Headache/Migraine and Constipation – Is there a Link?

Dear Pain Matters blog readers,

A Korean study found that 25% of young patients with ongoing headaches and migraines also had constipation that, when resolved, also resulted in improved symptoms concerning their headaches/migraines.

While young patients with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (constipation-predominant IBS; IBS-C) were excluded from this study, it is reported that 25%-50% of all IBS patients also suffered from persistent migraines or headaches.

Details of Study:

A total of 96 children (46 males, 50 females; aged from 3 to 17), who were treated for ongoing headaches/migraines and followed up for >100 days, were allocated into 2 groups:

  • Group A – Children (17 males, 7 females) with ongoing headaches/migraines who also had constipation, and whose headaches/migraines improved following treatment for constipation only (n=24; 25%).  Specifically, Group A included children with:
    • Tension-type headache (including probable tension-type headache) (n=16); and
    • Migraine (including probable migraine) (n=8),

and

  • Group B – Children (29 males, 43 females) whose headaches/migraines were not linked with constipation (n=72; 75%).

Summary:

The Korean study found that the headaches/migraines automatically improved in all young headache/migraine patients following resolution of constipation, where their constipation was linked with their headaches/migraines in the first place (n=24/96, or 25% of all young patients).

This suggests a possible link between headache/migraine and constipation in ~25% of young patients (Park et al, 2015).

This is a sobering revelation, and one that should not be ‘glossed-over’ nor overlooked.  Instead, research should explore whether constipation (including constipation in IBS patients) may be linked with chronic headaches/migraines in some patients.

As a starting point, clinicians are urged to always ask their headache/migraine patients whether they also have constipation.  

Sabina Walker

“Sedare dolorem divinum opus est”
“It is divine to alleviate pain”

Galen, 130-200 C.E.

REFERENCE:

Park M-N, Choi M-G, You SJ.

The relationship between primary headache and constipation in children and adolescents.

Korean Journal of Pediatrics. 2015;58(2):60-63.

doi:10.3345/kjp.2015.58.2.60.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4357773/

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