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Autoimmune Disorders and Migraines

There is growing evidence that headaches appear with almost all autoimmune disorders. Migraines could be the consequence of disease in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and therefore have a neurovascular factor. For instance, in multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammation in the central nervous system causes degeneration of myelin, the insulator around each neuron, leading to neurological dysfunction and disability. People with MS also often have reduced cerebral blood flow and breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from substances that could harm it in the blood. 


Neurovascular migraines start in the tissue of the brain when erratic nerve signals are fired off and travel through the nervous system along the cheekbones, jawline, and behind the eyes. These signals cause the main sensory nerve in the face to release inflammatory substances that inflame the membranes covering the brain.  The pain from this inflammation feeds back to the brain causing a vicious cycle that worsens the problem.


Chinese medicine explains the persistence of inflammation and turbid fluids in the body from such diseases as the result of blood deficiency. Because the blood is not rich enough in nutrients and qi (cellular energy), it is not able to efficiently flush out the inflammation. In addition, the vascular component of migraines is typically compounded by musculoskeletal tension. Blood vessels that supply the brain reduce the amount of oxygen to the brain when tension is high. Weak circulation and deficient blood combine to increase the severity of headaches and other related symptoms. 


Acupuncture and other treatments in Chinese medicine can be used to release muscular tension, improve circulation, and ultimately move inflammatory substances out of the body to strengthen the blood and alleviate autoimmune symptoms. 


Other common autoimmune diseases that correlate with migraines include Celiac disease, endometriosis, Hashimotos, ulcerative colitis, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. 


Are you struggling with an autoimmune disease? Reach out for a free consultation or to make an appointment today!


Biscetti, L., De Vanna, G., Cresta, E., Corbelli, I., Gaetani, L., Cupini, L. M., Calabresi, P., & Sarchielli, P. (2021). Headache and immunological/autoimmune disorders: a comprehensive review of available epidemiological evidence with insights on potential underlying mechanisms. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12974-021-02229-5


Cashion, J. M., Young, K. M., & Sutherland, B. A. (2023). How does neurovascular unit dysfunction contribute to multiple sclerosis?. Neurobiology of disease, 178, 106028. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nbd.2023.106028


Tian, D., Zhao, X., Ning, Z., Gong, Z., Wu, J., & Wang, X. (2023). Migraine and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Heliyon, 9(8), e18430. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e18430

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1 Comment


Wow, this could be why I’ve suffered with migraines for so long, not drinking enough water and endometriosis…just more confirmation for me to drink more water-to flush out inflammation! Thank you for sharing!

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