Common Migraine Headache Triggers

Common Migraine Headache Triggers

If you’re a migraine headache sufferer, you know the feeling all too well: intense, throbbing pain, often around the temples and sometimes on one side of the head. 

Other migraine symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain behind one eye
  • Visual auras, often in the form of spots or flashing lights
  • Temporary vision loss

Migraine pain is sometimes so severe it sends sufferers to the emergency room. The debilitating pain can make performing even routine daily tasks impossible. Mainstream medicine still struggles to understand the causes of migraines, but both genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin are also likely involved.

One fact that is widely accepted about migraines: there are triggers lurking all around us that can suddenly set off your migraine pain. What are they and what are the most effective ways to cope with them?

Is Your Lifestyle Causing Your Headaches?

Many factors can trigger migraines, including:

Certain foods, drinks, and additives. Though it varies greatly from one person to another, everything from aged cheeses to salty snacks to other processed foods can trigger migraines. Skipping meals can also quickly bring on migraine attacks.

And be sure to check the foods you eat: the artificial sweetener aspartame and preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG) that are found in many common foods may also cause migraines. Alcohol, especially wine, as well as caffeinated beverages have been linked to migraine pain, too.

Sensory stimuli. Bright lights (including the sun) and loud sounds can induce migraines. Meanwhile, extremely strong smells like perfume, paint thinner, or secondhand smoke can set off migraine pain for many people.

Stress. While the causes of stress are different for each person, emotional stress of any kind is a common culprit in the onset of migraines.

Irregular sleep-wake patterns. Jet lag, missing sleep, or even getting much more sleep than usual has been found to induce migraines.

Intense physical exertion. Migraines can be brought on by the exhaustion that comes with an unusual amount of physical activity.

Changes in the environment. Sudden weather or barometric pressure can set off migraine pain.

Female hormonal changes. Fluctuations in estrogen can trigger migraines. Women who suffer from migraine headaches often experience pain immediately before or during their periods, which coincides with a major drop in estrogen. Many women also report increased migraines during pregnancy or menopause.

Medications. From oral contraceptives to vasodilators prescribed to widen blood vessels, many common medications have the unexpected side effect of triggering migraines.

Coping With Migraine Triggers

While in theory it might be ideal to avoid all common migraine triggers, real life can make this very difficult or even impossible. Instead, lifestyle changes and coping strategies can help reduce both the frequency and severity of your migraines.

Establish a daily routine. Stick to regular sleep patterns and regular meals whenever possible. Taking steps to manage your stress may also reduce your migraines.

Regular aerobic exercise. After checking with your doctor, choose your favorite aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming or cycling. Be sure to warm up slowly; however, as mentioned above, a sudden increase in exercise can cause migraine headaches. 

Learn To Cope (LTC). Although research is still ongoing, you may find that gradually exposing yourself to your known migraine headache triggers can help desensitize you and reduce their triggering effect. LTC can also be combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Seeking Medical Treatment

It’s tempting to reach for medications that promise to cut down on migraine frequency or reduce migraine symptoms. However, medications don’t address the root cause, and ultimately, your migraines will most likely return. Meanwhile, side effects of common medications include brain fog and “rebound headaches” that are often as painful as the original migraine you were attempting to treat.

Just as migraine triggers and symptoms are different for each person, there is no uniform solution for treatment. Chiropractic treatment specializes in identifying what’s producing your migraine headaches. 

Your Chiropractic Appointment

Chiropractic treatment for migraines includes gently moving, stretching, and placing subtle pressure on the spine. This gives your body the chance to heal itself naturally. Many patients experience instant pain relief in addition to long-term reduced migraine frequency.

Your individual treatment plan is based on your overall health and lifestyle and may call for you to, for example, drink more water, get more rest, or make getting more sleep a priority in your life. In between office visits, home exercises to reduce tension and discomfort in your neck and spine are often very effective.

What might your individual migraine treatment plan might look like? Schedule an in-office appointment to discuss your migraines and your specific triggers and symptoms. Leave behind the damaging side effects of prescription medications, and experience relief that lasts.

Schedule your appointment online or call (714) 777-3200.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.