Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Icons representing the three wacky triggers as explained in the article.

3 Of My Wackiest Migraine Triggers

Over the years, I’ve become my own migraine detective. I do my best to follow the clues my body leaves in order to understand what works best to keep my migraines at bay. This is why I’m always on the lookout for migraine triggers.

Migraine triggers everywhere

Migraine triggers are everyday things that can set off migraines, like lack of sleep or not eating regularly. Some of my main triggers happen to be my ever-shifting hormonal cycle and trying to help my young son with his math homework. Sometimes, though, I get lucky and notice new, easy-to-spot triggers. They stand out due to their strangeness and quick influence over my head. Here are three of my wackiest migraine triggers to date.

1. Sitting Too Close In A Movie

My husband enjoys being in the movies and just sitting as close to the screen as possible. My sensitive eyes can’t seem to handle the strain of watching a movie the size f a 4-story building. The quick flickering of lights combined with all the sharp cuts of the mega-blockbuster set the scene for a massive migraine to strike. In order to enjoy the movie and not trigger a migraine, I have to move our date night back to the middle of the theater. This makes our time out together much more fun as it keeps me from vomiting in our popcorn.

2. Overheating

In the summer months of Los Angeles when the temperature easily climbs to 100 degrees or more, walking outside to check the mail is enough to trigger a migraine attack. My body is no longer built to withstand extreme heat, so my plan to become the oldest female astronaut to visit Mars is now moot. This migraine trigger has me declining summer BBQs and outside get-togethers unless they’re scheduled in the cooler hours of the evenings. So far, the cold doesn’t bother me anyway, so I’m thinking Antartica may be a good spot for a family vacation next summer.

3. Exercising

It’s been theorized that exercise can help reduce the frequency of migraines. When a person works out, endorphins are released, and this hormone is considered to be the body’s natural painkiller. When I work out, the only thing my body releases is pain in the form of a migraine. Before my migraines became chronic, I used to be fairly active, taking dance and yoga classes, but these days those workouts bring on a migraine as quickly as I can say Downward Dog. Today, taking a nice robust walk is the only type of physical activity my head can handle.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find all the triggers for my migraines. I believe sometimes I get a migraine just because I get a migraine. Still, if I can lessen my migraine pain by paying attention to my triggers, I’ll borrow my son’s magnifying glass and play detective a little longer.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • suni1956
    2 months ago

    All of the above. Flashing lights and loud sounds in a theater. Worst of all is lights coming toward me like happens in an IMAX show. Change in barometric pressure. A walk in the hot sun to the mail box. Anywhere without hat/visor and sunglasses. Wood smoke. Those cheap scents that they use especially the ones they put in the magazines. Ugh!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 months ago

    Hey there! Oh yes, those perfume scents in the magazines! They are so very potent! I’m the same way–can’t walk to the mailbox without my sunglasses especially on an extremely hot day. Sometimes I just let the mail pile up until the evening. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Kellsbells1
    2 months ago

    Flashing lights trigger my migraines…any color, but especially blue and red. I’ll either end up with an immediate, painful migraine or I’ll end up with more of a “silent” migraine and end up sick.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 months ago

    Hi there! The poster below just mentioned flashing lights as well! I love this thread because it allows us to learn that some triggers are common to us all! How interesting that blue and red are more of a trigger for you. I’m glad you know so that you’re able to avoid them if possible. Thanks for sharing! Best. 🙂

  • Alihat
    2 months ago

    I completely understand those triggers. Mine also include when the barometric pressure is changing, flashing lights and smoke of any kind and a really hot bath or shower. Thanks for being encouraging for me to remember what some of my triggers are just in case I can avoid them.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 months ago

    Hello! Thank you for your understanding and taking the time to write and share your own. Thanks for reminding me that smoke can also be one of mine too! Let’s hope we can avoid the ones we can for some pain free days. Best! 🙂

  • jevvv
    2 months ago

    Oh my! Yes these three are some of my “weird” triggers too. Frustrating aren’t they?

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 months ago

    Hi there! Yes, I find them to be very annoying– especially when I’m trying to have a lovely day outside or go to a movie I’ve been looking forward to. 🙂 Now, at least I know what they are so I can do my best to avoid them when I can. Thanks for sharing! I’m sorry to hear they’re your triggers too, but always interested to know that I share some of the same ones! Best to you!

