What’s a Migraine Trigger? Martin and Behbehani (2001) defines migraine trigger as ‘…any factor that on exposure or withdrawal leads to the development of an acute migraine headache.’ Now, I think this definition is correct and incorrect in a few ways. The mention of ‘exposure or withdrawal’ is important, because some triggers can affect you in their absence, like the caffeine withdrawal headache you get after drinking coffee. However, I find the implication that any trigger will ‘lead to the development of an acute migraine headache’ to be somewhat misleading. Not every trigger will result in a migraine every single time it’s encountered. (Also, not every migraine involves headache or is acute.) Instead, migraine triggers will push you closer to your migraine threshold– your genetically pre-determined trigger tolerance level. There are a number of triggers that contribute to the occurrence of migraine. These triggers can be categorized into 4 major categories:
- Stress, Crying, etc.
- Changes in Sleep
- Duration: Over-sleeping or under-sleeping
- Sleep Disturbance: Poor sleep quality
- Lack of physical activity or over-exertion/strenuous exercise
- Obesity, Cigarette Smoking, Respiratory Infections, etc.
- Temperature (Heat)
- Barometric Pressure Changes
- Light/Visual Stimulation
- Flickering lights, Uneven lighting, etc.
- Strong perfumes, etc.
Dietary / Chemical
- Chemicals encountered in food products including:
- Tyramine, MSG, Aspartame, Preservatives, Additives, Histamine, etc.
- Menstruation, Menopause, Oral Contraceptives, etc.