It’s probably the last thing you want to hear when you’re fighting through the pain and nausea of your migraine: it’s good for you. But that’s exactly what one researcher is proposing, that migraines might actually be a protective mechanism for the brain, and that utilizing the techniques of migraines–although hopefully without the pain–could revolutionize treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.

Migraine and sleep apnea

Protecting the Brain from Oxidative Stress

In a theoretical article published in the journal Headache, a professor described migraines as a “homeostatic, neuroprotective response to brain oxidative stress.” In other words, when the brain detects damaging oxidative stress, it shuts down some of its systems to keep brain cells alive.

Oxidative stress occurs when highly reactive oxygen ions are loose in the body. These free radicals will aggressively bond to many different compounds in and around the cell, causing them to be damaged so they won’t function properly. This includes DNA, and there is significant research linking high levels of oxidative stress to increased risk of cancer.

The professor notes that the mechanisms of a migraine have many complex interactions, to the point where identifying the true cause of a migraine has been very challenging. But the complex interweaving of effects argues, he says for them being a systemic response to a stimulus, such as oxidative stress.

In addition, he says that many of the things that occur in migraines are actually ways for the brain to reduce oxidative stress, including the release of antioxidant enzymes and reducing the production of oxidants. Others seem to be designed to protect brain cells from damage, and even regrow brain tissue by releasing growth factors in brain.

What about the Symptoms?

If the migraine is intended to protect the brain, why does it have so many negative effects, such as pain? In response to this, the researcher says that the symptoms are just typical markers of the body’s response to dangerous stimuli. Sensations such as pain and sensitivity to light and sound are comparable to sensations that keep us looking out for danger in other circumstances.

How Would Treatment Change?

So, what if this professor’s theories get proven? How will it change treatment for migraines? He says it will lead us away from just trying to block the symptoms of migraine and move more toward addressing the true cause, which, he says, is oxidative stress.

It is true that people who get migraines tend to have higher levels of oxidative stress, and that stimuli that increase oxidative stress can trigger migraines. If it turns out that reducing oxidative stress is the true key to controlling migraines, then we will have a powerful approach for helping people to stay migraine-free.

But until this theory gets proven and allows for reliable migraine prevention, we have to work with the treatment options available with us. At the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado, we know that TMJ treatment remains a powerful anti-migraine treatment. If you aren’t currently getting good results with your migraine, we can help. Please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment with one of our Denver TMJ dentists.