Into Circulation: The 411 on Vascular Migraines

Vascular migraine is a term that refers to headache pain caused by the swelling of blood vessels in the brain. When the blood vessels in the head swell or become inflamed, it can lead to a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, including a throbbing sensation and intense pain. But it doesn’t stop at head pain. Migraine often has a whole-body effect, causing problems beyond getting your pain under control.

The purpose of this article is to take a closer look at vascular migraines and how they affect the body as a whole. You have likely heard the term “vascular headache,” which is no longer recognized by the International Headache Society. Today, the medical community characterizes vascular headaches as migraines, cluster headaches, and toxic headaches. Many still use the familiar term to describe the head pain related to blood vessel changes in the back and neck.

What is a Vascular Migraine?

Many different factors play into a migraineur’s experience. From specific foods and vitamin or hormone deficiencies to high blood pressure and stress, migraine triggers are plentiful.

Thanks to research, we understand how changes to brain activity can lead to a migraine attack, which brings me to looking more closely at vasculature. If the blood vessels in the brain dilate or change in size, such as with swelling or constricting, it can lead to the painful throb of a vascular migraine.

Another cause of vascular migraines is hyperemia, which is an increased amount of blood in the vessels supplying an organ. This type of migraine pain often increases with physical activity.

Understanding the Different Types of Vascular Migraines

Migraines are universally complex.  They’re difficult to diagnose, and treatments that work for you may not work for anyone else. When talking migraines, I like to do what I can to clarify the terms to avoid (hopefully) any confusion. 

The following types of headaches are often referred to as vascular migraines:

●       Cluster headache

●       Classic migraine

●       Hemiplegic migraine

●       Ophthalmoplegic migraine

●       Migraine with headache

●       Basilar artery migraine

●       Benign exertional headache

●       Toxic headache

How do you know the difference?  Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with a vascular migraine:

●       Vomiting

●       Changes to vision

●       Nausea

●       Dizziness or lightheadedness

●       Photophobia

●       Aura

Look familiar?  That’s likely because migraine symptoms aren’t so much unique in name as in the varying degrees migraineurs experience them. 

Treat Vascular Migraines Effectively

Even though vascular migraines can affect anyone, women are more likely to come face-to-face with this type of migraine than men. Any changes in brain activity can be triggering and kickstart an attack.

In some cases, these headaches may occur following an accident or trauma to the back or neck. Spinal manipulation or chiropractic care may serve as an effective treatment for migraine symptoms caused by this kind of injury. Others suffer from cluster headaches (a common type of vascular migraine) caused by changes to the nerves, histamine release, or circadian rhythms in sleepMen are more likely to get cluster headaches than women and have found relief with the following:

●       Avoiding common triggers like alcohol and tobacco

●       Reducing stress

●       Nerve stimulation

●       Physical therapy

●       Dietary changes

●       Biofeedback training

●       Lifestyle changes

●       Ice packs

●       Sleeping for seven to eight hours a night

As with any migraine, treatment will vary depending on the person. Migraine isn’t just about a bad headache; it can tear into your entire system, especially those of a vascular nature, as any physiological changes to the blood vessels can have a domino effect on the rest of the body.


Medical Net – What is Vascular Headache?

Upper Cervical Awareness – Migraines -Vascular or Neurological Origins? Are Both Involved?

Healthline – What Are Vascular Headaches?