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What are Menstrual Migraines?

If your migraine is regular as clockwork based on your cycle, you are probably getting menstrual migraines. They can be mid cycle, a few days before, or even a few days after or all the above. 

Menstrual migraines occur at predictable times in your cycle, which have been classically attributed to changes in oestrogen levels.  Only problem is, the fluctuations in Oestrogen levels at different times are normal and are exactly the same in someone that doesn’t get migraines.  This means it is not the change in oestrogen that’s the problem, it’s how your neural system reacts to the change that is the problem.

So, research shows that hormone fluctuations are normal in people with menstrual migraines, but something that is consistent in nearly all menstrual migraineurs, is central sensitivity.  Central sensitivity is where your body’s reaction to a normal stimulus is heightened or exaggerated, usually in an unfavourable manner. A heightened sense of smell is a tangible example of an advantageous central sensitivity.

Menstrual Migraines and the trigeminal nerve

Menstrual Migraine Cause

When oestrogen levels decrease, we get approximately a 7% change in dilation of the blood vessels in the brain. This 7% is the same in women that do, or don’t have migraine issues.  The nerve that regulates this change in diameter is the trigeminal nerve, which is a major sensory nerve with 3 major branches (illustrated below with the yellow pink and green areas).

The nerves that innervate your neck (cervical spine, blue area in picture) share a common pathway and processing centre with the trigeminal nerve. Studies have shown that when these cervical nerves become stressed, they change the reactiveness of all the nerves in the brainstem, particularly the trigeminal nerve, leading to increased sensitivity.

This explains why there is almost always underlying pain and restriction in the base of the skull and neck during other times of the month that intensifies when the migraine presents. This also explains how treating the neck influences and changes the intensity of the headaches by changing the erroneous response to a normal stimulus, rather than trying to change your natural hormone levels.

Physiotherapy Treatment Outcomes

With headache symptoms as regular as clockwork, it is easy to recognise whether treatment is being effective.  If we can change the intensity of your migraine, how many days it lasts or even if it changes days, we know that treatment is making a difference. All of our physiotherapists exclusively treat headaches and jaw pain and can effectively assess and safely treat your neck for this condition.

Headache, Neck & Jaw Conditions We Treat

Our Brisbane clinics specialise in the treatment of head, neck and jaw conditions, many of which are notoriously difficult to treat. If you’re experiencing symptoms of any of the following problems, our team has the expertise and training to help.



Jaw and Orofacial Pain

Neck Pain and Trauma

Whiplash and Nerve Pain

Vertigo & Dizziness


Singing / Vocal


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