Types of Migraine Triggers

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 10

Trigger identification and management is integral to effective migraine management. Some triggers are avoidable, so knowing about them and avoiding them can result in fewer migraines. A complete listing of potential migraine triggers is quite extensive and often difficult to remember. Categorizing triggers into types is helpful in remembering and understanding them better.


Food and Beverage Migraine Triggers

Many foods and beverages can trigger migraines. Some people find that several or many of these irritate them. Other people find they have no food triggers. In a way, migraine food triggers are easier to deal with because they can be avoided once we identify them. An elimination diet is the easiest way to investigate these triggers. We have instructions and a free, downloadable workbook in Managing Migraine – Migraine Food Triggers.


Weather-Related Migraine Triggers

Weather conditions are a strong migraine trigger for many people. This trigger can take the form of barometric pressure changes, being outside in high temperatures, and being outside in low temperatures. These common triggers cause many migraineurs to refer to themselves as “human barometers” because they can always tell when weather changes are moving in by their migraine patterns.


Sleep-Related Migraine Triggers

Healthy sleep and good sleep hygiene are vital to people with migraines. Potential migraine triggers include too much sleep, too little sleep, poor quality sleep, disrupted sleep, and an irregular sleeping schedule. Migraineurs should get up and go to bed at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays. It’s also worth noting that our sleep can be a problem even when we think we’re sleeping well.


Light-Related Migraine Triggers

Not only can migraines cause us to be more sensitive to light, certain types of lighting can trigger migraines. The flicker of fluorescent lighting is a fairly common migraine trigger. Strobe lighting can trigger not only migraines, but seizures. Bright sunlight is a trigger for some people, and sunlight through the trees as we drive along the road can create a flickering that can be a trigger.


Hormonal Migraine Triggers

Hormonal fluctuations can definitely trigger migraines. Some women experience severe migraines during menstruation and see migraine patterns change during menopause. During pregnancy, some fortunate women experience fewer migraines. Reproductive hormones aren’t the only ones to consider. We also need to consider others, including thyroid hormones, cortisol, and even insulin.


Olfactory Migraine Triggers

Fragrances and odors are horrendous triggers for some migraineurs. These include perfumes, colognes, after shave, fragranced lotions, candles, potpourri, air fresheners, and other fragranced products. It also includes chemical odors from cleaning products, paints, and others. If something has a fragrance or odor, it can be a migraine trigger.


Migraine Triggers in Stressful Times

Stress can be a migraine trigger, but we do ourselves a disservice if we assume that stress itself is a trigger without eliminating other triggers that we may encounter during stressful times. These triggers include not drinking enough fluids, and becoming dehydrated; skipping meals, consuming more caffeine than usual. crying, and sleep deprivation or disruption. Most of these triggers are avoidable once we recognize them.


Headaches That Can Trigger Migraines

It seems a bit unusual until you stop and think about it, but there are other headache disorders that can trigger migraine attacks. Tension-type headaches can easily trigger migraine attacks if they’re not stopped quickly. Cervicogenic headaches can also trigger migraine attacks. With cervicogenic headaches, it’s important that the physical cause be addressed.


So Many Potential Migraine Triggers

There are many, many potential migraine triggers. Given that some are avoidable, it’s wise to determine what our triggers are. We have more information in: