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‘Trigger’ is the term used to describe what started the cascade of events that end in a migraine attack. It may not be easy to identify your triggers if your attacks are linked to several different things. A trigger may not cause an attack every time, and not every attack may have a trigger, which can be confusing.

One way to identify your triggers is to keep a migraine diary. This is a very detailed diary, including what time you got up, everything you ate, drank and did in your day, what the weather was like, if you have a migraine attack, all your symptoms and medications, through to what time you went to sleep. Women should also note where they are in their menstrual cycles or at least the days of their period to identify if they have a menstrual migraine. You can do this just in a diary or notebook, or there are apps like Migraine Buddy that track things like barometric pressure and produce reports for you. You will need to keep a trigger diary for a while to be able to identify your likely triggers. However, some find keeping a diary long-term can be detrimental to their mental health, so it may be more useful to limit using diaries to when there are some changes in your migraine patterns.

However, diaries are not very good for figuring out food triggers because it is challenging to tell what foods are triggers and what foods you are craving as an early prodrome symptom. If you suspect you have food triggers, then you should do a diagnostic elimination diet.

Remember: your migraine triggers are unique to you – what triggers an attack for someone else will not necessarily be a trigger for you, and what works for someone else may not work for you. The above information is a guide to the most common triggers, but you need to do the homework to identify your own triggers and how you can avoid them.


Common Triggers

Read more about each trigger by selecting them.


Lucy, Migraine with Aura, Sydney NSW

I have had headaches since I was 7, but I was not diagnosed with migraine until much later in life due to a lack of awareness around this condition. Finding what triggers your migraine attacks and what medications work for you may allow you to live your life to the fullest.

Useful links:

Migraine triggers video

Factsheet: Understanding Migraine Triggers

  • Understand the difference between migraine triggers and symptoms and learn about the migraine threshold.
  • Clinically reviewed by Dr Emma Foster MBBS FRACP PhD