Over 23 million people suffer from migraines worldwide. These painful headaches can last hours or even days, and are accompanied by a slew of equally unpleasant side effects, like nausea, photophobia, and many others.
If you suffer from migraines, you know how difficult they are to predict — sometimes even impossible. No matter how hard you work to identify and avoid your migraine triggers, they often seem to come out of nowhere to ruin your day–or your week. And despite plenty of medical research, there is still so much that is unknown about migraines.
That’s why a new stress model that migraine researchers are developing could mean big things for migraine treatment and prevention.
Study Explores Migraine Forecasting
Migraine triggers can be nearly anything: Certain foods, hormone fluctuation, lack of sleep, and caffeine are a few common ones. Unfortunately, migraines differ so much from person to person that there is no one model that can be applied to everyone and accurate predict the onset of migraines. This is particularly problematic because in order to be effective, preventive drugs need to be taken before a migraine attack. Currently, migraine sufferers are expected to learn and track their own migraine triggers, which can be extremely difficult.
A research team from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston wanted to take a bite out of this problem. They decided to see if they could build a model to predict the onset of migraines for specific individuals. To do this, they found 95 people who suffer from episodic migraines and had them keep diaries of their experiences. Together, participants provided over 4,000 days of data.
Once they had the data, the team created a model that used that data to map occurrences of stressful events in the migraine sufferer’s lives, and their perceived intensity. In general, participants reported low to moderate levels of stress. But before a migraine attack, participants tended to report higher stress levels than normal.
Although the researchers plan to refine the model with more data over time, even these initial findings are a huge win for migraine research. The model indicates that forecasting migraine attacks is possible for individuals based on their specific stress levels and experiences.
More Ways to Prevent Migraines
Of course, stress isn’t the only thing that causes migraines, so while this model could be very helpful to many people, it certainly won’t solve the entire problem. Instead, some people develop migraines as a result of other root causes, which can be difficult to discover. If your migraine is being caused by an underlying issue, you could track your triggers relentlessly and still never effectively treat or prevent your migraines.
For example, TMJ can cause migraines in some people due to the heightened tension in the head and face. If your migraines are caused by TMJ, the most effective treatment for migraines will be treatment for TMJ.