Cardiovascular Responses to Pain and Stress in Migraine


Address all correspondence to Ms. Hilary Hassinger, 288 Highland Avenue, Wadsworth, OH 44281.


Objective.—The purpose of this study was to investigate how migrainous subjects and controls differ in their cardiovascular reactivity and recovery to a cognitive and an acute pain laboratory stressor.

Background.—Prior research suggests that individuals subject to migraine may respond physiologically to pain and stress differently than controls.

Methods.—Fifty-two women (26 with migraine and 26 controls) participated in a single laboratory session. Multiple cardiovascular responses to a cognitive (mental arithmetic) and an acute pain (cold pressor task) stressor were recorded with cardiac impedance methods. The cardiovascular responses measured included systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac output, stroke volume, and total peripheral resistance.

Results.—Results indicated that the migrainous participants displayed different cardiovascular recovery patterns for total peripheral resistance, cardiac output, and stroke volume following the termination of the mental arithmetic task.

Conclusions.—These results support the hypothesis that individuals with migraine respond physiologically to stress differently than control individuals.