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Migraine Triggers – A checklist

One of the most challenging aspects of living with migraine is determining what your migraine triggers are – and when you can avoid them.

This infographic presents a snapshot of some of the most common migraine triggers.

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Comments

  • PaulaJan
    5 years ago

    Every full moon causes a migraine for me, as does fatigue, anxiety and intense crying, worry about anything on earth, confrontation with others, frustration (mostly with the medical community), and fear. Yes, I take medications for depression and anxiety and I see a counselor. The migraines just keep on comin’.

  • cohiba96
    5 years ago

    I have had chronic migraines for close to 35 years now and I have a trigger that I have never heard anyone speak of and ALL of my doctors (and there are, and have been, many) seem to look at me like a curious dog cocking its head to one side whenever I mention it. However, it is the ONE solid, continual, definitive trigger among all listed on any questionaire, ever that I can name. And its a write in.
    My clothing.
    That’s right. The type of shirt I’m wearing can bring on a migraine, and I’m talking about a major, master-blaster, want-to-die, put-me-down, drugs don’t work, worst one I’ve ever had, three to four days of misery full blown migraine. Because of a piece of clothing.
    I can actually CHANGE my shirt and ABORT a migraine, even without medication. Amazing, isn’t it. My doctors are still looking at me like I have three heads. NONE of them actually hold this in credibility I firmly believe, because this is not proven scientifically for them. However, I mark it consistently on my Migraine diary whenever it happens, and it happens frequently. Oh, I may have to change two or three times to find the RIGHT shirt that is comfortable and not putting any pressure on my neck or shoulder area, but if I’m diligent enough, I can succeed. I will even walk around in a camisole in the middle of January if that’s what it takes.
    So, I am a homebody, stuck mainly in my house to be able to remain comfortable and within reach of my wardrobe changes when and if necessary. All my clothing must be void of any tags that may brush against my skin, stick or poke me. They get removed immediately after the first wash. I cannot wear items that have “heavy” necklines or shoulders, such as cowl neck sweaters, hoodies, coats with hoods, any jewelry such as necklaces, very few scarves, no “racer back” or “t-back” sport type bras or work-out tops or swimsuits, only certain types of collared shirts and nothing with a “heavy” collar such as a denim jacket or vest. So, I miss quite a few of the trends and fashion that happens in the world due to my trigger. It makes shopping extremely difficult.
    I believe my Neurology Migraine specialist and I (he is one of the very few who tries to understand my discussion of this trigger) have come to an agreement that what is actually happening is there is a certain nerve running from my shoulder up through my neck to my temple and into my brain that is aggravated by certain pressures put upon it. When that pressure is relieved, the pain stops.
    He has even gone as far as developing a special medication cream for me to use to “deaden” the nerve area (and gave me a sample), however my insurance company does not cover it and it is extremely expensive. So I have been forced to find over-the-counter substitutes that are not as potent,
    but work to some degree.
    So, yes, crying, stress, sleep disturbances, not eating properly, smoke and other odors, flashing lights are also other triggers for me, but no one ever seems to list my NUMBER ONE trigger ~ CLOTHING.

  • PaulaJan
    5 years ago

    I am the same way with jewelry. I especially can’t wear a necklace that touches my neck …. if it’s under a collar, sometimes I’m okay. I also have to wear fairly small stud earrings. Big earrings “pull”.

  • Steph
    5 years ago

    I cannot wear turtle necks. Cowelnecks are pretty bad for me too. I also have a problem with bathing suit straps that hook at the neck. I know the feeling of doctors looking at you like your crazy. I always knew oranges and orange juice gave me a terrible migraine. The first time I told a doctor oranges were triggers was about 25 years ago and he didn’t believe me. They are now on almost all trigger lists.
    I feel better after I’ve cried. I think I’m going to get a migraine when I’m crying but I usually don’t

  • afinkel
    5 years ago

    Has anyone noticed if black liquorice is a migraine trigger? I’ve just read that glycyrrhizin (natural liquorice) can trigger migraines. I love black liquorice and after not having any for a number of weeks, I had a handful yesterday. Within a very short period of time, I had a very bad headache, not exactly a migraine but felt very ill nonetheless. I have never ever thought liquorice could be a problem. It could be just a coincidence. I’d love to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience.
    Thanks.
    Angie

  • MahtaMouse
    6 years ago

    Several of the above are triggers for me, including crying, stress, too little or too much sleep and one not mentioned… bending over (head lower than torso). Repeated bending and standing while gardening will trigger a migraine. Sunshine is another big trigger… especially the bright spring sunshine strobing through the new spring leaves on trees or bouncing off the lake surface. I have to wear dark sunglasses outside all year round, even during the darker winter months here in the Pacific NW. Another biggie is hunger. I don’t feel hunger and often forget to eat. A sudden nagging bad headache will remind me that I should have eaten 3 hours ago, but if I’m not in a position to stop and eat, it’ll turn into a raging migraine. I once got a double whammy… went passed my headache warning and walked out of the night and into a brightly lit restaurant and was instantly blind-sided by a massive just-shoot-me-and-get-it-over-with migraine… lights, smells, sounds, nausea and the shakes – BAD shakes – from the pain. Had to go back outside and lay writhing in the car while the people I was with ate dinner and I prayed that I didn’t have to jump out and puke like a drunken homeless person in the parking lot.

