The throbbing, pulsating pain that comes with headaches as women approach menopause can be difficult to deal with. Fortunately, by better understanding headaches, women can find the help they need to manage them. Learn about some of the frequently asked questions regarding headaches, their symptoms, their causes, and how they are treated.
Q: What Are Headaches?
A: A headache is a recurrent, throbbing pain generally felt on one side of the head, although it can sometimes be felt on both sides. Women tend to experience more headaches during perimenopause, the stage before menopause typically lasting two to ten years.
Q: What Are the Common Types of Headaches?
A: There are three main types of headaches: migraine headaches, tension headaches, and sinus headaches. A migraine headache is characterized by pain felt on one side of the head, but a throbbing headache may possibly occur on both sides. It can last anywhere from one or two hours up to three days.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, affecting 64% of men and 88% of women at some point during their lifetimes. A tension headache generally produces mild to moderate pain felt throughout the head. Some describe the sensation as a tight band wrapped around the head. A tension headache may also cause pain in the back of the neck.
The third type of headache that menopausal women most frequently experience is the sinus headache, which is the inflammation and blockage of the sinus cavities. This is also known as congestion or a congestion headache.
Q: What Are the Common Symptoms of Headaches?
The following are the most common symptoms associated with migraines:
Did You Know?
Women experience headaches five times more often than men. Up to 30% of premenopausal women report having headaches, and 70% of these women report that most of their headaches occur just prior to menstruation.
- Throbbing, pulsating pain in the head
- Intensification of pain with routine physical activity
- Tired and weak feeling
- Pain beginning in a specific area on one side of the head and spreading from there
- Pain lasting up to 24 hours, or in some cases, several days
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and odor
- Sweaty hands and feet
Continue reading to find out what causes headaches during menopause.
Q: What Causes Headaches?
A: Headaches are primarily caused by the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause. The hormones, as they rise and dip, affect the brain's blood vessels by expanding and contracting them, which leads to headaches.
Q: Are There Other Causes or Triggers of Headaches?
A: Yes, several other factors besides hormones can trigger headaches. They are:
- Bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors
- Stress and anxiety
- Weather changes
- Alcohol, caffeine (too much or withdrawal)
- Lack of or too much sleep
- Skipped meals or fasting Certain foods, such as:
- Nitrates, found in reprocessed meats
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in fast food, Chinese food, and Italian food
- Tyramine, found in aged cheese, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, smoked fish, and some wines
- Aspartame, an alternative sweetener
Q: How Are Headaches Treated?
A: For anyone who experiences headaches, coping with them during a busy day can be challenging. An ibuprofen or aspirin can help if headaches comes on while you are at work or in a hectic situation. Lowering stress and tension will go a long way to alleviate symptoms. A dark, quiet room to lie down in can prove a nice refuge for someone suffering from headaches, and drinking lots of fluids can also help with the pain.
Q: What Are the Best Ways to Cope with Headaches?
A: Three approaches can be considered for treating headaches: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative remedies, and (3) medications. Most experts recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if symptoms persist. Click on treatments for headaches to discover the best route to relief.
- MacGregor, E.A. (2009). Migraine headache in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 13(5), 399-403. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19728968
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Headache. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003024.htm
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Migraine fact sheet. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/migraine.html
- Ripa, P. et al. (2015). Migraine in menopausal women: a systematic review. International Journal of Women's Health, 7, 773-782. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S70073