Signals That Go Both Ways
At Missouri State University, researchers looking at orofacial pain (pain in the mouth and face) focused on calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), an inflammatory protein. They found that CGRP, released by an irritated trigeminal nerve, can also make the trigeminal nerve more susceptible to irritation.
CGRP has recently gained significant attention for what seems to be a key role in the process of migraines. This protein seems to set off the chain reaction of inflammation that results in crippling pain. In fact, CGRP inhibitors are the latest, most promising class of migraine medications.
But researchers have found that spinal CGRP levels are important, too. It turns out that the levels of CGRP in your spine can make your trigeminal nerve more sensitive, which then increases your risk of migraines.
With this type of bidirectional signaling going on, it’s no wonder that many people experience migraines repeatedly, as each migraine “primes the pump” for future migraine attacks. Meanwhile, the spinal cord can serve to conduct elevated CGRP levels throughout the body, causing other painful inflammatory conditions.