Category Archives: Research

Link Between Ultra-Flexibility and Migraines Discovered

Picture of a Woman With a Migraine

Migraines: Not your ordinary headache ...

“Hi, Annie. I’m Migraine. Nice to Meet You …”

I never had migraines until last summer. After a particularly stressful series of events one day, this blinding, throbbing pain began tormenting me.

I took three Excedrin, crawled into bed, turned out the lights, and covered my forehead and eyes with a cold wet cloth. A few hours later, the pain had faded enough to allow me to get vertical again. It happened two more times last fall, each incident separated by a few months.

Then last week, my eleven-year-old daughter, in obvious distress, began reciting an all-too-familiar list of symptoms—her head hurt, she felt sick to her stomach, light hurt her eyes, and sounds were too loud.

Before these personal experiences, I didn’t really give much thought to migraines as a source of chronic pain, I confess. Now, I’m in tiger mama mode, researching juvenile migraines and scheduling a visit to my daughter’s doctor.

(There’s another post for another day: why do we race into overdrive when it’s our family members in pain, but we often put up with our own pain?)

Stretchy Body, Stretchy Blood Vessels?

And that’s how I found this piece from “Ultra flexible? You’re at triple risk for migraines” (Reuters). It reports on a recent study performed by Dr. Vincent Martin, professor at Ohio’s University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, which showed that women with joint hypermobility syndrome are up to three times more likely to experience migraines than their less flexible counterparts.

Joint hypermobility syndrome isn’t really a pain condition—it normally requires no treatment. (A more severe form called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) But it can be an indicator of what Martin calls “stacks” of other medical conditions that do cause pain, such as fibromyalgia, chronic neck pain, and sleep disturbances—and, apparently, migraines.

Martin’s working hypothesis was that JHMS, marked by “extra-stretchy” collagen in joints, could also be an indicator for increased risk of migraines. This is because the collagen (a crucial component in body structures like joints and blood vessels) should be overly elastic throughout the body. And if that’s true, the collagen in the blood vessels would also be overly elastic—and that, researchers already believed, is associated with chronic migraines.

Martin’s Findings: 75% Increased Risk of Migraines in Hyper-Flexible Women

Martin expected an increased risk but the actual results surprised him. The rate of migraine occurrence in the control group was 43%, but in the test group, the rate shot up to 75%. After factoring in age and medication usage, this figure translated to three times the risk for migraines for women with joint hypermobility syndrome, who also experienced migraines more than twice as often, with an increased occurrence of aura.

Researchers had long suspected a link between JHMS and migraines. Dr. Blair Grubb, a professor at the University of Toledo Medical Center, said “It’s one of those things where everybody knew it, and somebody just got around to publishing it.”

Of course, as we know, that “publishing” part is pretty critical in order to support further studies and advances in treatment.

Migraines and Euston Arch

Do you have migraines? Tell me what you do to make yourself feel better in the comments!

I’m especially interested in hearing from moms of young children who experience migraines. I got a few great tips from Twitter the other day (I’ll be asking Princess’s doc about Maxalt, and we’re looking into nutritional changes as well—thanks, tweeps!) but information is power, Dolls, so let’s share!

Canada Doesn’t Fund Fibro Research – But Won’t Take Fibromite’s Donated Blood?

OK, what’s up with this, Canada?

A lot of that stems from the fact that fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities aren’t recognized as chronic illnesses, Bested notes, and consequently receive no funding for research. Nor do they figure well in resident training.“At the government level, they’re invisible.”

Yet last month, Canada became the first country in the world to ban blood donations from people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in the wake of groundbreaking study published in the prestigious journal Science, advocates point out. U.S. researchers discovered a human retrovirus, XMRV, that could be linked to CFS. The move was a precautionary measure as it’s feared the virus, which closely resembles the AIDS virus, could be transmitted through blood transfusions. Australia followed suite a few weeks later.

“We can’t get funding because we’re not considered a chronic illness, and yet they won’t take our blood,” Saraiva says.
“We’re dealing with powerful, wealthy insurance companies who have a bottom line,” Samosas says. “A lot of people have had horrendous cases in court with CPP and fight for years.

