Women and Headaches: Setting the Record Straight

by Andrew Persky

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An enormous amount of information exists on the subject of headaches. Unfortunately, sometimes that information isn’t completely accurate, nor does it tell the whole story. That can be a big problem, especially for women with chronic headaches.

According to research published by Columbia University in The Journal of Gender-Specific Medicine, women are three times more likely than men to suffer from migraines, 18 percent versus 6 percent, respectively. In the United States, those numbers are even worse. A study by AMPP Advisory Group shows a staggering 43 percent of American women are affected by migraines. And yet, in spite of this, there is a preponderance of research involving animal pain studies that use male subjects to study this predominantly female disorder.

It is known that hormones can play a major role in many women’s headaches by affecting blood vessels in the head. Migraines in women often emerge after menarche and occur more frequently preceding or during menstruation. They also often decrease during pregnancy and menopause. But the exact cause of migraines is unknown. Yes, blood vessels are affected by hormones, but that does not necessarily make them the true underlying cause of headaches. Many women experience improvement or even complete resolution after non-medication-related services, such as upper cervical-specific treatment. Therefore, before consenting to hormone therapy for headaches, the following facts bear considering:

  • Hormone therapy has a questionable track record of success for women with headaches. In a research study published in the journal Neurology, a 22 percent reduction in the number of headaches during hormone therapy was offset by a 40 percent increase in headaches after the study ended.
  • Headache is a frequently reported side effect of hormonal contraception and a leading reason given for contraceptive discontinuation.
  • Studies indicate that the use of combined oral contraceptives in women with migraines may further increase the risk for stroke.

The bottom line: know the facts. There are 150 different types of headaches. Therefore, it is vitally important that one’s doctor is provided with as much information as possible about the kinds of headaches being experienced in order to make informed decisions about treatment.

LifeAligned-AndrewPersky_0416A free ebook, New Hope for Headaches: The Link Between Craniocervical Syndrome and Chronic Headaches, is available for download at LifeAlignedHealth.com. It offers tips to help receive a proper diagnosis, as well as advice for keeping a headache journal and more information about headaches.

Dr. Andrew Persky, DC, is founder of LifeAligned Upper Cervical Treatment Center, in Warrington. For more information, call 215-491-4200 or visit LifeAlignedHealth.com.

May 2017

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