- Amy, J.R.Tests of thyroid func- tion in chronic headache patients. Headache 1987;27:351–353.
- Martin, A.T. et al. Headache Disorders May Be a Risk Factor for the Development of New Onset Hypothyroidism. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 2016.
- Martin, V.T. et al. Perimenopause and Menopause Are Associated With High Frequency Headache in Women With Migraine: Results of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. The Journal of Head and Face Pain.56: 292–305.
- Cahi, N.C. et al. Migraine and estrogen. Curr Opin Nuerol. 2014 Jul 17.
- Pavlovic, J.M. et al. Sex hormones in women with and without migraine: Evidence of migraine-specific hormone profiles. Neurology 2016.
- Lipton, R.B. et al. Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger: testing the “let-down headache” hypothesis. Neurology. 2014 Apr 22;82(16):1395-401.
- William Bernal and Julian Wendon. Acute Liver Failure. N Engl J Med 2013;369:2525-2534.
Women approaching menopause experience worsened migraines according to the latest findings. Vincent Martin, MD, lead researcher, said, “Women have been telling doctors that their migraine headaches worsen around menopause and now we have proof they were right.”
High-frequency headaches – more than 10 days with headaches month – increased in women by 60 percent during premenopause in comparison with normal cycling women.
The researchers examined 3,664 women who experienced migraines prior to menopause and during menopause.
Researcher Richard Lipton added, “Changes in female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that occur during the perimenopause might trigger increased headaches during this time.”
Frequency increase of headaches was seen more so during perimenopause which may be attributed to fluctuating estrogen levels.
Migraine headache frequency also increased during menopause by 76 percent but the researchers do not believe this is associated with fluctuating hormones but rather an overuse of medications.
Martin added, “Women as they get older develop lots of aches and pains, joints and back pain and it is possible their overuse of pain medications for headache and other conditions might actually drive an increase in headaches for the menopause group.”
Women are three times more likely o experience migraines compared to men and roughly 12 percent of the American population suffers from them.
Co-author Jelena Pavlovic concluded, “Physicians can prescribe hormonal therapies that level out these changes that occur during the perimenopause and menopause time periods. If the patient is in early perimenopause, you can give birth control pills that level things out. If they are in the late perimenopause and they start skipping periods, they can be put on estrogen patches.”
Natural remedies for menopause migraines
Some of the best natural methods for relieving migraines caused by menopause include:
Drinking Coffee: If you enjoy a cup of coffee every morning, there’s no need to give up that cup of joe because you’ve started menopause. While caffeine may worsen symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, skipping the daily coffee you’ve become accustomed to may result in a migraine, so to relieve this pain, head to your favorite coffee shop and enjoy!
Eat Estrogen Boosters: Foods like soy, apples, alfalfa, rice, cherries, and potatoes all contain phytoestrogens that boost estrogen and can help restore hormone balance within your body. Snacking on one of these foods can relieve migraines caused by an imbalance in your hormones.
Exercise: We all known that exercise is good for you, and should be included regularly in a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that its stress reducing qualities can combat migraines? So long as your migraine is not severe, following along with a Pilates or yoga class can help ward off the pain before it reaches its peak.
Sleep: The often-disrupted sleep women experience during menopause due to night sweat and hot flashes can lead to a migraine caused by sleep deprivation. Help yourself get a better night’s sleep by limiting your exposure to screens and artificial light two hours before bedtime, and keep your room dark to avoid any light distractions.
Take a Bath: If you tend to experience hot flashes, this option may not seem too appealing, but a bath in warm water with Epsom salts can help you relax and soothe you before you head to bed. Try adding a drop or two of an essential oil like lavender to increase relaxation.
Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is one of the most common causes of headaches, and women who experience night sweat and hot flashes may lose more water than they realize. Substitute soda, coffee, and diuretics for plain water or alkalizing drinks. Create your own alkalizing beverage by mixing one tablespoon of lime juice and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water.
Change Your Diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet that consists of mostly whole foods and plenty of produce can help you avoid causing a migraine due to hormone imbalance. This is because many animal products contain hormones that may disrupt your own, so steering clear can reduce your risk of a headache.
- How long does menopause last?
