Pounding headaches. Screaming skull crushers. They’re the opposite of a good time – and get this: they impact women three times as often as men.
Except new research is saying they could be a kind of great tool, per a new study in the journal Headache. They could be your body’s way of protecting and repairing your brain, the study suggests. Think of how your biceps ache post-arm day. You’re regenerating tissue after injury. A good thing! Here’s how that same chain reaction unfolds with a headbanger:
1. You drink alcohol, eat salty foods, are mentally overstimulated, or your hormones are ﬂuctuating.
2. This causes oxidative stress and nerve inﬂammation, so your brain releases chemicals to defend itself.
3. Bring on the headache, nausea, dizziness and light sensitivity. Ouch.
4. Brutal as it all feels, these symptoms are signs your body is battling oxidation that could lead to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, says study author Dr Jonathan Borkum of Health Psych Maine.
And, if you’re sensitive to the seasonal changes, migraines may be triggered too. ‘They’re caused by a pattern of neurochemical changes that move across the brain, causing intense pain, flashing lights and dizziness,” explains Dr Katy Munro, specialist at the National Migraine Centre in the UK. “As a migraine sufferer, your brain is hardwired to be more sensitive to changes in the environment,” she says.
“Help your brain by protecting against other triggers. Have a regular routine; go to sleep and wake up at set times. Or if low blood sugar is a trigger, eat slow-release carbs like oatcakes with nut butter every four hours to keep it steady.” But if you only notice symptoms the minute the seasons change, see a doctor – you could be dealing with cluster headaches. “They often arrive in bouts during autumn and spring. Unlike migraines, they tend to be one-sided,” explains Munro. To work out what’s what, track your symptoms in a diary.