Migraine and the Full Moon

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.”


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?

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

Comments

View Comments (6)
  • Mr FBP
    2 years ago

    One thought on the continuation of menstrual migraine post-hysterectomy. Has anyone done any research on whether there is a “phantom limb” type response to hysterectomy? The brain could continue acting as if it’s there for some time after the operation.

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator author
    2 years ago

    I love this idea! I actually think the brain continues to produce some of the hormones, but in a way that isn’t all that different from phantom limb syndrome.

  • tlocker
    2 years ago

    It’s hard to know; we tend to ‘see’ a full moon (even if not full) several days of a month, and if we notice it only with migraine we commit an attribution error. Like when you get a new car and suddenly see how many just like it are on the road. AND the week of a ‘full’ moon (or pre-menses) is also 1/4 of a month or 20-25% of the time. Still, the moon moves the ocean. Lightening within a specific has some correlation with increase in migraine, even among those who didn’t know it was storming. So not all “in our head”.

  • Mr FBP
    2 years ago

    The Moon moves the Ocean twice a day, every day. The main difference at full moon is the intense light. The surface has a quality that makes the “full on” reflection of the sun way more intense than when hit at a shallower angle. It’s not just the area that’s lit, but every square foot of it is more intensely lit than at other times of the month. It affects background light even on cloudy nights. That is the only “scientific” difference I can think of between the full moon and the other days of the month, when the moon is there but we don’t see it.

    There is a good correlation between background light and sleep quality, which is added to due to the increase in the number of devices we have in our homes.

  • Mr FBP
    2 years ago

    I’ve already commented on Hollybee’s similar post from last week and I won’t repeat myself.

    Its here: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/full-moons/

    But just to say I looked over my migraine diary for the last few months and couldn’t find any correlation between moon and migraine. I would probably have noticed it as I’ve had migraine sonce childhood and I’m also an amateur astronomer.

    It would be interesting to see if men and women differ in this, as the menstual cycle clearly has a big impact on women’s experience of migraine, and I’ve not noticed any similar cyclic effect in mens experience (apart from the weekend migraine effect).

    Hollybee and I have posted past and forthcoming Full Moon dates of anyone wants to check their diaries.

    From a scientific integrity standpoint, backchecking against past potential triggers that you were not aware of would be more valuable as their is lesso potential influence of present knowledge on the past. While waiting and worrying about the forthcoming full moon may well give you a migraine!

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi! I love the fact that Holly and I wrote articles connecting migraines and the moon at exactly the same time. Your comment reminded me that I should update / edit my article to mention this and link to hers, since of course it didn’t exist yet at the time I was writing. I certainly agree that anticipating a migraine based on unavoidable triggers is anxiety-provoking, but also, it can help one to plan. Thank you for your thoughts!

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