- Menopause headache: Causes and treatment
- Essential oils for menopause: Usage, risks, and recipes
- Migraine diet: Foods to eat and avoid for migraine attacks
Understanding and Treating Headache Related to Menopause
by Deena Kuruvilla, MD
A large number of patients in my headache practice are either perimenopausal or postmenopausal. Many of those who are perimenopausal believe they will be cured of migraine after completing the hormonal fluctuations of menopause. This month’s featured article states that evidence certainly speaks against this generally held theory. Clinic based studies show that in 24.4%, headache improved with menopause while in 35.7%, it worsened.
In the journal, Current Treatment Options in Neurology, Dr. Lauritsen and colleagues review the associations between migraine and the menopausal period as well as which treatments have evidence. Epidemiological studies have shown that migraine is much more common in women than men and many connections between hormones and headaches have been established. Menopause is diagnosed 12 months after a woman’s final menstrual period. The average age for natural menopause is 51. According to the article, migraine is reported in 10-29% of menopausal women and is associated with greater disability and a higher incidence of mood disorders.
The stages of menopause include changes in menstrual bleeding as well as changes in the pituitary gonadotropin follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Menopause is characterized by wide variability in both FSH and estradiol in the blood, so changes in the circulating levels of these hormones are not consistent indicators of menopausal status during perimenopause. As menopause progresses, the ovaries produce less estrogen, and this drop in estrogen has important effects on various organ systems including the head.
One of the most common questions posed to me is regarding the utility of hormone therapy (HT) for treating headache. Our article cautions that HT in postmenopausal women corresponds to increased headache compared to women who were never on HT. In women with migraine, the highest rate of migraine corresponded to systemic use of HT as opposed to locally administered HT. More specifically, a higher risk of migraine was seen with systemic estrogen and combined systemic estrogen and progesterone HT. This same risk is not seen in locally administered estrogen only HT. Population studies in post-menopausal women have shown that risk factors for migraine include younger age overall, younger age at menopause, current use of HT and a history of surgical menopause. Nappi et al. conducted a randomized prospective open label trial which confirmed that both the frequency of attacks and headache days were increased with oral HT and as needed analgesic use was increased. Estrogen containing HT can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, especially in patients with migraine with aura. The authors recommend, if HT is pursued, continuous rather than cyclical doses should be used and a transdermal route is recommended.
Non hormonal based treatments that have some evidence include antidepressants such as venlafaxine, paroxetine and escitalopram and an anti-seizure/neuropathic medication, gabapentin. Complementary and integrative options which include acupuncture, black cohosh, vitamin E, aerobic exercise and yoga have also proven to be helpful in limited studies.
Whether it’s a debilitating migraine or the dull throbbing from a stressful day, headaches have the ability to zap your energy, ruin your focus and turn your otherwise centered self into a crabby mess.
As one of the most common – and vague – health conditions, headaches are generally accepted as just part of being human, whether brought on by fatigue, dehydration, stress or lack of sleep. Headaches can indeed be caused by all of these things, but for women, there’s often a hormonal imbalance at the root of those menstrual migraines or the constant tension between your eyes.
Hormones, You Win Again
Being female, you’re on a hormonal roller-coaster ride most of your life. The ups can be thrilling, (like when you get a spike of mood-improving estrogen), but the downs (when it dips the other way) can cause imbalance to the chemicals and systems of the brain, resulting in headache.
The estrogen/progesterone balance plays a pivotal role in whether you regularly experience hormonal-related headaches. Many women are prone to getting headaches just before they start their periods – a time when estrogen levels take a dive. And if you’re one of thousands of women who experience menstrual migraines – severely painful headaches that occur usually before or during menstruation – you probably don’t need me to reiterate just how disruptive and excruciating they are.
What do you normally do when a headache strikes?
The conventional remedy is usually a strong dose of acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, the ingredients found in over-the-counter painkillers. And while there’s nothing harmful about these pills (as long as you don’t have liver problems or take them excessively), there are natural ways to rebalance your hormones to avoid needing headache medicine in the first place.
5 Ways to Heal Headaches Naturally
Have your physician take a closer look at your estrogen/progesterone balance, as well as your thyroid levels. Based on the results of these tests, the two of you can decide what treatment options may be best for you. If you suffer from severe menstrual migraines, applying progesterone cream to the skin may be helpful, but should be considered under the guidance of your doctor.
I recommend a lifestyle “reset” by eliminating gluten, reducing sugar intake and cutting out red wine from your diet. Avoid tyramine, too, which is a migraine-triggering compound found in aged and fermented foods like old cheeses, smoked fish or cured meats. Enact these changes for at least 30 days and you will probably notice an improvement in hormonal-related headache symptoms.
