8 Things That Cause Migraines

  • Stress, hormonal changes, dehydration, strong smells, and bright lights are some of the most common causes of migraines.
  • Sleep deprivation, weather changes, certain foods, and food additives can also trigger migraines.
  • In order to avoid migraines, it is important to identify and avoid your triggers.

If you suffer from migraines, you know how debilitating they can be. These severe headaches can cause intense pulsing or a throbbing sensation and can last for hours or even days.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that can trigger a migraine. But the good news is that once you know what your triggers are, you can take steps to avoid them.

Here are 8 of the most common migraine triggers and what you can do to avoid them.

Things That Cause Migraines

1. Hormonal Changes

Fluctuations in estrogen levels are one of the most common migraine triggers in women. This can be due to hormonal changes related to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or even taking birth control pills.

If you find that your migraines seem to be linked to your menstrual cycle, you may want to speak to your doctor about whether taking a low-dose birth control pill could help reduce their frequency.

2. Stress

Stress is another common migraine trigger. If you find that your migraines tend to flare up during periods of high stress at work or home, there are a few things you can do to try to bring them under control.

First, try to identify the source of your stress and see if there’s anything you can do to eliminate it. If that’s not possible, then focus on finding ways to better manage your stress, whether that means practicing yoga or meditation, journaling, or simply taking some time for yourself every day to relax and unwind.

3. Poor Sleep Habits

Not getting enough sleep or disruptions in your sleep schedule can also lead to migraines. If you’re not sleeping well, try to establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

You should also aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night and avoid caffeinated beverages close to bedtime.

4. Certain Foods 

Certain foods contain ingredients that can trigger (cause) migraines in some people. These include aged cheeses, chocolate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), preserved meats, and alcoholic beverages like red wine. Caffeine withdrawal can also cause headaches. 

5. Neck and Shoulder Tension

Tension in the neck and shoulders is another common trigger for migraines. This could be due to poor posture when sitting at a desk all day or from carrying heavy bags around with you everywhere you go.

To help relieve neck and shoulder tension, practice good posture throughout the day and take breaks often to walk around and stretch your muscles. You may also want to consider investing in an ergonomic office chair and/or carrying bag with straps that distribute the weight evenly across your body.

6. Sensory Stimuli 

Sensory stimuli like bright lights, strong smells, and loud noises can trigger migraines in some people. This is thought to be due to the activation of the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for sensation in the face and head region. 

7. Dehydration 

Can dehydration trigger migraine? Yes, dehydration is another common cause of migraines. When you’re dehydrated, your blood pressure drops, and your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. This can lead to a migraine.

According to The American Migraine Foundation, about 1/3 of people with migraines say that dehydration is a trigger for their headaches. To avoid dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. And if you’re going to be exercising or spending time in the heat, make sure to drink even more water than usual. 

8. Weather Changes

The American Migraine Foundation suggests that barometric pressure changes, humidity, and temperature fluctuations may play a role in triggering migraines. One study found that storms were associated with an increased risk of migraines, while another showed that both hot weather and cold weather were triggers. Interestingly, one study found that rainy weather was actually associated with a decreased risk of migraine.

FAQs about migraine triggers

Do migraines run in families?

Yes, migraines often run in families. In fact, studies suggest that migraines may be genetic. If you have a family member who suffers from migraines, you may be more likely to experience them as well.

Is there a cure for migraines?

There is no cure for migraines, but there are treatments that can help to lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. Some people who suffer from migraines are able to find relief with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Others may need to take prescription medications to prevent or treat their migraines.

What is the best thing to do for a migraine?

The best thing to do is to apply hot or cold compresses to your neck or head and try to rest in a dark room or take over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If your migraines are severe or frequent, you may need to see a doctor for additional treatment options.

When should I be worried about a migraine?

In most cases, migraines are not caused for concern. However, if you experience migraines that are severe or that last for more than a few days, it’s important to see a doctor. Additionally, if you have other symptoms like vision changes, slurred speech, numbness or tingling, or weakness, it’s best to seek medical attention. These could be signs of a more serious condition.

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