Migraine Triggers

A migraine attack can come on so fast, leaving us not only in pain, but also missing work, social activities, and time with our family. One of the aspects of living with migraine is learning and avoiding the things that may trigger our migraine. Being aware of our triggers is helpful for a person who suffers from migraine, but also for those who know or care for people with migraine

What is a migraine trigger?

What is a migraine trigger? It can be any number of things that either by itself or along with something else can induce a migraine attack. This can be hormonal changes, weather instability, food and food additives, sensory stimulation, alcohol, stress, sleep patterns, or even medications.

Some of our triggers can be avoidable, such as food and alcohol. I do not drink red wine because I learned very early on that red wine causes head pain. This is most likely because of the sulfites that the wine contains.

A migraine safe place.

At home I have created a safe place where I can avoid many things that may trigger a migraine. The bedroom window is blocked from light, which means when the morning sun shines right into the apartment, I am not being faced with one of my triggers first thing in the day. Very bright sunlight can turn a mild migraine into agonizing pain in a very brief moment. In the summer we run the air condition to keep the apartment climate controlled so I do not get overheated, and in the winter the air filter and humidifier run non-stop to keep me comfortable.

There are triggers that can not be avoided such as weather. If one chooses to venture outside of their stable environment one has created for themselves, they can not control the outside world. Paint fumes, overly perfumed women, strong candles, crying babies, and strangers talking on their phones, although mildly annoying to anyone can be day enders for people who suffer from migraine attacks.

Track your triggers.


This screen shot from my Migraine Buddy app shows a variety of things that may trigger a migraine.

A benefit to knowing and tracking your migraine triggers is that you can better prepared.  I use Migraine Buddy app on my phone, it tracks my triggers, but also tracks the weather.

My favorite feature of this app is that it gives a brief air pressure forecast. Falling air pressure is by far my biggest known trigger. Knowing a storm is coming can also give me a warning, but often air pressure drops before there is a noticeable change in the weather.

My experience.

I recently had a migraine attack that seemed to coincide promptly with the drop in the air pressure. In the morning I had a massage and the plans for the rest of my day were to eat lunch and go to the coffee shop to read and write. I left my sweatshirt and book in the truck and went home to eat. I entered the apartment, left my purse and keys on the couch, and took my jeans off and laid them at the end of the bed, all signs that I had totally intended to leave again.

The air pressure had started dropping steadily at 10am. By the time my lunch was gone at 11:30 I felt that I needed to lay down. I took my migraine meds, texted my husband, and then slept until 6pm.

When I woke up I had a full blown migraine. I was hungry as it had been many hours since I had eaten lunch, but I was also so nauseated from my migraine. Ryan made dinner, which I ate some to stave of the hunger. I was ready to sleep again by 9pm. I woke briefly to the sound of thunder but slept until 10am. When I got up I was able to declare that this particular migraine attack was over and I was back to my regular daily routine. Although there was a weather change, my migraine started long before there was an actual storm.

That is just one example of how a day can seem normal, but a migraine can change it so fast. Knowing the triggers to avoid we can help ourselves stay migraine free. Knowing the triggers we can’t avoid we can maybe be a little gentler with ourselves when a migraine does come on.

Share your triggers.

Do you know your triggers? Are you still trying to determine what your triggers are? I’ve mentioned the Migraine Buddy app which tracks potential triggers, but there are many other apps out there, do you have a favorite? By sharing your triggers with your family or care takers, they can help you have less migraines, and perhaps understand life with migraine a little better.  Let me know how you track your triggers in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for tips on handling a migraine attack and avoiding triggers.




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