How to Identify Your Migraine Trigger

Migraines can be debilitating, though they aren’t uncommon: an estimated 12% of adults suffer from migraines.

Migraines can make it hard to function, sometimes even getting in the way of work and other daily tasks. And when left untreated, they can last for hours or even days.

One of the best ways to deal with migraines is to understand their causes and what triggers make them more likely to strike.

If you’re experiencing painful migraines, read on to learn how to pinpoint your migraine trigger so you can prevent future migraine attacks.

Look for Changes in Your Routine

One of the best ways to narrow down possible migraine triggers is to survey your routine and any changes or unusual activity. For example, pulling an all-nighter when you typically get eight hours of sleep or drinking an extra cup of coffee on a busy day could be enough to trigger a migraine.

Also consider any changes in your medical treatments. A new medication from the doctor might solve one problem, but it could be inadvertently causing your migraines.

Understand Common Migraine Triggers

If you’ve made no recent changes to your routine, it can be more challenging to figure out what exactly triggered a migraine attack. Sometimes, only briefly coming in contact with a particular substance, for example, is enough to trigger a migraine.

That’s why it helps to understand what the most common migraine triggers are.

Foods that trigger migraines for many people include:

  • red wine
  • coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and other caffeinated beverages
  • processed meats
  • soft cheeses
  • alcohol
  • foods with MSG
  • artificial sweeteners
  • pickled and fermented foods
  • salty foods

Besides food, there are other environmental and lifestyle-related triggers for many migraine sufferers. These can include:

  • strong perfumes
  • using screens such as computers
  • loud noise
  • intense workouts
  • dehydration
  • bright lights
  • high altitude
  • sleep deprivation
  • stress
  • weather changes

There are also some triggers that are related to medical conditions or illnesses. For example, injuries, especially to the head or neck, can trigger migraines. People with TMJ disorder may also experience migraines related to their jaw pain.

For women and people who menstruate, it’s also common to have migraines during certain times of the menstrual cycle. In particular, menstrual migraines tend to occur before or during periods.

Notice Migraine Frequency

Another key detail in identifying migraine triggers is to notice how often you have them. Some people have chronic headaches, where they have a migraine at least 15 days out of each month. Others have migraines as rarely as just once or twice a year.

Occasional migraines may be more likely to be related to something unusual in your schedule or lifestyle, such as consuming a food you usually avoid.

As for chronic migraines, these could be caused by a regular trigger, such as habitually drinking red wine or constantly being stressed. However, chronic migraines may also be caused by conditions such as obesity, depression, and anxiety.

Keep a Migraine Journal

Now that you know some possible migraine triggers, it’s best to identify your own triggers with a migraine journal.

Keeping a migraine journal can be tedious, but it may also reveal the true cause behind your painful migraines. Many doctors who treat migraines ask patients to keep a migraine journal to help them decide the best treatment plan, since this can vary greatly depending on the person.

In your migraine journal, keep a log of daily information including:

  • foods and drinks consumed and at what time
  • how long you slept
  • your emotional and mental state, such as how stressed you felt or if anything traumatic occurred
  • where you went
  • screen time
  • exercise or physical activity
  • weather
  • any new medicines, including prescription and over the counter medicines
  • where you’re at in your menstrual cycle (if applicable)
  • any pain experienced in another body part that may impact your head, such as your neck, jaw, or shoulders

Then, note in the journal when you have migraines. You may soon start to notice a pattern of your activity or habits on the days you experience migraine pain.

Migraine vs Headache

Many people who suffer from migraines may also experience other types of headaches. While migraines are considered headaches, the causes of each can vary.

For example, headaches can include tension headaches (caused by muscle tension, often related to stress), sinus headaches (related to sinus congestion), and hypertension headache (a dangerous type of headache associated with high blood pressure).

Various migraine types, on the other hand, are severe headaches involving other symptoms such as nausea, visual disturbances, and mood changes.

When writing your migraine journal and studying your own migraines, be sure to differentiate between migraines and other types of headaches.

Make Changes to Prevent Migraines

Once you’ve narrowed down a few possible triggers, try eliminating those triggers to see if there are any improvements. This can help you determine if the trigger is actually a trigger for you or not.

For triggers that can’t be adjusted, such as your menstrual cycle or another medical condition, try to treat the migraine as much as possible when facing the trigger.

Visit Your Doctor

One of the best ways to determine your migraine trigger and find an appropriate form of migraine prevention is to visit your doctor.

In some cases, they might discover another illness or condition that is linked to your migraines. They can also offer chronic migraine treatment for those unable to identify or eliminate migraine triggers.

Finding Your Migraine Trigger

Migraines can interfere with your quality of lifeā€”but they don’t have to. Use these tips to identify your migraine trigger so you can start living a happier, pain-free life.

For more health and wellness advice, check out our other articles!

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