Migraine: Why Me?

Neck Pain Treatment | Flow Osteopathy Mitcham
Let's take a dive into the facts and figures around migraine and genetics.

If you’re suffering from migraine I can only assume there is some mystery surrounding where they come from or why you get them.

The question is, is it something you just inherited from your parents or is it the result of your external environment?

Interestingly, the answer to this question can depend somewhat on the type of migraine you suffer from.


Migraine is more common than you think

Consider for a moment that the chances of getting migraine in your lifetime are currently 1 in 3 (1). As many as 5 million Australians are actively suffering from migraine. If you include tension type headache in this, the number grows to a staggering 12 million Australians (2).

There has been some work done to investigate whether or not genetics play a role in migraine.

A study from 1997 took 72 migraine sufferers and 72 people without migraine and interviewed over 500 of their direct relatives (3). They found that the family members of the migraineurs were 50% more likely to also get migraines.

The more severe the migraine was, the more more likely it was to be discovered in a family member.

Interestingly, if they suffered from migraine with aura there was a 4 fold increase in the likelihood of a family member also having migraine and only a 1.9 fold increase in people who had migraine without an aura.


Environmental Factors and Genetics

One large variable in this study is environmental factors. Some families share a lot of the same environmental factors including diet, stress and other lifestyle factors.

Genetic research for migraine aims to create more targeted treatments in the future

To account for this another study included the spouse of the migraineur in their results (4). Again an interesting difference was found between migraine with and without aura. The likelihood of migraine without aura was similar in the first degree relatives and the spouses (1.9 and 1.5 respectively), indicating that it is perhaps a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

On the other hand, migraine with aura was 4 times more likely in the first degree relatives, but showed no increased risk with the spouse. This perhaps could mean that migraine with aura has a far greater genetic component than migraine without aura.


Is there a gene we can target specifically for the treatment of migraine?

Scientists have looked to find if there is a particular gene that is responsible for migraines.

All but one type of migraine appear to be caused by small changes in a wide variety of genes. This as well as environmental factors probably accounts for the wide range of ways migraine can present (5).

Hopefully this research will continue to uncover more information and help us develop more targeted interventions for migraine depending on which genes are affected in a particular individual.


Flow Osteopathy are passionate about supporting our local community of Whitehorse, Mitcham, Blackburn, Nunawading, Ringwood, Heathmont, Forest Hill, Donvale, Box Hill and the surrounding suburbs.

Click here for information about how we can help in the treatment of headaches and migraine.

  1. Knut Hagen. The epidemiology of headache disorders: a face-to-face interview of participants in HUNT4. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2018 March; 19(25)
  2. Alexander, L. Migraine and Headache Australia. Prevelance and Cost of Headache. https://headacheaustralia.org.au/what-is-headache/prevalence-and-cost-of-headache/
  3. Stewart WF, Staffa J, Lipton RB, Ottman R. Familial risk of migraine: a population-based study. Ann Neurol 41: 166–172, 1997. [PubMed: 9029065]
  4. M B Russell, L Iselius, J Olesen. Migraine without aura and migraine with aura are inherited disorders. Cephalalgia. 1996 Aug;16(5):305-9
  5. Migraine genetics: An update. J. Haan MD, PhD. Current Pain and Headache Reports. volume 9, pages213–220(2005)
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