Once you have a better understanding of your hormonal profile, you can also use supplements to support nutritional deficiencies that might be contributing to headaches. Magnesium, CoQ10 and 5-HTP are all recommended for these purposes. Try any of my personally formulated Reset360 Supplements, such as my Daily Essentials Multivitamin. Talk to your doctor about proper dosage.
Remember that stress can directly influence your hormonal balance. Find ways to cope with PMS-related mood fluctuations and eliminate stress during those difficult times in your cycle. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and a good belly laugh are all great techniques to keep you calm and centered, which may reduce hormonal headaches.
Aim to drink about three liters of water every day to prevent dehydration and cut down on hormonal headaches.
When Natural Is Not Enough
There are medications you can take to help alleviate headache pain, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, triptans, beta blockers and others. I recommend using medication only if you aren’t able to relieve symptoms through the methods listed above. Remember, ibuprofen can poke holes in your gut and cause many gastrointestinal issues, and nearly all prescriptions have their side effects. I find regular fish oil works better than ibuprofen.
And while the occasional headache is normal, hormonal-related headaches certainly don’t have to be part of your everyday life or monthly cycle. Prevention is the best strategy, and in the long run it will cost you less than the painkillers currently taking up space in your medicine cabinet.
How do you deal with headaches? Do you have any no-fail tips? Share them with me in the comments below.
Whilst many women report that menstruation is a migraine trigger, there is a specific condition known as ‘menstrual migraine’.
Menstrual migraine is associated with falling levels of oestrogen. Studies show that migraine is most likely to occur in the two days leading up to a period and the first three days of a period. This type of migraine is thought to affect fewer than 10% of women. The two most accepted theories on the cause for menstrual migraine at the moment are:
- the withdrawal of oestrogen as part of the normal menstrual cycle and
- the normal release of prostaglandin during the first 48 hours of menstruation.
There are no tests available to confirm the diagnosis, so the only accurate way to tell if you have menstrual migraine is to keep a diary for at least three months recording both your migraine attacks and the days you menstruate. This will also help you to identify non-hormonal triggers that you can try to avoid during the most vulnerable times of your menstrual cycle.
Treating menstrual migraine
There are several treatment options depending on the regularity of your menstrual cycle, whether or not you have painful or heavy periods, menopausal symptoms or you also need contraception. Although none of these options are licensed specifically for menstrual migraine, they can be prescribed for this condition if your doctor feels they would benefit you.
If you have migraine and heavy periods, taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller such as mefenamic acid could help. Mefenamic acid is an effective migraine preventive and is also considered to be helpful in reducing migraine associated with heavy and/or painful periods. A dose of 500 mg can be taken three to four times daily. It can be started 2 to 3 days before the expected start of your period. If your periods are not regular, it is often effective when started on the first day. It is usually only needed for the first two to three days of your period. Naproxen can also be effective in doses of around 500 mg once or twice daily around the time of menstruation.
You may wish to discuss using oestrogen supplements with your doctor. Topping up your naturally falling oestrogen levels just before and during your period might help if your migraine occurs regularly before your period. Oestrogen can be taken in several forms such as skin patches or gel. You put the patch on your skin for 7 days starting from 3 days before the expected first day of your period. Similarly, you rub the gel onto your skin for 7 days. In this way the oestrogen from the patch or gel is absorbed directly into your blood stream. You should not use oestrogen supplements if you think you are pregnant or you are trying to get pregnant. Again keeping a diary of your migraines will help you to judge when best to start the treatment.
If your periods are irregular your doctor may suggest other ways to try and maintain your oestrogen levels at a more stable rate such as a combined oral contraceptive pill.
FAQ: Will having a hysterectomy help menstrual migraine?
In order to answer this question, it’s important to understand the female reproductive organs, i.e. the uterus (womb) and the two ovaries each side of the uterus. The ovaries contain the eggs and also produce the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. At the beginning of each menstrual cycle, some of the eggs will start to mature under the influence of hormones produced by the ovaries. In the middle of the cycle, one egg (sometimes more) will ovulate. If the egg is not fertilised it will get absorbed by the body but more importantly the level of hormones fall. This fall of hormones triggers the lining of the womb to break down and be shed through the vagina – called menstruation.
It is this withdrawal of hormones that acts as a trigger in women with menstrual migraine or menstrual-related migraine. So, if someone is considering a hysterectomy to treat menstrual migraine, it would not help as the ovaries would need to be removed.
