In the Battle of the Sexes, there are many places where men and women might argue about who has it worse, but there is one place where women have a definite edge: migraines. A dubious honor, to be sure, but one that might help us understand how to effectively treat migraines.
More Common, More Severe, and Harder to Treat
Women are much more likely to get migraines than men, about 2.5 times more likely! And women’s migraines tend to be worse. Although studies don’t agree on this, women tend to report more painful migraines, an average of a 6 on the ten-point pain scale, compared to only a 5 for men. But what’s not disputed is the length of migraines. Women tend to get much longer migraines, an average of 36.7 hours for an unmedicated migraine, compared to a little over a day–28.4 hours–for men. This is largely because men are more likely to get short migraines (men are twice as likely to have a migraine of six hours or less), while women are more likely to get longer migraines (women are three times as likely to have migraines lasting 24-72 hours!)
Women are more likely to experience migraine with aura, and they’re more likely to get other symptoms that come along with migraines, such as nausea, sound sensitivity, and light sensitivity.
The Usual Suspect for Women’s Migraines
In the past, the primary explanation for why women have worse migraines is that female hormones are related to migraines. There seems to be some merit to this theory, since boy and girl children seem to have migraines at about the same rate, but after puberty women tend to suffer more. Some women experience migraines associated with their period. And many women see their migraine patterns change when they start hormonal birth control or get pregnant.
Is TMJ to Blame?
But there are other reasons why we might suspect hormones aren’t the only factor in play. Many women don’t see any impact from hormones on their migraines. And women continue to have more migraines than men, even in postmenopausal populations. So what can explain this disparity?
It could be related to the fact that women are also much more likely to experience comorbid conditions like TMJ. And because TMJ is a major headache trigger, it may be partly to blame for the severity of women’s headaches.
Understanding this is crucial because about a quarter of women who were successfully treated with medication experience a return of migraines within six months. This may be due to the fact that TMJ partly drives their headaches and TMJ doesn’t respond to migraine medications.
If you are a woman who hasn’t gotten results from other migraine treatments, TMJ treatment may help. To learn more, please call