Migraine Arsenal Essentials: Trigger Management

by Teri Robert Patient Advocate

One of the first and most essential weapons to add to our migraine arsenal is trigger identification and management. For many years, I lived with migraine disease without knowing about triggers. My great grandmother, grandfather, and mother all had migraines, but they never talked about triggers. For about the first 30 years that I went to doctors for my migraines, none of them ever mentioned triggers. Ever.

It wasn't until I was in my 30's, and my frequent and severe migraines drove me to doing my own migraine research that I learned about triggers. I was astounded, and I was angry with the doctors who had never explained triggers to me. I was angry because some of my triggers are avoidable, and knowing about them could have saved me from so many migraines. As many people do, I used to get up early for work during the week, then sleep in on weekends. There were many Saturdays that I woke with a "sinus headache," and lost the entire day to it. Now, I know two things about those days and "sinus headaches:"

  1. Those "sinus headaches" were really migraine attacks.

  2. They were triggered by sleeping in.

Our migraine diary is a priceless tool in helping to identify our triggers. There are some apps for keeping a diary, but I've yet to find one that I really like. You can download a free migraine diary workbook from our article, Your Migraine and Headache Diary.

Identifying foods that are migraine triggers can be a bit tricky because the migraine attack may not occur immediately. It can occur up to 48 hours after we ingest the trigger food or beverage. An elimination diet is the best way to determine if we have any food triggers. We also have a free, downloadable workbook for that in our article, Managing Migraine — Migraine Trigger Foods.

If you and your doctor haven't discussed migraine triggers, please make a note to have that discussion at your next appointment. Not all triggers are avoidable, but if we identify those we have that are avoidable, it can result in reducing our migraine frequency. Who wouldn't love that? Trigger identification and management is an essential element of migraine management, and it's definitely a valuable tool in our migraine arsenal.

More helpful articles:

Migraine Arsenal Essentials — An Effective Health Care Team

Common Migraine Triggers

Do We Need to Avoid Our Migraine Triggers?

27 Foods That Can Trigger Migraines

10 Common Triggers of Migraine (Infographic)

Teri Robert
Meet Our Writer
Teri Robert

Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation's Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society.