  • MahtaMouse
    5 years ago

    And here I thought I was weirdly alone in this. I’ve always had low BP but after gaining weight it went up to 102/61. Now after losing weight it’s back down to 96/60. I also take a diuretic for migraine management which I recently found out is also prescribed for high BP, so a double whammy I guess. But, like my mom, I tend to weed standing up and bent over… a real migraine trigger 🙁

  • reinepapillon
    5 years ago

    Hi Katie, that is very reassuring to know it might not always be hard for me to do yoga – I feel horrible not doing it as often as I would like! Do you mind asking me what type of meds your doctor changed? I also have very low blood pressure and my doctor is talking about changing my preventatives (as they haven’t been very effective lately for some reason), so if he’s changing them anyway, maybe that will help with the yoga too. …I’ll take a positive where I can get one! 😉

  • reinepapillon
    5 years ago

    Bending over is trigger for me too! I do a lot of yoga and always have but recently I can’t stay upside down for more than a few seconds without the beginnings of a migraine starting. 🙁 My yoga teacher has found alternatives for me but it’s very frustrating.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Reinepapillon,
    I also had a hard time with yoga and getting dizzy or causing a Migraine. I realized that one medication was making my low blood pressure even worse so any type of yoga was difficult. I eventually came off the medication for other reasons and now I am back in the yoga groove. Be very careful, no one wants you to pass out!!

  • amj916
    6 years ago

    Windshield wipers is a big one for me (along with a few that are listed), especially if I’ve already been triggered. I reach the point of being over sensitized with driving in the rain and the windshield wipers are going at full speed or they are scraping the windshield in a relentless fashion – right over the edge! I cannot use them! I get faint and nervous to the point where I can’t visually focus or think. I use a solution on my windshield to drive without using the wipers. – I love you all! I hate feeling alone and misunderstood. Thank you for sharing!

  • valerielong
    6 years ago

    I just want to say “THANK YOU” for listing “crying” as a lifestyle trigger. All of my life, crying has been a trigger for me, but as a child, I was accused of just wanting attention or sympathy (since crying usually only came after being disciplined for something). Now that I’m an adult, people just assume I’m talking about the plugged sinuses and such that you get when you cry. No – it’s a migraine. When people try to tell me otherwise, I just look at them and say “I’ve had migraines for 30+ years and I DO know the difference between a migraine and a sinus headache. These are migraines, complete with nausea, light and sound sensitivity, etc.”. However, this is the first time I’ve ever seen “crying” listed on a list of common triggers. So, thank you for including it and validating what I’ve known my entire life!

  • deborahvan-der-harst
    6 years ago

    Menstrual Cycle is missing from this list unless comorbidities is supposed to cover it. That is my biggest trigger.

  • Shani
    6 years ago

    Some days I swear it’s breathing! UGH! But we all have THOSE moments……

  • valerielong
    6 years ago

    Shani, your answer made me chuckle because that’s usually the answer I give people who ask me what my triggers are. Either “breathing” or “living”. And if they ask me to explain then I explain how there are many environmental triggers so breathing can trigger it if there’s strong smells or something, food triggers so eating isn’t fun, etc.

    Reading on this site, I realize that I’m blessed not to have them more than I do, but even still – they can go away now.

  • jipcsoul40
    6 years ago

    I have noticed that solar flares have a devastating effect on my migraines. I have tracked the last 5 migraines and each has been in association with a solar flare. The severity of the migraine in corr
    elation to the severity of the flare. I assume this is similar to the barimetric pressure changes in that it is a radiation or energy change. I have spoken with other women in my family and they to have similar reactions.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    6 years ago

    Very interesting. Where can you find information on solar flare activity?

  • healthagy
    7 years ago

    Great information! Thanks for letting us share this with our audience!

  • arden
    7 years ago

    In keeping a journal of migraines I see that they are occurring about every three days, regardless of how careful of triggers I am. I think these are new cycles and not rebound from the triptans, but could be wrong. Does anyone else experience these regular cycles? Terri tells us that triptans wear off in 24 hours so it cant be need for more drug(ugh).

  • HealthyLif.com
    7 years ago

    Recently I narrowed my headache trigger down to sodium/disodium phosphates. I found that sodium phosphates are food additives used in so many foods,and beverages. I also found that lead, heavy metals (10 parts per million), and arsenic are used in the manufacturing of disodium/sodium phosphates/phosphates ….for manufacturing product stats and a complete list of these dangerous chemicals used in processed foods adding sodium/disodium phosphates ** Comment edited by moderator to comply with forum policies **

  • kathyhorton-bishop
    7 years ago

    this is so true and the triggers are different for everyone….I stay home a lot cause it’s easier than going out in public and being exposed….a home I control the temperature the noise level the smells etc… it’s just easier….venturing out almost always results in a migraine…so I do my best to make home the most comfortable place it can be..soothing lighting..comfortable surroundings…chemical free

  • Varvara
    5 years ago

    I also am home-bound most of the time. I have my bedroom set up to block all outside light. I’ve always walked to and from work (it’s less than a mile one way); however, even that sometimes terrifies me because pre-storm pressures will trigger an immediate migraine that will drop me to my knees or cause abdominal distress. I used to be very physically active – hiking, biking, kayaking, etc… but now I’m scared that I’ll get somewhere, have a migraine and not be able to get back home because of disorientation, brain fogginess, dizziness, inability to move, abdominal cramping/diarrhea, extreme nausea (walking or driving). I used to get severe motion sickness when riding in a moving vehicle and, upon further research and asking my neurologist, I learned that neuroscientists now believe there may be a correlation between having motion sickness (particularly as a child; though, I’ve had it my entire life) and getting migraines. Now, I get all the great benefits of motion sickness without even moving.

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