This is Keck Medicine of USC’s answer to ‘Why do women get more headaches than men?’on Quora.
No, it’s not that women are more sensitive to pain than men; there’s a biological reason behind the difference.
Throughout their lives, women are more likely than men to experience headaches. In particular, women are three times as likely as men to experience migraines, those nasty debilitating headaches that typically occur on one-side of the head and increase light and noise sensitivity, according to the U.S. National Medical Library.
The reason why women get more headaches than men can be explained in one word: hormones. Changes in estrogen levels can act as a trigger to a protective response from the brain.
“The migraine generator flips on, which communicates directly to the fifth nerve, also referred to as the migraine nerve, which is basically the freeway of pain on the face and head,” said Soma Sahai-Srivastava, MD, professor of clinical neurology at Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the Headache and Neuralgia Center at USC Neurosciences of Keck Medicine of USC.
“Once this is flipped on, it spills toxic, inflammatory chemicals on the roadmap of the brain. Then the blood vessels start acting out, which produces throbbing; it’s like an orchestra on the surface of the brain.”
There are four occasions that bring on the most dramatic hormone fluctuations.
1. Before a period
Many women report having migraines right before they get their period and during the first few days, when estrogen levels dip. If this sounds like you, talk to your doctor about preventative medications so you don’t experience migraines in the first place. You may also want to consider taking birth control pills to help regulate the dip in your hormones.