Migraines, acid reflux, pain. Can they trigger each?
Possible causes of symptoms in 3 mins

Q. Is it possible for acid reflux to trigger migraine?

Answered by  
Dr. Ghulam Fareed
and medically reviewed by   iCliniq medical review  team.


Professional Bio: Dr. Ghulam Fareed is a renowned Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist with four years of clinical experience. He completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Jinnah Medical and Dental... 

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This is a premium question & answer published on Dec 14, 2022 and last reviewed on: Oct 16, 2023
Patient's Query

Hello doctor,

Is it possible for laryngopharyngeal reflux to cause migraines that hurt the eyes, neck, and shoulders? I get these migraines frequently, and they flare up in association with symptoms of acid reflux, so I suspect one of these things is causing the other. Although, I have never had heartburn, just the lump in the throat, the sour taste of acid in my mouth, and some postnasal drip.

These have been happening for about nine months. The ENT put me on Omeprazole and Famotidine but also said that he did not think acid reflux had anything to do with my head. That was a few months back, and yet no improvement. The chiropractor thinks the head could be causing stomach issues. Had a barium swallow test done that showed a very slight sliding hiatal hernia and a very mild episode of reflux. Had a CT scan of my sinuses and skull base, which came out clear.

I never had an issue with this before. The symptoms began with some mild tinnitus on the same day after I got the first COVID vaccine. And from there, it got worse, and I started to get headaches and acid reflux.

Kindly help.

Thank you.

Answered by  Dr. Ghulam Fareed


Welcome to icliniq.com.

I have reviewed your query and understand your concern.

The lump in the throat, postal nasal drip, and small hiatal hernia can be due to gastroesophageal reflux disease. This can be treated with a few lifestyle modifications, such as:

  1. Do not fill your stomach while having any meal; always leave three to five bolus spaces in the stomach.
  2. Have some kind of physical activity after each meal.
  3. Take dinner two to three hours before bedtime.
  4. Sleep with the head at an elevated position of about 25 to 30 degrees so that the food pipe is elevated than the stomach while sleeping, preventing acid reflux due to the anti-gravity effect.

The headache should be properly evaluated, and if it is a migraine, I would suggest the following:

Consult your specialist doctor, talk with them, and take medications with their consent.

  1. Tablet Propranolol (beta blockers) is a medicine used for migraine prevention.

There may be some remote relationship between migraines with reflux symptoms, but migraine has a huge spectrum of different symptoms. But categorically labeling one because of the other is less likely, and these seem to be two issues that should be addressed differently.

Kindly revert for more queries.

Thank you.

Patient's Query

Hello doctor,

Thank you for your reply.

I have been following all of the GERD strategies you mentioned ever since the doctor first diagnosed it about five months ago. I eat in small portions, my bed is elevated on the head end, and I follow the diet strictly. So, it caused me to lose a ton of weight, and now I am 5 foot 10 and weigh about 140 pounds. But things are still not getting better. One day, I will feel great with absolutely zero symptoms at all. But then, the next day, everything will flare up together. The migraine will happen, the lump in the throat will happen, the acid taste in my mouth, and my neck and shoulders will hurt, and these flare-up episodes usually last for about 12 hours before they subside. I think that these are somehow related to other as one happens, then the other will also occur.

Kindly help.

Thank you.

Answered by  Dr. Ghulam Fareed


Welcome back to icliniq.com.

The above two conditions can co-exist and be triggered by the same stimulus. Usually, there is no direct relationship between reflux with headache, but as you mentioned, both occur almost always simultaneously in your case, and you feel like one is triggering the other. Another important point is the episodic nature of your symptoms; some days are better, and others are fully symptomatic. In this case, try to figure out stress factors that worsen your case. I would not suggest following a very strict diet if you are losing weight because, at your age, this sort of strict diet limitation is not recommended. Your nutritional status, followed by your immunity, will be more compromised.

Another important point I would like to highlight is your sensitive personality. Sensitive people are more prone to such conditions and worsening of symptoms, especially after some stressful situation. For example, feeling a lump in the throat without difficulty swallowing food is known as Globus hystericus, which is again more common with sensitive people. Therefore, you should avoid unnecessary stress, try to take some medications for migraine prevention, not follow a strict diet compromising your health further, and just give yourself some time to recover.

I hope this helps.

Thank you.

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