Clinical depression often blamed before diagnosis of fibromyalgia, Healthzone (Canada)

Seriously, what gives? How about we drag you kicking and screaming into the 21st century? With all the talk about how the Canadian system is a model national health care policy, can we not live in the Middle Ages here?

I seriously doubt the U.S. is much better in its level of funding of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain research but here’s the thing: chronic pain costs money. A lot of it. Add up the doctor’s bills, the prescription costs, the lost time and productivity for businesses whose employees suffer from it … you’re looking at a big number.

Fibro and chronic pain conditions are not a “lifestyle choice.They’re debilitating diseases, and it’s time to stop treating those of us with these conditions as if we’re lying liars who lie and just want to sit on our asses all day eating bon-bons. I don’t know a single fibro sufferer who wouldn’t give her or his right arm to be able to work and live like they used to again.

So shut up, already, and be nicer to us. It could be you in this position one day.

To Sleep, Perchance To … Lose Weight? Awesome.

You’ve undoubtedly seen the headlines lately. FMS Global News (a highly recommended news site for fibro patients) shares the skinny in this post (attributed to WebMD):

Lose weight while you sleep. It sounds like something you would hear on a late night infomercial — just around the time you are reaching for that bag of cookies because, well, you cannot sleep.

But as wild as the idea sounds, substantial medical evidence suggests some fascinating links between sleep and weight. Researchers say that how much you sleep and quite possibility the quality of your sleep may silently orchestrate a symphony of hormonal activity tied to your appetite.

“One of the more interesting ideas that has been smoldering and is now gaining momentum is the appreciation of the fact that sleep and sleep disruption do remarkable things to the body — including possibly influencing our weight,” says David Rapoport, MD, associate professor and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

I highly recommend reading the entire post, because the article covers three different experts’ take on the connection between sleep and weight.

Probably the worst of the symptoms for me, personally — at least in an emotional sense — is the impact fibromyalgia has on sleep. When was the last time I slept through the night without waking up from the pain or at the very least tossing and turning? I don’t honestly remember. My new “normal” is waking up several times at night, sometimes not getting to sleep for four or more hours after I turn in, sometimes getting to sleep quickly enough but then waking up at 3 in the morning and not being able to sleep again until the next night.

The impact on my pain levels from this sleep havoc is bad enough, but emotionally it’s even worse. It just feels rotten, creepy, miserable, scary, and just plain weird to be the only one in the world awake at 3 AM (or so it seems). Well, me and the kids from Paranormal State , I guess, who are busily engaged in their own version of Dead Time.

And is it any wonder that I’ve struggled mightily with my weight the entire time I’ve been dealing with this disease? No. No, it is not.

So what exactly is the connection between sleep and weight? It’s thought to be related to two hormones — leptin and ghrelin. The first hormone, leptin, increases your feeling of satiety after you eat. Ghrelin, in turn, stimulates the appetite and makes you hungrier. So, when you lose sleep, leptin goes down and ghrelin goes up. Effect? You get hungrier, but you don’t feel full. Talk about double jeopardy.

There may also be a link between sleep apnea (breathing difficulties during sleep) and being overweight. The article goes into more detail with this potential link, as well as other possible ramifications of the no-sleep cycle that fibro causes.

It’s not just fibro either — any chronic pain condition can be the cause of insomnia. Although it’s obvious more research needs to be done, it looks like there’s enough information there to make sleep an even bigger priority for us all. Without proper, adequate rest, none of us are going to feel better, and too many of us are struggling with the excess weight which can just exacerbate the pain levels. Sleep loss isn’t some cute punchline to a late-night joke. It’s serious stuff.

How do you deal with insomnia? Personally, I give up early. I’ll lay there for maybe 30 minutes but no more. Then, I get up and get busy on something for at least 30 minutes. Usually I can get back to bed after a few hours. But it’s not enough to keep me out of a sleep deficit, so there are occasional naps each week.

What about you?