  • ftwrkngmom
    3 months ago

    I am sorry to hear that heat is a trigger for others. However, I am happy to not be alone. This is one of the triggers that is the hardest for family and friends to understand. FYI – movies (if too close or if too much action), large flashing lights, scents, exercise, intimacy, crying, and stress are all triggers for me.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hello there! Thanks for taking the time to share your triggers! It’s so fascinating for me to learn that a lot of people with migraines also share the same triggers–and yes I too find that some of these triggers are a challenge for people without migraine to understand. Best to you! 🙂

  • Sandy S
    3 months ago

    I know my main top two are normal just wondering if anyone else has the sensitivity like me to smells. My main trigger’s are unfortunately being sensitive to smells all the time mainly perfume, washing powders, people vaping and the smell of shampoos and conditioners even cleaning products. Everyone cleans but everyone has to smell of a flowery chemical smell then the crystals which help your clothes smell for 2 weeks after as well and their homes and workplaces smell like this as well oh and of course the usual stress. Others also but too long a list to type all x

  • suni1956
    2 months ago

    Yes see above. Almost all perfumes are becoming triggers esp the cheap ones. Also cleaning agents like Lysol, almost any aerosol. I use mild scented soaps and laundry detergents and am using only Simply Green or Dawn to clean everything.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hi Sandy! Thanks for your question and I wanted to let you know, I know a lot of people in this community have mentioned that they’re also sensitive to odors. When I have a migraine strong scents make it worse, and my mother also suffers from migraines and cluster headaches and she can have no strong aromas anywhere near her because it’s a trigger for her–scented candles, lotions, shampoo, perfume, cleaning products etc. You are definitely not alone. Great questions and best to you! 🙂

  • thisisendless
    3 months ago

    It’s oatmeal for me. Or anything with anything oatmeal in it. It’s so bizarre because Oatmeal is like, the most benign substance on the planet.

  • suni1956
    2 months ago

    Wow!i could t figure out why I didn’t like oatmeal. Never thought of it being a trigger. I thought I didn’t like healthy food!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to read and share! How interesting! I’m so happy for you that you know oatmeal is one of your triggers so that you can avoid it! Best to you. 🙂

  • Stephen
    3 months ago

    Hi, Tonilyn. Heat is a given, even to me; yet, where I stay, it sometimes reaches 111 degrees F but no migraine. Humidity, together with heat, seems to be a major factor in triggering these monsters.
    I want to scream in Migrainese when people say exercise a migraine away. I tried it once and could not even do one lap without collapsing in pain (and I’m a regular jogger).
    My triggers are not regular, but immense stress features regularly. I’m slightly concerned about your first point. Have you had a doctor check out other possible causes for number one?
    My migraines, usually, strike without warning. I could get in my vehicle migraine-free, and before I start the ignition, it could be there and stay there for up to five days: no obvious reason.
    I’m saving up for a brain scan; there has to be something that’s not making sense up there.

  • suni1956
    2 months ago

    Exercise will not cure a migraine. Don’t know where that started. Since migraines are triggered by something, the only way to stop it is to reduce stimulation. Take medicine, close my eyes with an eye mask, clear my mind completely -this took years to learn how to do it. Only thing that works for me. Room has to be comfortable- temperature on the cool side.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hi Stephen. Thanks for responding and sharing your triggers! For me, it’s the dry heat that triggers and totally agree with the inability to “exercise a migraine away!” And thank you for your concern over my first trigger–everything checks out–just super sensitive to light and large images. It’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor when you feel the need to do so. Please keep us posted!

  • Jamie Stewart
    3 months ago

    These are a few of my triggers as well. The worst ones for me are crying or laughing too hard, I feel like those can’t always be avoided! So frustrating, hope you’re able to find more of your triggers soon.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hi Jamie! YES! Crying for me can sometimes trigger one too and then I’d try to not cry and get one anyway. 😉 Thank you for your support and glad to know I’m not alone in my triggers. Best to you!

