MS and headaches: causes, prevention and treatment
A person with multiple sclerosis (MS) can experience various types of headaches. Triggers for MS headaches include stress, muscle tension, or certain foods. However, a range of medications and alternative treatments, such as relaxation techniques, can help relieve symptoms.
MS affects the brain and spinal cord. It can cause symptoms, such as minor muscle weakness, or cause serious disabling effects, including the inability to walk.
This article explores the causes of headaches and migraines that may be due to MS and discusses preventative measures and treatment options. He also discusses the causes and treatments for other headache symptoms.
However, the Multiple sclerosis foundation says researchers aren’t sure whether there is a relationship between MS and headaches. Additionally, some people who have a headache also experience symptoms of migraine, although there is no proven link to migraine being a symptom of MS.
A migraine involves intense throbbing or throbbing pain in an area of the head. There may also be other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound or light.
Other 2014 research found a strong correlation between MS and reports of migraine with aura. An aura is a warning sign that a headache is imminent and can occur in people who do not have MS. The researchers concluded that more research was needed to link migraines with an aura to a potential MS relapse.
Tension headaches can also be linked to MS. A
the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) says MS is a lifelong disease, with symptoms ranging from relatively mild to severe. What causes them is not clear, although some researchers believe it occurs when the immune system attacks myelin, the material that covers and protects nerve cells.
Remission or relapses can occur unexpectedly, while treatments can slow the progression of the disease. However, some people with milder forms may be able to manage the condition without treatment.
The onset of MS usually affects people between the ages of 20 and 40, although it can occur after the age of 50, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The disease affects approximately 400,000 people in the United States, and some research suggests that MS can also start in childhood or adolescence.
Receiving a diagnosis of MS can be difficult due to unpredictable symptoms, which may include:
- vision problems
- muscular weakness
- balancing difficulties
- hearing loss
- speech disorder
- concentration problems
Learn more about MS here.
The triggers for migraine and tension headaches vary. If a person can recognize the symptoms and possible causes, they may wish to see a doctor for treatment.
Migraines Usually Affect Older People
- Stress: Among people who suffer from migraines, about 70% report stress as one of their triggers.
- Dehydration: About 33% of people with migraines say dehydration is a trigger.
- Hormones: Up to 75% of women with migraine suffer from this disorder during their menstrual cycle.
- Alcohol and caffeine: Many people report that their symptoms are worse after using any of these substances.
- Weather changes: Storms, high heat, and large changes in barometric pressure are common triggers.
- The smells: Exposure to certain smells can make or trigger seizures.
- Food: Common triggers include chocolate, cheese, artificial sweeteners, deli meats, and foods containing the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG).
- Light: Sunlight, bright interior lighting, and twinkling lights can be a trigger.
- Medication: Taking prescription drugs for migraines for more than 10 days per month can be a trigger.
Learn more about migraines here.
People most often report tension headaches – several factors can be causing this, including the following:
- stress that triggers the muscles of the face, jaw, neck and scalp to contract
- intense work
- anxiety or depression
- missed meals
- too little sleep
Learn more about tension headaches here.
Medicines and non-drug treatments are available for migraines and tension headaches. Some treatment options include:
Treatment of migraines
In the early stages, doctors may advise:
- rest in a quiet, dark room with ice floes
- drink lots of fluids
- consuming small amounts of caffeine
Additional treatments may involve taking medication as soon as symptoms appear during the acute phase. There are also daily medications to prevent or reduce the severity of other seizures during the preventive phase.
Acute phase treatment may include:
- triptan drugs, which increase the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain
- over-the-counter pain relievers for mild headaches, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- antinausea drugs to relieve nausea and vomiting due to headaches
- opioids for brief use
Preventive phase treatment may include:
- anticonvulsant drugs
- non-drug therapy, such as relaxation techniques or biofeedback
Treatment of tension headaches
The first step in treating a tension headache is resolving any underlying health problem. For example, a corrective mouthpiece can help relieve tension due to a disorder in the jaw joint. Doctors can also prescribe:
While researchers are unsure whether there is a relationship between MS and headaches, people with MS can make lifestyle changes that can help prevent them. These include avoiding foods that are common triggers, such as those that contain MSG, as well as staying hydrated, reducing stress, exercising, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
Medication can relieve pain and help prevent recurring headaches. Doctors may also prescribe medications to reduce other symptoms of migraines, such as nausea.