Migraine and the Full Moon
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It began with a post I saw on Facebook from someone in one of my migraine support groups. “Is it just me??” It began. “I looked back over my pain tracker app and I have had a severe migraine EVERY FULL MOON.” I sat up with a jolt, because as I’ve mentioned, I get a severe intractable migraine once per month, always around the same time, and usually end up needing to be treated at the ER. In fact when I saw the post I was in the throes of one, and it had begun on the previous Saturday… the day before the full moon. Eight people had already commented that they always get migraines on the full moon. I left a comment as well, thanking the poster for bringing this phenomenon to my attention.

I posted my own public Facebook update about it, hoping to collect more anecdotal evidence. Along with several migraine friends who commented that they too had noticed the correlation between the full moon and increased migraine, a few in the medical profession mentioned that they always know they are in for a crazy day on the full moon. John used to experience the same thing as a kindergarten teacher; the kids would be extra wild and more poorly behaved on full moon days. I’d always heard those stories and believed them, but had never connected that lunacy (a word which is itself derived from the latin word for moon) with my own monthly pain cycle. I sent John a text about it and he replied “The moon is the most powerful force we know of. It moves oceans.”

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A search of migraine.com at the time of this writing found many posts mentioning the moon, but most frequently it was the phrase “once in a blue moon,” or other such metaphors or casual uses. There were no articles about migraines and the moon cycle. Since then, however, hollybee has published a similar post about migraine and the full moon, a rather mystical and fun coincidence as far as I’m concerned, and her article does list some more scientific reasoning for the phenomenon. As I was working on this piece, a full internet search pulled up many results, but not from reputable medical sites. I found stories on Earthpulse.com and Mindbodygreen.com; an article called “Migraines and Spiritual Awakening;” and lots of user questions posed on the Migraines & Headaches Community forum on WebMD. Not exactly what I was looking for. I did find a chronic illness blog with a post that provided some interesting ideas, however no sources were provided for the information.

As I have mentioned, my former neurologist’s assistant thought I was probably still having monthly hormone cycles despite my full hysterectomy. The brain is very involved in hormone production, of course. So as frustrating as that is, since most of the reason for the hysterectomy was to halt severe menstrual migraine, the hormone explanation definitely has more scientific backing than the theory that the moon is causing the issue. My friend and research nurse H, at my most recent CGRP treatment, agreed, adding, “We actually see quite a bit of that here, menstrual migraine lingering after ovaries are removed.” This is a great reason to not have a hysterectomy (or oophorectomy) to prevent or “cure” menstrual migraine, though I don’t regret my decision to have it done.

Another interesting thought about the moon affecting our bodies was mentioned in an informational post on Health.com (the website of Time Inc’s Health Magazine) from August 2014. The full moon, it was stated, might affect our sleep. A study found that in the four days before and after a full moon, participants took 5 minutes longer to fall asleep, slept 20 fewer minutes overall, and had 30% less deep sleep. However, these results couldn’t be replicated by other studies.

Women’s menstrual cycles can be regulated by the lunar cycle, but even in those cases ovulation corresponds with the full moon, not menstruation. A study on the higher frequency of ovulation with the new moon was published by an obscure journal article in 1986 (online abstract from Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica). I did have worsened migraine at ovulation as well but it was most severe during my period, often requiring a several-day hospitalization, while ovulation “only” required an occasional ER visit.

Our planet’s biggest satellite, that great silver rock which illuminates the night sky and the imaginations of millions, creates (along with the sun) the ebb and flow of ocean tides. Like the Earth, our bodies are predominately water, and it does seem possible that the moon could likewise affect the seas inside each of us, creating more pressure or turbulence at the highest tide of the full moon, and a washing out or release of that pressure with the new moon. My body can feel it: the moon, swollen and round; the spring tide drawing the eager waves far into shore; my own complicated brain ready to burst. Outer space and inner space.

But this is all highly speculative and romantic, attributing poetic language to something we don’t yet fully understand, the connection of monthly severe migraine to the mysterious mythical magic of the moon. Perhaps I am a pain werewolf, howling hopelessly into the abyss, trying to make sense of the unexplainable. Maybe I should start calling my migraine “Luna” instead of “Medusa.”

What about you? Have you ever noticed you get a migraine at or near the full moon?

view references
  1. Rinkunas, Susan. "4 Strange Ways the Moon Might Affect Our Bodies," Time Inc.'s Health Magazine website, August 4 2014 news.health.com/2014/08/08/4/4-strange-ways-the-moon-might-affect-our-bodies/
  2. Sung Ping Law. "The Regulation of Menstrual Cycle and its Relationship to the Moon," Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, January 1986 Wiley Online Library onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3109/00016348609158228/abstract
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