Dear Pain Matters blog readers,
Oxytocin is a natural hormone made by the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary gland. Nicknamed the ‘love hormone’, or the ‘cuddle hormone’, oxytocin helps induce labor (during childbirth), as well as promote lactation, maternal care, and couple bonding.
The word oxytocin is derived from Greek for quick birth (‘oksys’ = quick and ‘tokos’ = birth).
Oxytocin for Migraine and Headache?
Did you know that oxycontin may also relieve pain in some chronic migraine and headache sufferers?
Nasal-administration of oxytocin bypasses the Blood-Brain Barrier and directly activates the oxytocin receptors in the trigeminal nerve. These oxytocin receptors are increased during inflammation.
In a study involving 40 chronic migraine sufferers, half were given a nasal oxytocin agent called ‘TI-001’, while the other half were given placebo. This study reported that 4 hours after nasal oxytocin (‘TI-001’) treatment, 27% of the migraine sufferers had nil pain.
Interestingly, nasal oxytocin (‘TI-001’) is most effective in the presence of pain-evoking inflammation.
‘TI-001’ is now being developed for chronic and long-lasting headaches, migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, and other chronic facial and head pains.
Oxytocin’s Effects on the Autonomic Nervous System
A study found that intranasal oxytocin spray was able to increase heart rate variability in healthy men during rest (compared to placebo) (Kemp et al, 2012).
A study showed that oxytocin enhances parasympathetic activity without affecting the sympathetic nervous system (Gamer and Büchel, 2012).
In summary, nasal oxytocin leads to:
(1) Activation of the trigeminal nerve and reduced pain in some migraine sufferers; and
(2) Increased heart rate variability due to increased parasympathetic (vagal) activity.
For more information, please listen to Psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s 14-minute speech on stress and oxytocin’s role in modulating the stress response. Note: While pain is not discussed, oxytocin is specifically discussed by Kelly McGonigal from 7:50 on:
How to make stress your friend
Here’s to oxytocin…..that may help reduce pain and suffering caused by chronic migraines, headaches, etc!
OXYTOCIN’S POSSIBLE PAIN-RELIEVING EFFECTS ON CHRONIC MIGRAINES AND HEADACHES
(1) Megan Talkington; New Possibilities for Pain Treatment
7th Annual Pain Therapeutics Summit showcases therapies in development (20 Feb 2014).
(2) Yeomans et al; Abstract P59 Therapeutic Effect of Nasal Oxytocin in Chronic Migraine: Dependence on Cytokines (in ‘Abstracts of the 2013 International Headache Congress’); Cephalalgia (June 2013); 33(8 Supplement); pages 58-59.
(3) Yeomans; In the Pipeline: Nasal Oxytocin Explored for Migraines- Can migraine patients trust the “trust drug” to heal their pain? Practical Neurology (May/June 2013); 29-31.
(4) Phillips et al; Relief of acute migraine headache with intravenous oxytocin: report of two cases. J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother (2006); 20(3):25-8.
(5) Wang et al; The interaction between the oxytocin and pain modulation in headache patients. Neuropeptides (April 2013);47(2):93-7.
OXYTOCIN’S EFFECTS ON THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM AND INFLAMMATION
(6) Kemp, Quintana, Kuhnert, Griffiths, Hickie, Guastalla; Oxytocin Increases Heart Rate Variability in Humans at Rest: Implications for Social Approach-Related Motivation and Capacity for Social Engagement; PLOS One (28 August, 2012); 7(8); e44014 (pages 1-6).
(7) Gamer, Büchel; Oxytocin specifically enhances valence-dependent parasympathetic responses. Psychoneuroendocrinology (Jan 2012);37(1):87-93.
doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.05.007. Epub 2011 Jun 8.
(8) Szeto et al; Oxytocin administration attenuates atherosclerosis and inflammation in Watanabe Heritable Hyperlipidemic rabbits; Psychoneuroendocrinology (May 2013); 38(5):685-93.