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The “PMS Pinch”: my PMS migraine actually feels different from my normal attacks

I have a question I’ve been meaning to ask you ladies for a long time. I’m not sure why I waited this long—perhaps my burning curiosity got the better of me at last, or maybe it’s because my period is here (oh, joy) and I feel hazy with migraine medication and I finally remembered to get around to it.

Here goes:  do your menstrual-related migraines feel different from your run-of-the-mill migraines that occur at different points throughout the month?  I’m not talking about other symptoms we ladies are every so lucky (sarcasm alert) to experience every twenty-eight days or so. I am all too familiar with what I experience during my period: the aches in my nether regions and back, plus the exhaustion and the seemingly constant need to pee.

What I’m curious about is the actual type of head pain you experience before and during your period.

For years now, my menstrual-related migraines (which usually show up like clockwork—read more on how I have started handling them here) have just felt different from my other migraine attacks. Once in a blue moon, my period shows up a couple of days early, and the main warning sign I get is a special kind of pinching in my head during a migraine that is unique to my menstrual-related migraine.

I’ve started using my own shorthand to describe this odd little headache that signals the beginning of a menstrual-related migraine. The “PMS Pinch” shows up precisely two days before the first drops of blood show.  (Sorry to y’all out there who are super-duper squeamish—that’s as detailed as I’ll get.  Just FYI to the handful of people, especially some guys, who tend to cover their ears when the word “menstruation” is uttered: between menarche and menopause*, the vast majority of healthy women get their periods approximately once a month. There’s blood involved, and it’s not really the most pleasant or pretty thing in the world, but can we agree to talk about it without getting all icky and grossed out? Kthxbai.)

Back to the PMS Pinch.  It’s not a particularly painful sensation. It shows up subtly, at about a 2 on a 1-10 scale of how distracting/disabling it is.  It hovers around the 3-4 range and then goes away after a few hours whether or not I medicate.  At no other time of the month, despite how rough my migraine attacks have been or how frequent, do I feel this particular brand of pinching pain in my head about two inches behind the left side of my forehead.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised—migraine is a tricky illness that manifests in a variety of ways in just one person. But it still is odd to me that my PMS migraine always starts with the PMS Pinch, a feeling I never have with any other migraines.

Do any of you ladies sense a difference between your menstrual-related migraine episodes and your “regular” ones? Can any of you relate to what I have nicknamed the “PMS Pinch”?
*Full confession, by the way: I’m writing this during a particularly exhausting postdrome phase and am having a lot of trouble finding the right words I want to use. I spent two minutes trying to think of the word “menopause” and actually had to go to Google and search “word for when your period stops forever.” Thought y’all would appreciate that aside.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Erin Dotsey
    3 years ago

    Yes!! It’s a really odd feeling, like in the top left or right of my head… It’s line someone is pinching my brain, and I can’t think straight. Makes me feel kinda cross eyed or something… Not PAINFUL per se, but very weird.

  • shine4him
    5 years ago

    While I’ve never had mine do “the pinch”, my hormonal migraines are different from my other ones. Mainly, they don’t respond to any medications! At least the rest of the month I can knock the others down with Imitrex. But for some reason these aren’t affected by anything.

    On a better note, my mom is going through menopause and her migraines have pretty much stopped. My grandma did the same thing. So at least there’s hope in my future, even if it’s many many years away.

  • Ann
    5 years ago

    I suffered from hormonal migraines my entire pre menopausal life. At the time I took Anacin for 3 to 4 days a month to keep them under control. After menopause they abated until 10 years ago when I had an ocular migraine which was very scary as I never had anything aura, prodome or whatever associated with my hormonal migraines. After many tests my ocular migraine was identified as no other problem was seen on the tests I underwent. I went on to be diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroiditis which I found out that migraines are a comorbidity for Hashimotos. My point is the hormonal migraines of my earlier years were a piece of cake compared to the terrible ones I now suffer from as I suffer from the whole gamut of visual disturbances, abdominal migraines, dizziness, spaciness, nauseausness, paralysis of my leg plus the pain in my head. The drugs can only help the pain but none of the other symptoms and I find those to be the most disconcerting. To get up in the morning and not being able to see and dragging my leg to the john to upchuck is not my idea of living. Anyway that’s the difference I have encountered and it’s a hell of a difference.

  • janenez
    5 years ago

    Yes. Back before I finished that phase of my life – ( I’m 50 now ) I had the monthly pinch just as you described. When I was 39 I stopped bleeding, but the migraines remained – and then began morphing. I have a lot more cognitive dysfunction and silent ones now instead – and haven’t ever had that same pinch. Maybe because of the HRT? And can I just say “thank you”. When you admit to having to google a common word – and yet you write so beautifully, it reminds me that even though I have to struggle for common words – it’s worth the struggle to continue to contribute. You are an inspiration with your sharing.

  • Koch
    5 years ago

    I started getting migraines after a back surgery about fifteen years ago. Even though there were times where I seemed to have them all the time and there wasn’t any rhyme or reason that I could see for what set them off (besides back pain), at some point I began noticing that the ones I got right before my period were different. It’s actually hard to remember a lot of the differences (what a surprise there), but there was a lot more pain in my left eye and they were more severe. It takes a lot for me to be incapacitated, but these ones would leave me in bed for a good three days with nausea and vomiting, and then I’d feel like I had the worst hangover ever.

    I’m not quite fifty yet, but my doctor says I am almost menopausal, if not already past it. I’ve noticed that those migraines have eased way up—to the point that I’m just forgetful, have trouble finishing a sentence and have an annoying pain under my shoulder blade up into my eye. It seems like my other migraines have changed, too, but I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

  • heather
    5 years ago

    Why Yes Migraine Girl,
    I am most certain of my period coming on by the migraine that accompanies it every month 1 to 2 days before blast off. I believe the tag they gave this is “hormonal changes” migraine where your progesterone and estrogen bounce around and mess up body chemistry. The “pm” in syndrome, that all women in one way or another face adds a certain spice to that special time of the month. For me, its a different “creeep” feeling when the migraine hovers just below my “im medicating the shit out of you” level. Which I always end up doing once it steps up above a 6 out of 10. Which it ALWAYS does, usually day 2 or 3 of 5. The problem i face is that, even with daily doses of chasteberry capsules to calm my estrogen dominance, watching what i eat with isoflavones in it,my period is NEVER very nice when it visits. (sorry for TMI) but….the best i can call it, is efficient, I have a very clockwork, EFFICIENT uterus, that goes about its monthly duties of cleaning itself out, like a front loading pinch washer from the 1950’s. and about as painful as full out running my body through one. for 5 days, each month. So, im very careful about taking extra pills when im already medicating for painful cramps, back spasms, diarrhea and constipation. as i say…ick.
    so, yes, to answer your insatiable curiosity, my migraine syndrome is different for that time of the month since it is biochemically induced instead of my usual triggers which are aspartame, excessive sugar or fried foods, preservatives, lack of sleep, flashing lights and weather barometer changes (extreme ones).
    Since I just came off of the flu (fun wow) with excess sinus problems and congestion and im hovering around the end/beginning of another month, it HAS NOT been fun this time around. Funny you should ask….
    Heather Whitney

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