I used to think I was one of the lucky ones, not getting migraines during my period. Lying on my bedroom/bathroom floor all crunched up, getting a fever, even throwing up — that, I could take. It was my every-month-routine. But headaches? Man, I always hated those. Not only did they make me want to jump out of my skin, but the simple act of looking into the world through my eyes was painful. My eyesight narrowed, tear canals filled up with liquid, my hearing was super heightened, my head felt like a hot balloon…and everything bothered me; sounds, light, commotion. I thought to myself — if I had to endure this for a couple of days every single month, I would go insane.
Little did I know they would start showing up…and I hated every second of it. So, like with everything else concerning my health, I decided I wasn’t ok with it just “being so”, and I embarked on a journey of finding its true cause and how to stop it from becoming another addition to my monthly “joyful moments”.
Believe it or not, there are actually 2 different types of migraines connected to our menstrual cycles:
- Migraines triggered by our menstruation
- Menstrual migraines
The first one occurs in women who usually have a history of migraines (due to other reasons), and menstruation presents itself to be only one of the triggers.
The second one is the one that ONLY occurs during menstruation (and only really affects around 10% of women), and the scientific reasons for it are “falling levels of estrogen and the normal release of prostaglandin during the first 48 hours of menstruation”. It occurs usually in the two days before a period and the beginning few days of a period, but it definitely varies from woman to woman. Ok, so once I had figured out the WHY behind those horrible head throbbing pains, it was time to talk about WHAT I could do to stop them from happening in the first place!
Doctors usually prescribe painkillers, estrogen supplements, and even contraceptives. I was never inclined to go that route, cause I played with my hormones once when I lost my period for the first time, and I never wanted to do that again. So, I decided to look further, into more of a holistic approach & practice. I started researching like crazy, and after months of trial & error, this is what I came up with:
After my initial consult with Ying, a 3rd generation acupuncture practitioner in his clinic, Ava Acupuncture, I knew I had come to the right place. He understood my pains & problems even before I even said a word, and pinpointed exact sensations/feelings/symptoms and processes I was experiencing every month — from migraines to cramps, bloating, fever, nausea, ovary pain & even my wisdom tooth pain (apparently, I wasn’t imagining this weird symptom my whole life!).
Acupuncture, one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine, is actually very frequently used to treat migraines, as it works on certain pressure points which open the flow of Qi (Chi), life energy throughout the body, and there are numerous studies supporting its benefits. I usually schedule a couple of sessions in the days leading up to my period, and it dramatically reduces the intensity and duration of my migraines.
#2 Essential Oils.
Clary sage, clary sage, clary sage….I might end up writing a song because that’s how much I love this incredible plant! There are tons of resources where you can learn about how to use it, but just as a quick overview, Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Lavender, Roman Chamomile — they are your bestest of friends in the whole wide world for that time of the month.
Of course, the most important thing is to make sure your using the cleanest & most potent oils possible, so do your research before filling up that basket in Whole Foods.
Getting a good massage improves your blood flow and helps alleviate any types of headaches and migraines. I’ve been loyal to my massage guy for almost 2 years now, and I’ve been getting regular massages every week/2 weeks, but when that time of the month hits, I ask him to focus more on the neck/shoulder area as well as my lower back (as it tends to really spasm). I sleep better, feel the energy actually flowing through my body again, and my migraine pain subsides (as they are THE worst right before bedtime and early in the morning).
#4 Getting enough sleep.
Usually the most underrated tip of them all, focus on making sleep a priority! Our bodies go through a complete reboot in Zzzz mode and not only does that apply for physical processes, but neurological, hormonal and mental as well. The way lack of sleep affects us is already well-known, but in terms of connecting it to our migraines, there was a research from Missouri State University that actually reported how deprivation of REM sleep showed changes in the expression of key proteins that trigger and suppress chronic pain! They discovered a secretion of high levels of proteins that aroused the nervous system and low levels that stopped the nervous system, making them high enough to actually trigger pain! So…sleeping in when that migraine occurs might not be such a bad idea after all.
If you’re having issues with migraines during that time of the month, try some of these tips and ditch that painkiller bottle once and for all.