  • bibliobiker
    3 months ago

    Cold air. Another is ceiling fans–something about the shadows they create as they whirl around or the air blowing on my face, I haven’t decided which.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hey there! Thanks for letting me know! I’m always interested to hear what triggers are for others! I know if I leave a warm house and go straight into chilling winter air that can sometimes trigger as well. Brrrr! Best to you! 🙂

  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    Wishing you the most migraine free days the detectivework leads to.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Thank you! And to you as well. 🙂

  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    Wacky? These are all triggers for me. The last three movies I attended lead to migraine regardell of seat. Extreme heat will do it (dry 115+ Humid 100+). And all cardio lasting more than 5min. Cardiologist told me to do burst training only. Wacky? Normal for me. Once I could handle these things. Now all triggers.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hello there! I’m so sorry to hear to hear that the last three movies you attended gave you migraines! Not to mention the extreme heat situations and the exercise triggers as well. I too could handle them all once without a problem, but now my head has become sensitive to them all. Thank you for sharing your experience–one reason I love this forum is finding out that I’m not alone in my migraine issues. Here’s to more movie watching at home in cooler temperatures. 🙂 Best to you!

  • Jean-Pierre
    3 months ago

    Hi Tonilyn Hornung !

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about triggers!

    I totally understand and agree that exercising can become a trigger to Hyper migraines. I had the same conclusion too, 14 years ago.

    I say I had cause, I have no more.
    And the beauty in what I am about to share to you is this: the muscular system (which makes us DO all the movements and activities we dare to try) is adaptable and malleable. It also either encourages blood to flow (the foundation of the capacity of re-generation of the human body), when healthy; or restrict the flow of the fluids of the body, when sick.

    In 2005, mine was sick; result, I had migraines 4 times a week, for almost a full year. I have no more cause I made changes in my life in early 2006 (I had migraines only 3 times for half a day ever since).

    What happened? I changed job then. A job that forced me to having a totally different task to ask my muscular system to do. From standing, walking around a room and bending over to help clients as a Chiropractor Assistant (the job where I had migraines) to becoming a Mover, lifting furniture and heavy boxes all day, walking up and down the stairs 5 days a week; having regular exercising and lots of constant blood flow all over my body.

    Result: from 4 migraines days a week back to nothing in less than a month.
    I also became obsessive into stretchings. Doing as well self-massage and some pressure points I had developed on my own, listening to my body.
    A little secret here: i was previously trained as a massage therapist and yoga teacher in early 2000’s, but not worked in those fields yet then (too introvert or shy I guess).

    So yes, yoga or other types of training can become triggers for migraines. But these physical activities are not directly responsible; not the root cause. What is is most likely to trigger migraines are the unhealthy muscles in our body.
    What makes me conclude on that statement? SIMPLE: Not only Have I had the relief for migraines, but I had all the different sorts of pain one can feel in a human body; carpal tunnels, shoulders, shoulder blades, mid, low and upper back pain, wrists, forearms, knees, ankles, stiff neck, tight jaw and grinding teeth…. name them all, I had them all.
    BUT, the positive side is that I got rid of them all on my own.

    At 55, pain free although very active, a 8 year-old-son, I have never felt better physically; and capable (won a spartan race this last summer).

    It’s been more than 8 years now that I teach Muscular Hygiene and 11 years that I Practice as a Professional Massage Therapist; helping 1000’s of peoples to heal, self-relieve, getting results where no one had succeeded for them before. For sorts of pain.

    One is for sure, amidst all the pain possible, MIGRAINES is the worst of all!
    That is why, since I felt them, I want to find a way to help peoples.
    Not I that I want to promote myself here. Just do not know where to start beside the one on one when peoples come to my treatment room.
    I would love to teach more peoples how to stop pain by educating them how to. Self relief and prevention.

    I BELIEVE ALL breakthrough is made through KNOWLEDGE; knowledge is always backed by Common Sense.
    That is what I do: I teach the common science (sense) of the Human Body. That is how I got rid of all the types of pain I had; including migraines.

    Wonderfull life to you.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hi there! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story! I love hearing that you were able to find a way to reduce your migraine frequency and find a way out of other painful conditions such as carpal tunnel and teeth grinding etc.. And now you pass on that information to help others step out of their pain! What great work! Wonderful life to you as well! 🙂

  • Ingeborg Kolodney
    3 months ago

    I admire you courage to change your professional life. Best wishes.
    I am not that lucky. However, I find some relief swimming which I do even when I feel very tired after a bad long migraine. I do it slowly according to the little energy I have left.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 months ago

    Hello Ingeborg! I’m so pleased to hear that you’ve been able to find some relief in swimming and are even able to find the energy after a bad migraine. It took me a long time to figure out that walking worked for me, and I too have to proceed slowly and listen to how my body happens to be feeling that day. Some days I can walk longer than others and some not at all, but I take comfort knowing there’s at least one form of exercise I can indulge in these days. Thanks for sharing! Best to you!

  • Poll