Do those with migraine have a different threshold of pain than those without migraine?
Studies have shown that those with migraine have lower thresholds of pain. This means that it takes less of a stimulus to cause pain versus someone who does not have migraine.
“... For those of us who have more frequent migraines, it is a fact that even between full-blown episodes, that they have a different ability to sense pain, and in fact it's that they're more sensitive. So, if we actually measure pain thresholds on the skin, for example, people with migraine have lower thresholds, so it takes less stimulus to cause pain. That's going to be most prominent during a migraine attack, but it does persist even between attacks.
If you ever actually do physiologic studies, measuring how much, for instance, light it takes to cause discomfort in someone with migraine, you know, it's going to take less than someone who does not have migraine.”
A lower threshold of pain means that it takes less of a stimulus to cause pain in an individual. It is important to note the difference between pain threshold and pain tolerance. Pain threshold is the point at which pain is felt and pain tolerance is how much pain a person can tolerate.
Todd Schwedt, MD
Professor of Neurology
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona
As a Professor of Neurology the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Todd Schwedt has seen thousands of migraine patients and evaluated a large number of scans of our hypersensitive brains. His research using advanced MRI techniques has been widely published. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Headache Society, is the Vice Chairman of the Headache and Facial Pain section of the American Academy of Neurology, is a member of the International Headache Society Classification Committee, and is an Associate editor of Headache, Cephalalgia and Pain Medicine journals.