3 Biological Causes of Vascular Migraines

Learn how vascular restriction and dilation cause migraines and headaches. Discover how to identify the cause of your own migraines or headaches.

This article focuses on identifying the cause of migraines and headaches. If you want to see complementary strategies for migraines, read this article describing 31 natural, science-backed remedies.

The Main Cause of Migraines and Headaches: Inflammation

It’s still controversial in the scientific arena whether migraines are primarily a vascular (blood vessels) or a neurological dysfunction (dysfunction of neurons), but it’s likely that both have a significant role to play.

Whether vascular or neurological, the source is likely brought on by inflammation. Inflammation directly affects the vascular system and can damage neurons by causing ROS.

This post will focus on the role of “vascular instability” and how it’s affected in various ways. Vascular instability can be due to vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels and a decrease of blood pressure) and vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure).

Nevertheless, remember to consult your doctor if you have migraines or other types of headaches. He or she will try to identify their underlying cause and prescribe a treatment to relieve and prevent them.

Migraines vs Headaches

Chronic migraine is a disease which has headaches as the main symptom.

Isolated headaches are usually not caused by the same processes as migraines. Chronic migraines are usually caused by too much vasodilation.

Headaches can be caused by either too much vasodilation or vasoconstriction.

If someone has a tendency for either state, certain triggers can be tipping points which lead to a headache.

Migraines are more consistent and chronic, while vasoconstriction headaches are more sporadic and much more likely to be induced by environmental triggers such as stress or tyramines (both of which cause vasoconstriction).

Migraines, cluster headaches, and exercise headaches are generally caused by vasodilation. Tension headaches are caused by vasoconstriction.

The 3 Main Causes of Vascular Instability That Contribute to Migraines

These three causes are highly connected to one another and one cause can contribute to another. There are many interactions taking place.

Inflammation influences our endocrine and neurotransmitter levels and these can, in turn, modulate inflammation. Any hormone could lead to an increase or decrease in another hormone.

1) Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural and healthy response to injury, but chronically high levels are problematic.

Specifically, a cytokine called IL-1b increases COX-2, which causes the trigeminal nerve (a pain mediator) to release calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) [1].