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Causes of Migraine Headaches in Men

author image Doug Endel, D.C.
Doug Endel is a health and fitness writer and chiropractor who practices in Seattle a very specific form of chiropractic called Blair. He studied biomedical engineering while running track at the University of Cincinnati and then went to Palmer College of Chiropractic in Iowa where he got into longer distance running and triathlons.
Causes of Migraine Headaches in Men
Causes of Migraine Headaches in Men Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Although the exact cause of migraines and headaches is not well known, they all have a common anatomy and physiology. The brainstem and upper cervical spinal cord contain a region called the trigeminocervical nucleus. This area is controlled by the nerves that go to it, which include the Cranial Nerve V, Cranial Nerve VII, Cranial Nerve IX, Cranial Nerve X and the upper three cervical nerves. Any structure supplied by these areas is capable of causing headaches and migraines.

Migraines are most commonly divided into two types: with aura and without aura. Migraines with aura are characterized by a visual effect or other symptom 10 to 30 minutes before the migraine comes on. The visual effect commonly involves seeing flashes of lights or blurring of objects as well as floating objects in your visual field. A migraines without aura is the most common form of migraine reported. People report light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting accompanying the migraine. Oftentimes, mood swings or intense tiredness are a strong indication that this type of migraine is coming.

The cause and triggers of migraines in men can be summed up into three categories: structural, vascular and lifestyle.

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Structural Causes as Triggers of Migraines in Men

Let's face it, guys have a real knack for beating themselves up. This abuse can take its toll in relation to causing migraine headaches, especially if there is not a family history of it. Accidents or sudden jolts to the upper neck are known to cause the misalignment of the upper neck area resulting in structural problems that can lead to migraines.

Examples of these structural problems include disc degeneration at the C2/C3 vertebral levels resulting in pressure on the C1-C3 nerves. Whiplash, concussions, and a history of jolts to the upper neck may damage ligaments in the upper neck.

Vascular Causes as Triggers of Migraines in Men

Prolonged tension in the neck or nerves causes vasospasm in the neck and head that is thought to cause ischemia to those parts of the brain and head that those blood vessels supply. The contrasting contracting and flaccidity of these arteries causes the prodromal effect in migraines as well as the migraine pain itself.

These vascular changes are caused by several factors like changes to the nerves that suppy blood vessels to the neck and head, blockage of the Vertebral Arteries, blockage of the Carotid Arteries, stress of the trapezius muscles and muscles of the upper neck, and over exertion while exercising.

Lifestyle Causes as Triggers of Migraines in Men

Lifestyle factors contribute to many of the other triggers that cause migraines. These are also some of the factors that people have the most control over.

The most common lifestyle factors that people have control over are alcohol consumption, hormones (not as big of a factor for men as women), food that contains caffeine, food that contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), foods that contain nitrates (processed foods), hunger, lack of sleep and fatigue.

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  • N. Bogduk; Anatomy and Physiology of Headache; Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy; Vol. 49, No.10; 1995
  • Guyton & Hall; Textbook of Medical Physiology; 9th Edition; 1996
  • The Neurology Channel
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