5 headache triggers during menopause

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Menopause Advisor
@EileenDurward
Ask Eileen


06 August 2018

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about menopausal headaches.

This is a really common symptom, and so many women come to me saying that they're getting regular headaches, and why are they happening, and what can they do to help themselves because they don't want to be taking painkillers on a daily basis.  

Hormones and headaches

The main reason that you get headaches in the menopause is because your oestrogen is falling, and there's very specific oestrogen receptor sites in the blood vessels, so if your oestrogen is going up and down like a seesaw, if it's tumbling, if it's getting really, really low, and these are happening quite suddenly, that will very often trigger the blood vessels to go into a spasm, and especially if that happens round the back of the neck or the shoulders, the next thing that will lead to a headache.

5 other headache triggers 

However, there are lots of other things in the menopause that can trigger headaches, too, and sometimes, it's a bit difficult to distinguish between what's what.

I'm going to tell you another five reasons why you can get headaches in the menopause as well as it just happening because your hormones are starting to fluctuate.

1. Hot flushes

Hot flushes can be a trigger, and it's amazing how many women say that they feel a hot flush coming on, they get that hot flush, and the next thing that they've got a headache. Again, this can be due to the fact that your blood vessels are suddenly opening up with the heat, and that can then trigger the spasming as well. And this is very often accompanied with dizziness, and palpitations, and nausea, so it can be quite a little picture here for this particular case. 

How to help yourself:

The best way to deal with this is to make sure that you find the triggers for your hot flushes, so that's another thing that you need to know because there can be very specific things triggering your flushes. And you can look at sage which is known to help to reduce or stop the flushes themselves.  

2. Dehydration

We've got dehydration. As usual, water is always in there or lack of water is always in there somewhere, so this is a really common one.

The minute you get really dehydrated, you can end up with a real thumping headache. Dehydration shrinks your brain, so drinking lots of water is very, very important at all times and especially, by the time this goes out, there'll probably still be quite a lot of hot weather.

So in the summer, you're possibly going to get more headaches from dehydration as well. Some women find that they just get the headaches first thing in the morning, just as they wake up. Very often, that's due to the fact that they have got dehydrated during the night, and the minute you wake up, your blood pressure, very often, starts to rise, so it can be a combination of the two.  

How to help yourself:

If this is the case, then first of all, have a little shot glass of warm water before you go to bed at night, just to ease the dehydration. And this is really important if you end up getting night sweats because they will dehydrate you even further during the night.

You can also have a glass of water by the bedside so that the minute you sit up and put your feet on the floor, you've started to hydrate yourself, so get that first glass of water drunk before you even stand up and you're out of bed. 

3. Stress & anxiety

The other thing that can do it is stress and anxiety. We know that we get tension headaches when we're stressed, and this can happen quite a lot. We're a lot tighter when we're stressed, when we're anxious. Our muscles can get very, very tight, and that can cause a big problem, especially across the shoulders.  

How to help yourself:

So look at doing deep, slow breathing exercises. Do a lot of stretching. I sit at a desk for a big part of the day, and it's a really good idea to get up every now and again. Just stand up, and push your hands right above your head just to stretch the whole shoulder area as well.  

You can look at calming herbs. Remember to do your daily relaxation. And a really important thing here, if you're getting a lot of stress and anxiety, it's very likely that you're low in magnesium. And we know that low magnesium will trigger headaches as well, so a good thing to take on a regular basis is a nice little portion of magnesium every day.  

If you're looking at taking a balancing remedy, our Menopause Support has magnesium in it, and some people find that that can work really well, too.

4. Posture

The other thing that can do it is our posture. Like I say, I spend a lot of time at my desk. And I usually find by the end of the day that I'm starting to really sort of bend my shoulders, and my posture gets really bad, and that, again, will cause all the tightness and tension across the shoulders, so the standing up exercises is a very good one. 

How to help yourself:

There's loads of little short sharp exercises that you can do if you're standing or sitting at your desk, so really bear that one in mind, and check your posture on a regular basis. The other thing that I find, too, is if I'm sleeping away somewhere and I haven't got a good pillow, you can end up getting really poor posture and tension across the shoulders, so make sure that you've got a really good pillow for sleeping at night because that can make quite a bit of difference as well.  

5. Diet

Number five is diet. We know that things like caffeine, high sugar, high salt foods can trigger headaches. Missing meals can do it as well, and especially if you're going for long periods without anything to eat or drink, then that can trigger quite severe headaches.

So this particular one, oh, and as well before I forget, going on a diet. If you're reducing your calorie intake too much, that can end up causing headaches as well.

How to help yourself:

So what you're looking at here, maybe do one of those lovely diaries. Write down everything that you're eating on a daily basis, and you might find, especially if you get a headache at the same time every day, it's more than likely that there's going to be some kind of external circumstances that's triggering the headache.  

So the diary can maybe pinpoint that it might be something you're eating or drinking, it might be the fact you're not eating or drinking that can do it, so that's a nice one just to double-check what's going on. Keep your blood sugar stable because again, if you're not eating enough, sorry, then your blood sugars can really dip, and that can end up triggering headaches, too. 

When to consult your doctor

Now, just one really important thing here, if you are getting headaches every single day, if you find that these things are not helping you, it's really important that you go and get this checked out by your doctor. It could be to do with blood pressure, it could be to do with other underlying health issues, so this is a really important one.  

And definitely don't rely on painkillers because if you keep taking them, they can end up causing rebound headaches, and you can make absolutely everything worse.

So hopefully this has given you a few little ideas. If any of you have had headaches through the menopause and you found something that's really worked for you, please let us know. 

So have a good week. And I will see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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