Earlier this week I had a 3 day bout with a never ending migraine. The pounding, the nausea, the light sensitivity, the noise sensitivity. Horrible. I was stuck in my dark (we have room darkening curtains) bedroom. I was anti-social with my family, I couldn’t stand just the normal interaction, noise and light level that my family produces each day. The migraine even woke me up some of those nights. I was having a flare up and ringing in my ears as well. On my post about the fibromyalgia definition, I remembered that migraines were a common symptom and/or co-diagnosis of fibro.
I set out to find out what happens with your body to cause both of these coinciding things. First, let me explain the definition of a migraine according to medical doctors.
A migraine is a severe, painful headache that is often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days.
Migraine headaches result from a combination of blood vessel enlargement and the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around these blood vessels. During the headache, an artery enlarges that is located on the outside of the skull just under the skin of the temple (temporal artery). This causes a release of chemicals that cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery.
A migraine headache causes the sympathetic nervous system to respond with feelings of nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This response also delays the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine (affecting food absorption), decreases blood circulation (leading to cold hands and feet), and increases sensitivity to light and sound.
More than 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, and females are much more likely to get them than males. (1)
So what makes Migraines a symptom and co-diagnosis with fibromyalgia?
Well, in my research I have found that The relationship between Fibromyalgia and migraine disorders is complicated. They frequently overlap; headaches and migraines are considered risk factors for fibromyalgia, and they’re also among the symptoms considered under the newer, alternative diagnostic criteria. Many researchers believe central sensitization is related to these conditions. Essentially; Our central nervous systems have been conditioned — either over time or due to trauma/illness — to have an extreme reaction to certain stimuli, which can include:
- Visual chaos
Our central nervous systems amplify pain signals and turn harmless stimuli into pain and over react to other things in our environments in a way that amps up a bunch of symptoms that would normally not be affected. (2)
Fibromyalgia patients “tend to have this nervous system that is more sensitive to pain stimuli and tend to identify pain earlier and perceive things as painful quicker.”
In a study that Dawn Marcus, MD,a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center specializing in fibromyalgia and migraines did in 2005, it was found that fibromyalgia patients have an elevated level of what is known as “substance P”, which is thought to be a major player in pain transmission. It has also been studied as a possible source of pain associated with migraines as well. “Substance P” is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord, and is associated with some inflammatory processes in the joints. Its function is to cause pain, stress and anxiety. (3)
Also a common diagnosis with fibromyalgia and migraines is depression. Dr Marcus’ study also showed that about one-third of fibromyalgia patients studied had major symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Her study shows that Fibromyalgia and migraines share a number of symptoms and triggers, including:
- Feeling as though you are in a fog
- Numbness in extremities
- Sensitivity to light, sound and touch
- Pain instigated or exacerbated by and during menstrual periods
- Average onset in adulthood
- More common in women
- co-diagnosis with depression
Okay, so what can we do about our central nervous system going haywire and causing both fibromyalgia and migraines along with depression?
Well, in a published study by Dr. David Dodick and Dr. Stephen Silberstien, it was found that in both fibromyalgia patients and migraine patients, dehydration and Magnesium deficiency was a common factor. Mark London, a former MIT student, writes in his article The role of magnesium in fibromyalgia that,
“Magnesium is extremely important to many functions in the body, which is why a deficiency can cause many different symptoms. It is most widely known for being needed for proper bone formation. With a deficiency, bones will be soft, and it can play a role in osteoporosis. However, magnesium is also the activating mineral for at least 350 different enzymes in the body, more than any other mineral, so it is crucial for many of the metabolic functions in the body. Magnesium is necessary for almost all the proteins use to turn the sugar and fat we eat into an energy producing enzyme. Low levels this energy producing enzyme have commonly been found in people with fibromyalgia and migraines as well. Thus, a magnesium deficiency would definitely be a factor in worsening those symptoms. ” (4)
I am due to go to my primary care doctor on Tuesday for my normal 3 month fibro checkup. I am definitely going to show him this information and talk to him about adding magnesium to my prescribed vitamins. I’ll let you know how it goes and how I feel in a later post.