When Taking a Shower Hurts: Migraine and Depression

Taking a shower can be pretty painful for some people during a migraine attack. And I’m not necessarily referring to migraine pain. I’m talking about allodynia.

When taking a shower HURTS!Allodynia – in this case, cutaneous allodynia, is a strange discomfort and/or pain on the skin, for no normal reason. The slightest touch can cause this pain – wearing jewellery, even standing outside on a windy day – or taking a shower.

It’s a fairly common symptom of migraine, affecting about 2/3 of us, and more common in women (although I have had the dubious pleasure myself).

Sometimes, allodynia is a warning sign, coming before the headache phase of the migraine attack. Repeated episodes of allodynia may also signal a future worsening of migraine, from episodic to chronic.

Researchers in Korea studied 332 patients to find out what other issues may be comorbid with allodynia – what did patients with allodynia have in common?

They found that fewer Korean patients seemed to suffer from allodynia than expected, but there was still a large enough group to draw some tentative conclusions.

As with previous studies, they confirmed that the symptom was most common in women. But they also found that allodynia frequently went along with major depressive disorder. Chronic migraine was also present in many patients, as well as sensitivity to light.

Depression continues to be a tricky thing to understand when it comes to migraine. Although certainly migraine symptoms may make you depressed, there seems to be something else going on that makes the depression worse than expected in some people. The commonality of allodynia and depression may give us further clues into the connection.

As we continue to study, be sure to mention as many symptoms as you can to your doctor. Depression, allodynia, and other symptoms and conditions may help her treat you better. Although some medications may better help patients with allodynia, it’s important to treat migraine – and depression – as a whole, in order to get rid of this possibly disabling symptom.

For more on cutaneous allodynia, check out My Hair Hurts! Migraine and Allodynia.

Also see the study abstract here: Cutaneous Allodynia and Its Risk Factors in Korean Patients with Migraine: A Survey of Two Tertiary Care Hospitals. Another in-depth article on allodynia: Cutaneous Allodynia in the Migraine Population

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2 comments… add one
  • Dan Nov 12, 2016

    For a small portion of us, allodynia is actually caused by triptans. The decision to abort a migraine may force a choice between the pain and discomfort of a migraine and the searing pain of allodynia. For me, taking a triptan can prevent me from eating or drinking, and definitely stop me from showering or potentially even washing my hands.

    For those people who have triptan-induced cutaneous allodynia, you should talk to your doctor about switching triptans. Rizatriptan is available in generic form and has less peripheral activity than sumatriptan. Naratriptan is also a promising option. You should also consider asking your doctor about Midrin which is as effective as triptans for aborting mild to moderate migraines, per research comparing it to sumatriptan. It doesn’t have the same serotonin activity, so it is usually worth trying to hit a migraine with midrin first if it’s mild.

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