More than 25 million Italians suffer from headaches, with a prevalence of women over men (57% against 43%).

Feminine headache is often linked to hormonal imbalances typical of the days before menstrual cycle and during menstrual days. According to a survey, 4.4 million Italians suffer from so-called “cycle headaches”.

We talk about this form of headache with Dr. Elena Zannoni, gynecologist and Referent for Conservative and Endoscopic Surgery department at Humanitas.


What is the “cycle headache”?

Cycle headache, called catamenial headache, typically starts a couple of days before the cycle and lasts for up to two to three days during the cycle and can be very annoying for the woman, with repercussions on daily life.

Catamenial headache is mainly due to the physiological decline in estrogen (female hormones) in the days before the cycle. This leads to a series of neuroendocrine consequences that mainly translate into a vasodilatory mechanism at the cerebral level, with the triggering of the pain symptom.

Headache symptomatology can then be associated with other symptoms (nausea, irritability, decreased mood, difficulty in concentration, lumbar pain) typical of the larger syndrome known as premenstrual syndrome.


What to do against “cycle” headache?

From a pharmacological point of view, painkillers/anti-inflammatory agents are used in combination with any anti-nausea drugs. It is also important to associate a supplement such as magnesium (a mineral salt that counteracts some painful syndromes) in the days prior to the cycle or during the cycle itself.

Lifestyle also plays a key role: to lead a regular life, eat healthy food, reduce alcohol and coffee intake, perform constant physical activity, sleep regularly and trying to keep stress away, can help relieve symptoms.

If the headache is constant and very strong on cycle days, it is advisable to consult a neurology specialist. In this case, it is important to keep an accurate diary of headache attacks, to help the doctor understand and thus better treat those who are affected by this disorder.