I wanted to say a few words about migraines and migraine disorder. Some of my clients and personal connections suffer from this pain. They are not just a headache. They can be a torment for many. Not only are migraines physically painful, they often affect appetite, light and sound sensitivity, mood, balance and coordination, because dizziness and vertigo can happen, fatigue , and anxiety. Causes for migraines can include stress, fluctuations in barometric pressure, hormonal shifts, allergens, dehydration, genetics, and sometimes no reason whatsoever, which is the hardest.
It is well documented that our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs have an enormous impact on our physical well-being. In other words – the mindbody connection is much more powerful than we could have imagined. According to the latest studies, letting go of mental distress can lower your blood pressure, writing about traumatic events can alleviate physical symptoms of chronic pain, and your personal beliefs about stress have a direct impact on your physical health.
Migraines are no exception to this phenomenon. There is clinical evidence that the degree of migraine disability is correlated with our attitudes and feelings about the migraines themselves. Feelings of fear and avoidance play a huge role as well, leading to increased migraine frequency and decreased quality of life for many migraine sufferers. All the while, attempts to find long-term relief through medication can lead to medication overuse.
Regardless of the impact that our emotions have on migraines, this is not a “chosen affliction” – it’s a direct result of the way the brain has wired itself over time. Initial attacks may result from any combination of environmental and genetic factors that cause the nervous system to become particularly sensitive to certain stimuli.
There is substantial evidence that individuals who experience adverse childhood events (such as neglect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse) are significantly more likely to develop migraine later in life. This suggests, at minimum, that our genes and nervous systems are stamping in a painful wiring pattern at a very young age. Over time, these patterns become ingrained in the nervous system as migraine attacks slowly rewire the brain to perpetuate this feeling of pain.
The good news? This neurological sensitization to pain can be undone, in whole or in part, through education and exercises that help the brain to let go of past stressors and learn new, less painful neurological patterns. Treatment harnesses the benefits of multiple mind-body approaches that have been proven to reduce migraine frequency and intensity – like meditation, CBT, and mindfulness-based stress reduction
Relief usually requires a multimodal approach.