There are a few diagnoses where for a small minority of women, surgical removal of the ovaries is the only measure that will allow them to continue a normal life. It is a very controversial treatment and is therefore very rare.
The first options are non-surgical ways of putting the ovaries out of action. Once the ovaries are out of action (in whatever way) the woman must take hormone replacement therapy until the average age of menopause (age 55) to prevent the long term consequences of oestrogen deficiency (e.g. risk of osteoporosis).
One way to suppress the hormonal cycle is to use different forms of hormonal contraception. The combined contraceptive pill, one progestogen-only pill, the progestogen-only injection and implant will work by stopping ovulation.
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What natural remedies are available for menstrual migraines?
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring estrogens, and they are sometimes called “dietary” estrogens. They have been shown to significantly reduce menstrual migraines, similar to using prescription estrogen supplementation.
Phytoestrogen supplements are chemically similar to the estrogens your body produces. Effective phytoestrogen treatment strategies that have been tested and shown to be effective in research studies include:
- Mini-prophylaxis with genistein 56 mg, plus daidzein 20 mg, 7 days
before the expected menstrual period and 3 days of menses
- Soy extract 75 mg, dong quai extract 50 mg, plus black cohosh 25
mg twice daily
Magnesium taken 360 mg per day starting 2 weeks before menses and continued until your period begins has been used to treat the magnesium deficiency that occurs in many women with menstrual migraine. In one study, this approach resulted in a drop in the frequency of menstrual migraines by nearly half of those receiving this supplement.
Vitamins and herbs have not been tested specifically for menstrual migraine. Melatonin levels were shown to decrease during menses in women with menstrual migraine, suggesting that perimenstrual melatonin supplementation might be beneficial.
Download Clue to track your headaches.
Other reproductive stages in life can also impact when migraines show up. In the same study as above, two thirds of people reported a decrease or disappearance of their migraines during pregnancy (6).
Some people also get mid-cycle headaches as well, which could be in relation to ovulation. In one study, about 16% of participants experienced primarily mid-cycle headaches, while half experienced headaches that followed their menstrual cycle (7).
Headaches can also sometimes be part of PMS (8).
This is only a small collection of medications available to treat headaches and migraines, and there are other therapeutic and preventative medications available. Speak to your healthcare provider about which option would be best for you.
Science-backed remedies for tension-headaches
NSAIDs and over the counter painkillers: NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are a class of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications, many of which are available without a prescription in many countries. Ibuprofen and ketoprofen are more effective than placebo at providing a person with tension headaches (9). Acetaminophen (paracetamol), which often gets grouped together with NSAIDs, also has been demonstrated to provide similar pain relief (9).
Although the above medications are helpful, they might not be as helpful as people think. A meta-analysis of 3,094 people with tension headaches showed that taking a dose of ibuprofen only provides a small number of people with pain relief (23 out of 100 people) compared to taking a placebo (16 out of 100) (10).
Acupuncture: Acupuncture may offer some help in decreasing the frequency of tension headache occurrences when treated at the start of symptoms (11). More research is needed. Treatment with acupuncture for frequent migraines may offer some relief in decreasing the frequency of migraine attacks (12).
Science-backed remedies for menstrual migraine
Pain relief therapies
Triptans (including sumatripin): This is a type of medication used to treat both acute menstrual migraines, as well as migraines unrelated to the menstrual cycle (4,13). In order for the medication to work best, sumatripin should be taken promptly while pain levels are still mild. Don’t hold off on the medication and try to be a hero. This will only make the medication less likely to provide effective pain relief (13). You may need a prescription for this medication, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider first.
Over the counter pain medication like naproxen (NSAID) and acetaminophen (paracetamol): While these therapies offer more pain relief than doing nothing, neither of these are reliable in terms of eliminating migraine pain (14,15). Consider asking your healthcare provider about triptans instead.
Preventative menstrual migraine treatments
Triptans: This medication can also be taken to prevent future migraines from happening. In one study, using triptans for a few days before the start of the period helped reduce both severity and frequency of menstrual migraine headaches (16).
Hormone stabilization techniques: Preventative treatment using hormone therapy may help to decrease the frequency of severe menstrual migraines. In one study, researchers looked at how two treatments with hormonal contraception affected migraines. The majority of participants (95%) were prescribed combined oral contraceptives (the pill) and additionally took estrogen during the week of their withdrawal bleed (“period”), which helped to make the drop in estrogen less severe. Fewer participants (5%) used the estrogen patch during their normal menstrual period to prevent the drop in hormones. Among all participants, eight out of 10 people reported a decrease in their menstrual migraines and were able to reduce their pain-medication use by half (17).
