Link Between Ultra-Flexibility and Migraines Discovered

Picture of a Woman With a Migraine

Migraines: Not your ordinary headache ...

“Hi, Annie. I’m Migraine. Nice to Meet You …”

I never had migraines until last summer. After a particularly stressful series of events one day, this blinding, throbbing pain began tormenting me.

I took three Excedrin, crawled into bed, turned out the lights, and covered my forehead and eyes with a cold wet cloth. A few hours later, the pain had faded enough to allow me to get vertical again. It happened two more times last fall, each incident separated by a few months.

Then last week, my eleven-year-old daughter, in obvious distress, began reciting an all-too-familiar list of symptoms—her head hurt, she felt sick to her stomach, light hurt her eyes, and sounds were too loud.

Before these personal experiences, I didn’t really give much thought to migraines as a source of chronic pain, I confess. Now, I’m in tiger mama mode, researching juvenile migraines and scheduling a visit to my daughter’s doctor.

(There’s another post for another day: why do we race into overdrive when it’s our family members in pain, but we often put up with our own pain?)

Stretchy Body, Stretchy Blood Vessels?

And that’s how I found this piece from MSNBC.com: “Ultra flexible? You’re at triple risk for migraines” (Reuters). It reports on a recent study performed by Dr. Vincent Martin, professor at Ohio’s University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, which showed that women with joint hypermobility syndrome are up to three times more likely to experience migraines than their less flexible counterparts.

Joint hypermobility syndrome isn’t really a pain condition—it normally requires no treatment. (A more severe form called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) But it can be an indicator of what Martin calls “stacks” of other medical conditions that do cause pain, such as fibromyalgia, chronic neck pain, and sleep disturbances—and, apparently, migraines.

Martin’s working hypothesis was that JHMS, marked by “extra-stretchy” collagen in joints, could also be an indicator for increased risk of migraines. This is because the collagen (a crucial component in body structures like joints and blood vessels) should be overly elastic throughout the body. And if that’s true, the collagen in the blood vessels would also be overly elastic—and that, researchers already believed, is associated with chronic migraines.

Martin’s Findings: 75% Increased Risk of Migraines in Hyper-Flexible Women

Martin expected an increased risk but the actual results surprised him. The rate of migraine occurrence in the control group was 43%, but in the test group, the rate shot up to 75%. After factoring in age and medication usage, this figure translated to three times the risk for migraines for women with joint hypermobility syndrome, who also experienced migraines more than twice as often, with an increased occurrence of aura.

Researchers had long suspected a link between JHMS and migraines. Dr. Blair Grubb, a professor at the University of Toledo Medical Center, said “It’s one of those things where everybody knew it, and somebody just got around to publishing it.”

Of course, as we know, that “publishing” part is pretty critical in order to support further studies and advances in treatment.

Migraines and Trauma Dolls

Do you have migraines? Tell me what you do to make yourself feel better in the comments!

I’m especially interested in hearing from moms of young children who experience migraines.  I got a few great tips from Twitter the other day (I’ll be asking Princess’s doc about Maxalt, and we’re looking into nutritional changes as well—thanks, tweeps!) but information is power, Dolls, so let’s share!

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6 thoughts on “Link Between Ultra-Flexibility and Migraines Discovered

  1. Jessica

    I have been suffering from migraines & chronic head pain for 7 years. I am also hyper flexible…and have been told my neck is especially so & the weak muscles trying to hold up my head might be a contributing factor.

    What frightens me is my 12 yr old son is also hyper flexible & was recently examined at a childrens hospital for connective tissue disorders. While he does not have headaches, he suffers from severe motion sickness…which can also be a sign of developing migraines.

    If you get a chance…visit me at painfullyspeaking.com & you will see it is definitely a chronic pain condition and all I’ve done to help make my life bearable.

    Reply
    1. Annie Post author

      Hi Jessica – thanks for commenting! I’ve been to your site and would recommend anyone who struggles with migraine pain to visit it regularly. Good work!

      Reply
  2. Chasity

    I have suffered from migraines since I was a teenager. I am now 36 and still suffering. Although I have to say, with research I am controlling the frequency and severity of them. Magnesium is a big culprit for me. Or lack there of. Studies have shown that 90% of women do not get enough. I have started taking a daily magnesium supplement and it has helped alot. I have gone from 3 or 4 migraines a month to around 1. This month, I did not get a migraine, which I have to say I am still in shock over. What was different? I had fish twice around the time that they usually strike. I didn’t notice the link right away, until I really thought about what was different.

    This only made me more sure that I am lacking in Magnesium, along with many other women. I am upping my daily dosage, and trying to eat more fish. Studies have also shown that Omega-3 fish oils can help prevent migraines. Seems pretty simple, except that most american diets are terrible, filled with too much junk food.

    Give the magnesium a try, and let us know if it helps you also. Best of luck!

    Reply
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  4. Melissa

    I’m a little late to the party on this one but since I still came across this post, thought others might as well and so I would add my 2 cents.

    First off, thanks for sharing the interesting study Annie. I have done lots in the migraine research area and had never heard of Martin’s one you mentioned above.

    What I wanted to recommend for your daughter though is checking in about light sensitivity. I know lots of kids that have developed early on photosensitivity due to the amount of fluorescent lighting in schools these days and just naturally the amount of technology out there now they are involved with and therefore staring at more screens. Here’s an article with a bit more information for you on it: https://www.axonoptics.com/2015/12/the-connection-between-photophobia-and-migraine/

    Hopefully she’s doing better now but just in case she is still struggling with them, that’s one thing to consider.

    Reply

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