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Fibro Playmate of the Month – The Migraine Connection

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Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent and 7th most disabling disease in the world. (MigraineDisease.com), and “fibromyalgia affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and an estimated 3-6% of the world population.” (NFCPA). June is migraine awareness month, so let’s explore the many connections these two disorders share.


The International Classification of Headache Disorders, known as ICHD-3, classifies headache as

  1. primary – headaches that occur by themselves,
  2. secondary, and
  3. painful cranial neuropathies, other facial pains and other headaches.

Here we will review the relationship between fibromyalgia (FM) and two types of primary headaches:  migraine and tension-type.

*Secondary headache can be a symptom of serious disease or injury and could be life threatening. So, if a headache comes on suddenly and/or is associated with new symptoms, seek immediate help.


  • Migraine is a genetic neurological disease.
  • Migraine is the leading cause of disability among all neurological disorders.
  • Migraine can strike at any age — from preverbal children to the elderly.
  • A Migraine is not a headache. Headache can be one symptom of a Migraine attack.

Excerpt from “Fact Sheet” at MigraineDisease.com


A 2017 study found that FM was significantly higher in patients with chronic migraine, compared to tension-type headache. Another study looked at FM and episodic migraine and found patients with migraine and FM reported lower quality of life scores prompting investigators to suggest careful assessment of those with both. And, others found the same:  migraine headaches commonly overlap with FM and can “significantly increase our cumulative disease burden.”

The connection is more than casual, and there’s more.


Did you know irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), temporomandibular disorder (TMD/TMJ), and restless leg syndrome (RLS) also share a connection with migraine?

A study presented at a 2016 American Academy of Neurology meeting showed people with migraine were twice as likely to have IBS as people with tension-type headache. They also found IBS, migraine, and tension headache had at least one gene that differed from the genes of the healthy participants.

A retrospective study in 2017 concluded the influence of headache on TMJ/TMD symptoms is consistent with previous literature showing a close relationship between the two.

Did you know that RLS is twice as prevalent and is more severe in migraine patients? And, the association of RLS and migraine affects sleep quality, something those of us with FM know very well.


Many factors affect headache, and while some can’t be changed, we can manage better. For instance, when a storm is coming, I don’t push myself. If tree and grass pollen or mold levels are high, I stay inside. When pre-symptoms are present, I hydrate and put on dark glasses.

We should consider the perpetuating factors of all these conditions to minimize the influence they have over each other. It is believed that IBS, TMJ/TMD, and RLS, like migraine and FM, are mediated by the central nervous system, called centralization. But we can’t forget that myofascial trigger points play a role in headache and they are a peripheral pain generator to fibromyalgia.


It is possible for us to have more than one type of headache and treatments are different. Medications and adjunctive therapies, such as trigger point therapy, electrotherapy, implantable devices, Botox® for chronic migraine, and more are dependent on the type of headache and our individual response. Like fibromyalgia, sleep disorder may play a role, and sometimes, treatment for one thing helps another. Finding a headache specialist that understands this relationship is very important; The American Migraine Foundation has a search tool. I have found helpful tips for choosing the right headache specialist at MigraineDisease.com.

“When I heard there was a possibility for bringing awareness to what exactly a migraine was and what we could do to help prevent them, I was like, ‘I’m in.’” Jennifer Morrison, actress (CBS News)

Let’s reduce the stigma of migraine and fibromyalgia by sharing our stories.

Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth.  She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four-book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com.


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