Migraine and Headache 'Betters' - Trigger Management
Have you and your doctor discussed your Migraine triggers? The first Migraine I remember happened when I was six-years-old. For the next 41 years, doctors in and near my home town treated my Migraines. Then, my Migraines got so bad that they controlled my life. Doctors had no answers, so I hit the Internet looking for information and went to my first Migraine specialist.
The first time I EVER knew that Migraines have triggers was when I started my online research. At that time, I'd seen many doctors, including one who called herself a "Migraine specialist," but none of them ever even mentioned triggers.
Looking back, I have to wonder what all of those doctors were thinking. Why didn't any of them even mention triggers? Why do some people still report that their doctors have never mentioned triggers? Not only is this an outrageous oversight, it's failed medical care.
Avoidable Migraine triggers:
We all want to reduce our Migraines as much as possible. To this end, it's logical to know what our triggers are, especially since some of them may be avoidable. Wouldn't you like to avoid as many Migraines as possible? Here are some potentially avoidable Migraine triggers:
- Dehydration. Being even a little dehydrated can be a Migraine trigger for some people. For more on this, see Dehydration – an Avoidable Migraine Trigger.
- Temperatures - too hot, too cold. Many Migraineurs report that getting too hot is a strong Migraine trigger. Some report that cold temperatures are a trigger. And going back and forth between high and low temperatures, such as going in and out of air conditioning, is a trigger for some. This can't always be avoided, but for those who are impacted by this trigger, it can sometimes be avoided.
- Irregular Schedules. Many Migraineurs need to have regular meal and sleep schedules because deviating from them can trigger a Migraine.
- Foods. We don't all have food triggers, but for those who do, those trigger foods can bring on a Migraine up to 72 hours after they're consumed. Learn how to see if you have food triggers and download a free workbook from Managing Migraine – Migraine Trigger Foods.
- Sleep Issues. Too much sleep, too little sleep, disrupted sleep, an irregular sleep schedule, and poor quality sleep can all be strong Migraine triggers. Waking with a Migraine is often a sign that a sleep issue was the trigger. Even those of us who think we're sleeping well can have poor quality sleep. You can find more information about this in Migraines, Headaches, and Sleep.
- Lighting. Some lighting is a potential Migraine trigger - fluorescent lighting, strobe lighting, very bright sunlight. Ophthalmologists report that wearing sunglasses indoors can make photophobia worse and even lead to eye damage. There are special Migraine glasses available from TheraSpecs and AxonOptics that are helpful for some Migraineurs.
- Stress. There's still some controversy about whether stress itself is a Migraine trigger, but I hate to see anyone accept that stress is a trigger without at least trying to see if they encounter triggers during stressful times that they either don't encounter at other times or they're only triggers when the body is stressed. The International Headache Society has removed stress from their list of Migraine triggers and put it on their list of exacerbating factors -- things that make us more susceptible to our triggers. I'd have sworn stress was a trigger for me until I kept a very detailed diary for a few months. More information in Is Stress a Migraine Trigger? I hope you'll thoroughly investigate this as I think we do ourselves a real disservice by thinking stress is a trigger for us and not looking closely for other triggers during stressful times.
Identifying Migraine triggers:
Obviously, the first step to avoiding as many triggers as possible is identifying our triggers. This can take some time and patience, but it's totally worthwhile. The best way to start is to keep a detailed Migraine diary. You can find more information in keeping a diary and a free downloadable diary work book from Your Migraine and Headache Diary.
If you don't know if any foods and beverages are triggers for you, the best way to find out is through an elimination diet. This entails removing common trigger foods and beverages from your diet, then adding them back in one at a time. Once again, we have more information for you, as well as a free, downloadable workbook. Check out Managing Migraine Trigger Foods.
Summary and comments:
Identifying our triggers is beyond important. It's vital. I've been able to avoid countless Migraines since I learned my triggers. Not all of mine are avoidable, but I do have some that are:
- irregular sleep schedule,
- not sleeping well,
- bright sunlight,
- very bright indoor lighting,
- strobe lighting, and
- being too warm.
If your doctor hasn't mentioned Migraine triggers, and you don't know what yours are, ask your doctor for advice and help in identifying and managing them. Any doctor worthy of being a part of our health care team will gladly assist us with this. If your doctor can't or won't, quite bluntly, it's time for a new doctor. If your Migraines are especially problematic, it may well be time to find a good Migraine specialist. It's important to know that neurologists aren't necessarily Migraine specialists, and Migraine specialists aren't necessarily neurologists. To understand this better, see Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special. If you're looking for a specialist, a good place to start is the "Find a Health Care Professional" widget on the ACHE web site.
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© Teri Robert, 2014
Last updated February 17, 2014.