Continuous birth control: Using a form of continuous/extended-use birth control may be an option to decrease menstrually related migraine attacks or headaches. People who took extended use combined oral contraceptives had fewer headache symptoms, and were more productive (18). Talk to your healthcare provider about extended use hormonal birth control, though this may not be the right therapy for everyone, especially those with migraine with aura—see the section below on hormonal birth control for more info.
Natural treatments and lifestyle adjustments for menstrual migraines
Lifestyle treatments are always tricky to study, since they are hard to control and not as well-funded as pharmaceutical medicine.
Magnesium: There’s some evidence that magnesium can relieve migraine pain (19). In a small preliminary trial, participants took magnesium supplements three times per day starting from Day 15 of their cycle until the start of their next period (20). This treatment helped decrease the participants’ total pain and also improved their PMS symptoms (20). In a randomized control trial where participants received either a placebo or a drug containing magnesium, vitamin B2, and coenzyme Q10, the severity of migraines was lower among those taking the drug, though the number of days in which migraines were experienced was not statistically different from the placebo (21).
Recommended lifestyle adjustments for migraines and headaches
Not all lifestyle changes are studied, but these recommendations are fairly standard for how to help you cope with your headaches. Give them a try, see what works best for you.
Get enough sleep: Since fatigue and sleep disturbances are linked to being migraine/headache triggers (1,22-24), be sure to adjust your bedtime accordingly so that you wake up relaxed and well rested. If you commonly have headaches in the morning after waking up, it may be a good idea to get checked for sleep apnea (1).
Reduce your stress levels: Stress, whether it’s particular events, feelings, or time periods, are linked to triggering migraines and headache (22-25). For this reason, stress management techniques like relaxation therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and biofeedback could help (25). It’s easier said than done, but prioritize de-stressing as best you can.
Avoid extreme weather: Weather changes, both hot and cold, can trigger migraines and headaches (22-24). Check the weather forecast and plan ahead. Be extra cautious about extreme heat and sun exposure, as exhaustion and dehydration can also cause headaches (26).
Find a dark and quiet space: For people experiencing a migraine headache, light and sound can aggravate migraine symptoms (1). Some people find relief by lying in dark, quiet rooms.
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Migraine and hormonal birth control
Is your birth control causing headaches?
Headaches are sometimes a side effect of hormonal birth control (4). In one study, taking oral contraceptives affected migraines, with 24% of people experiencing increased frequency of migraines (6).
Estrogen-withdrawal headaches are a type of headache that people get during their “pill-free” or “sugar-pill week” when they are taking oral contraceptives. This type of headache usually goes away within 3 days, but then will return during the estrogen-free week of the next cycle (1).
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Hormonal contraception for people with migraine
People with migraine with aura are not recommended to use combined hormonal contraceptives (like the pill, the ring, or the patch) (27). Having migraines with aura is a risk factor for experiencing a stroke (28-30), plus taking combined hormonal contraceptives up to doubles that risk (31,32). The combination of these risk factors is associated with a 3x increased risk of stroke, compared to people with migraine who don’t use combined hormonal contraceptives (27).
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people with chronic migraine are safe to use certain forms of contraception:
intrauterine device (IUD) (both hormonal or copper are fine)
the progestin-only shot
any form of emergency contraception (27)
Most people who experience migraine without aura can use combined hormonal contraceptives, too, as the risk of increased stroke is outweighed by the benefits that the pill offers (27); however, people with other risk factors for stroke, such as older age and cigarette smoking, may be advised not to use combined hormonal birth control (27).
People with non-migraine headaches do not have any restrictions on hormonal birth control (27).
Some birth control options may be safer than others, depending on your age and other risk factors (27). Speak to your healthcare provider to figure out what is the best contraceptive method for you.
Do you have migraine disorder or headaches, but are not sure if they are if are related to your cycle? Get tracking. You can use Clue to track your headaches, and even add custom tags. Do this consistently for a couple of cycles so that you and your healthcare provider can see if there is a pattern.
to track your headaches and see how they appear in relation to your cycle.
Is it Common to Get Migraines Before Your Period?
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I get migraines a few days before my period starts. Is it common to have migraines as part of PMS?
