Whenever menopause symptoms are mentioned we all tend to assume that hot flushes are the most common one; it is certainly the most written about! However, what we have found lately on our website is that ‘headaches’ seem to be the symptom everyone is looking up. Seems rather a strange one for the menopause but I will try to shed a little light on it.
Headaches normally fall into 3 main categories; migraines, tension headaches and headaches caused by infections such as sinus, colds etc. However with menopause headaches there may be another factor: our wonderful hormones.
It has been found that both progesterone and oestrogen can affect the balance of the blood vessels. Oestrogen tends to cause the blood vessels to open up and progesterone to constrict them.
Whilst you are still menstruating the monthly rise and fall of oestrogen and progesterone is usually quite smooth and they tend to work in reasonable harmony with each other. However, once the peri-menopause kicks in the balance between the two hormones can become quite disorganised and this conflict, if you like, can cause the blood vessels to open and close indiscriminately, leading to headaches and even migraines in those predisposed to them.
What you can do
How best to treat these headaches/migraines? Painkillers will usually work but if the headaches are occurring frequently this is not a good idea. (Research has shown that if you continually use painkillers this can eventually cause headaches. If you think this is happening to you, do discuss it with your doctor). Herbs can often work quite well, not as painkillers but to help balance the hormones and therefore reduce the fluctuations causing the problem in the first place.
In the peri-menopause, Agnus castus can often help, especially if you find your periods are getting closer together and are heavier (but not be used if you are on any kind of hormonal contraceptive). Once in the menopause, fermented soya products such as Menopause Support are traditionally used to gently balance and raise oestrogen levels. Stress is a huge issue in the menopause and is a common cause of tension headaches, so remember to do that daily relaxation!! A magnesium supplement can often help in this case.
If your headaches continue or are very severe it is important that you seek medical advice.
You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.