Why Menopause Can Be a Real Headache

By Jennifer Upton

Menopause is life-changing in many ways.

One of the more unpleasant symptoms is the onset of frequent headaches.

While sufferers of monthly menstrual headaches may find relief, for others, headaches and menopause frequently coexist.


There’s nothing worse than getting a headache at the wrong time.

Imagine being out for an evening with a group of friends you’ve not seen for a while.

The sound of their laughter contorts from a source of joy into a hellscape of overwhelming sound.

The lights in the restaurant seem brighter than usual.

You can’t concentrate on any of the multiple conversations taking place around you, so you fall quiet.

When your food arrives, you find you’ve lost your appetite to the vague nausea accompanying the now steady pulse pounding away like a jackhammer on the left side of your head.

This isn’t a “normal” headache.

It’s a migraine.

You retreat to the bathroom, rummage through your bag for some ibuprofen and swallow two with a fistful of tap water.

You fix your hair in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’ll be okay in a few minutes.”

A few minutes comes and goes.

A half an hour later, you realize what you really need is to lie down in a quiet, dark place.

You politely excuse yourself from what they later described as an “epic” evening.

But headaches don’t just ruin an evening out.


Headaches can affect:

  • Concentration
  • Work performance
  • Intimacy
  • Parenting duties
  • Sociability

The two main types of headaches experienced during perimenopause and menopause are tension headaches and migraines.

Tension Headache symptoms:

  • Dull pain (mild to moderate) that comes on slowly
  • Pain all around the head in a band or pain on both sides simultaneously
  • Tightness in the neck and/or jaw area
  • Tightness/tenderness in the shoulders
  • Tightness/tenderness in the scalp

Migraine symptoms:

  • Severe pain on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea
  • Forgetfulness
  • Seeing auras of light around objects
  • Exhaustion
  • Dizziness
  • Can last up to three days

According to research, hormones such as estrogen, play a significant role in the onset of migraines.

Estrogen levels can fluctuate wildly during perimenopause and fall throughout menopause.

Because of these biological phases, women have migraines almost twice as frequently as men.


Some headaches may indicate a significant underlying condition, thus they should be swiftly investigated.

Any of the following symptoms ought to be reported to a medical professional:

  • Occurrence of a headache that is “first” or “the worst”
  • Headache that becomes worse with time
  • Abrupt or sudden headache onset
  • A headache that keeps you awake
  • A headache that is accompanied by a rash or a high fever
  • A headache that accompanies muscle weakness, along with confusion
  • Accompanying headache with unexpected weight loss
  • A new type of headache that is distinct from all others
  • A headache that occurs immediately after an injury or accident
  • A sudden headache that occurs with symptoms of anaphylaxis following a bee sting or consumption of a particular food

It’s important to keep a symptom diary.

After a few weeks, take the diary to your physician.

The mySysters app will help you keep track of your headaches along with any other symptoms you might be experiencing.


There is no cure for a migraine or tension headache.

But, once your doctor has reached a diagnosis and ruled out other possible triggers for your headaches, they will discuss possible treatments to manage your symptoms.

  • Hormone therapy (HRT or HT) is most successful in treating hormonal headaches when administered in gel or patches as these keep the estrogen levels in the blood more consistent over time.
  • For migraines, your doctor can prescribe one of several medications (both preventive and abortive) currently available.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications such as paracetamol, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen frequently mixed with caffeine
  • Prescription pain medication and triptans. A triptan can successfully treat the discomfort of episodic tension-type headaches and migraines in persons who get both types of headaches. Narcotics, often known as opioids, are rarely utilized because of their negative effects and risk for addiction
  • Acupuncture
  • Lie down in a quiet, dark place with a cold compress or eye mask
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Take a daily multi-vitamin to ensure adequate nutrition
  • Limit alcohol
  • Limit foods high in sodium and histamine (fermented foods, cheese, wine, cured meats)
  • Some people swear by ginger or peppermint tea but there are other varieties that might also help
  • Stretch your neck and shoulders throughout your day

Key to surviving the perimenopause or menopause headache is the understanding of those around you.

Open and honest communication with your doctor, friends and family are crucial when dealing with chronic pain.

The people around might not grasp fully why you might not be as keen to accept invites or why you left that “epic” ladies’ night early.

Be kind to yourself and others will follow.

mySysters is an app for women in perimenopause and menopause. Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day named mySysters the Best App for Women in Perimenopause and a Must Have App for Women.

The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn