Migraine triggers are abundant and unique among migraine patients, but often are difficult to track and determine. From diet to weather to stress, triggers are far and wide and most of us would much prefer to live without them. While that’s not easily done, or even possible in some cases, there can be ways to lessen the impact of triggers or figure out how to dodge them.
Because we are all different individuals with migraines as distinctive as fingerprints, no two of us will experience the same triggers exactly alike. It’s important that we all acknowledge this as fact, but also helpful that we share our knowledge with each other.
In this collaborative blog, we have compiled anecdotes of our migraine triggers. Maybe you already knew about some, maybe you yourself suffer with some, and maybe you’ve never even heard of some of these at all. Our goal is to always be open and encouraging with each other so that perhaps even one migraineur out there can get the support they need.
“For me my most common triggers are environmental: weather changes, allergies, and strong perfumes. I’m also bothered by loud, or high pitched sounds. I feel like I’m lucky in a sense, as I have very few food triggers: cabbage, and purple onions.”
“I have had migraines for 13 years now. Heading into the 1st month of year 14. Here’s what I have to say about migraine triggers. I’m a martial artist. Adrenaline seems to help. A stick to the head does not. That’s a trigger. My others are boring, sunlight, loud sounds, smells, red wine, oversleeping, not sleeping enough, sleeping in the wrong position, emotional stress, and people asking if I know what causes my migraines.”
“My migraine triggers vary a lot. I think the biggest trigger for me seems to vestibular input. The majority of my migraines are vertiginous and render me immobile. As such, any journey by plane (as the air pressure messes with my vestibular sense), by train over long distances, or any time I put significant strain only my head and neck (e.g. incorrect posture or heavy backpack)I always end up with a migraine.)
Other influences have included intense emotional events (high stress periods), underlying illness (eg cold), particular foods (any bananas). I have recently begun to notice a trend whereabouts midway through my cycle is when I tend to have my migraines too.”
– Elizabeth W.
“My migraine triggers tend to fall into two categories, those I can’t control and those I can. Menstrual cycles, strong light (natural or artificial), changes in atmospheric pressure (approaching snow storms especially), and stress are all migraine triggers that I can’t directly control. Lack of sleep, irregular eating, dehydration, and stress are all migraine triggers that I watch, because they lie within my control. Notice stress is in both categories. Stress can’t be avoided in life but, with work, it can often be managed.”
“Among many other things— certain foods, chemical smells, dehydration, flashing lights to name a few— my most predictable migraine triggers are a lack of sleep, anxiety and barometric pressure changes. If a storm is coming, my head starts feeling it hours earlier, and if I don’t sleep well I am pretty much promised that the next day will be painful. This can lead to a vicious cycle where I’m up with painsomnia (a term used to describe the struggle of being unable to sleep due to pain) during a weather-related migraine attack, which makes me very anxious about how my lack of sleep will affect my pain— and the anxiety then causes further pain. It’s a balancing act and can be very difficult to manage.”
“I know for me that my triggers for migraines are lack of sleep, staring at screens for too long, loud environments, and certain foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and very dark chocolate. Temperature change I also find is a big trigger for me especially when it gets really cold!”
– Elizabeth N.
“I don’t have many migraine triggers, but the ones I do have are debilitating. The worst one I face is weather, and that is usually something I cannot do anything about. It’s something that leaves me feeling completely defeated in the wake of a migraine. Changes in barometric pressure (which comes with storms, typically) are almost always a culprit, as well as the subtle changes in seasons. Humidity, high heat, and full moons are also issues.
Aside from weather, alcohol brings me down as well. I really don’t drink at all due to this, and luckily I don’t miss it. Other than that, I do not experience any other dietary triggers. I kept a food diary for a long time to see if I could pinpoint anything in my diet, especially dairy or gluten, but I discovered nothing.
Additionally, stress can be a big one for me. Keeping my stress levels low is critical in keeping my pain at “normal” levels. I manage my stress through mindfulness techniques and taking lots of regular breaks in my work day. I also work from home, which helps me control my environment as well as possible.
Other minor migraine triggers for me include light, sound, and odor sensitivity, dehydration, or disruptions in my sleep schedule. I try to maintain these as well as I can through earbuds/earplugs/sunglasses, drinking plenty of water throughout my day, and keeping a consistent sleep schedule. I also used to experience severe hormonal migraines but now that my GYN helped me achieve medically supressed menstruation, I can say I happily do not have those at all anymore”
“I have five main migraine triggers that I actively try to prevent and avoid: strong smells, loud noises, certain foods, stress, and weather fluctuations. If I had to number my triggers from most triggering to least, strong smells is definitely number one.
Especially smelly foods, perfumes/colognes, candles, incense, etc. are all things I actively avoid. No amount of preventative medications can overcome a migraine if strong smells are present. Avoidance is my first line of defense, however, if I am suddenly hit with a wall of cigarette smoke, a coworker’s perfume, or a smelly meal, I put on a Vogmask to help filter out the majority of the smells. I find my Vogmasks very helpful and recommend them to any migraineur prone to scent triggers.
Weather fluctuations such as a change in the barometric pressure, thunderstorms, or unexpected rain showers are number two. Towards the end of my senior year of high school, it rained every single day for almost an entire month straight. I suffered a great deal during this time. As I cannot control the weather (wouldn’t that be great!) there is sadly nothing I can do to combat this trigger prophylactically. I can only take rescue meds and pray.
My personal food triggers and stress are tied for third. Not every migraine sufferer finds they have food triggers, but I have multiple. Nightshades such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and spices from nightshades, particularly paprika, are very triggering for me. Strawberries is another odd one. I actively avoid these foods as well as smelling foods with these ingredients as they can be very harmful to me. As far as stress goes, I think most migraine patients find stress to be a huge trigger. Stress that leads me to cry? Migraine. Stress that frustrates me? Migraine. Stress that angers or otherwise upsets me? You guessed it; migraine.
Lastly, loud noises are another of my main migraine triggers. I have a pair of noise reducing headphones from Amazon that I use often. They can be found here. They are not 100% noise reducing, however, I really recommend them as they are very cost effective and come in a variety of colors! I have even put ear plugs in and then the headphones on before for maximum noise cancellation.”