Yes. Lots of women who have migraines get them as part of their PMS symptoms. Doctors believe that changing hormone levels are to blame for this type of headache, which is known as a menstrual migraine.
Take some steps to try to stop these headaches so you feel better. You could start by taking an over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen to see if that works. If you often get headaches near your period, try taking the medicine for a few days around that time, even if your headaches haven’t started yet. Doing this might help you avoid getting a headache. Getting enough sleep, not skipping meals, exercising regularly, and managing stress are other ways to help prevent headaches.
If a headache does come on, sometimes a cool cloth or ice pack wrapped in a towel can help. You can also try lying down in a quiet, dark room.
If these things don’t work for you, or if your headaches are severe enough that you miss school or other activities, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend a prescription medicine or refer you to a headache expert.
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD Date reviewed: June 2017
Headaches and PMS
An introduction to headaches and PMS
Women experiencing PMS can be more prone to headaches.
These range from a dull ache or sharp stabbing pain – a regular headache which seems to come more often in the week or so before your period. Or, if you suffer from migraine, you might find that these become more frequent around the time of menstruation.
Headaches causes you to feel miserable, making it difficult for you to think straight or concentrate. As well as this, it is more difficult to cope with other symptoms experienced.
It is important to remember that headaches can occur for a wide range of reasons, including stress, food intolerances and tiredness. If you are suffering from headaches regularly, it is worth having this investigated by a doctor as this will also help you to find an appropriate treatment.
Why does PMS cause headaches?
As with just about every symptom which occurs around the time of your period, hormones get the blame. In fact hormones get blamed for headaches, whether they occur around your menstrual cycle or not.
Serotonin is a hormone which triggers a headache, and it is thought that the way that your body metabolises the hormone is at the root as to whether you will be prone to headaches.
However, the female hormones progesterone and oestrogen also come into play when dealing with menstrual headaches. At the time of menstruation, the levels of these two hormones fluctuate, and for a variety of reasons, this makes you more susceptible to headaches.
Many birth control pills (and HRT) affect the level of oestrogen in the body. This means that women on contraceptives are more likely to develop menstrual headaches.
What can I do to help myself?
Unfortunately there is not an easy or quick self-help remedy which works for everyone suffering from menstrual headaches. However, there are a number of things you could try:
- Drink plenty of water – keeping hydrated is important at any time, but particularly when suffering from headaches, as dehydration will worsen any headache. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these dehydrate you
- Temperature – being outdoors or sitting in a room which is either too hot or too cold may worsen your headache. Keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter
- Sleep – make sure you get enough sleep. Between seven and nine hours each night is perfect. Being tired is a known trigger for headaches
- Keep your blood sugar level – blood sugar which is too high or too low can cause a pounding headache, as well as make you feel dizzy. Eating more natural foods at regular intervals each day will help to keep your blood sugar level stable
- Avoid bright lights and loud noises – both of these have been shown to trigger headaches, in particular migraines. This is probably why many headache sufferers find that lying in a quiet dark room helps to alleviate their symptoms
- Avoid stress – stress gives rise to an increase in muscle tension and is perhaps the most common cause of headaches. If you can’t avoid stress, learn how to cope with it better.
Are there herbal remedies to help me?
There are a number of herbs that can be used to help your PMS headaches:
- If your headaches are also associated with other symptoms of PMS, address the root cause of the problem with Agnus castus. Also known as Chasteberry, it is the berries of this plant which are used medicinally. It has been used for many years and there is evidence to support its use for general symptoms of PMS. If you are on prescribed hormonal treatments, speak to your doctor before using Agnus castus
- If stress or anxiety are triggers for your headaches, consider the use of Avena sativa if symptoms are mild, or Valerian. Apart from making you feel calmer and more relaxed, they will also help you sleep better.
What about conventional medicines?
When suffering from a headache, it seems almost instinctive to reach for the painkillers to ease your discomfort. However, this is not necessarily the best solution, as many painkillers contain substances such as caffeine which actually worsen the headache in the long run. However, in the short term, painkillers could be helpful for many women.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend a form of hormone treatment such as the oral contraceptive pill. However, these work by interfering with the normal menstrual pattern, which may not be an acceptable option for some women. In addition, some types of hormone treatments can cause headaches as a side effect as they interfere with the levels of hormones in the body.
Other treatments that may be recommended by your doctor include medicines to help anxiety (such as sedatives or beta-blockers) and anti-migraine drugs.
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