‘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, keeping a diary long term can be detrimental to your mental health, so try to limit using diaries 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.
(Read more about each trigger by selecting them)
Some people find that changes in their routine can contribute to a migraine.
Migraine and stress are strongly linked. Relaxing can trigger a migraine attack, so too can anxiety, excitement, and any form of tension and shock.
Too much, too little, and broken sleep can all be a migraine trigger.
Migraine is closely associated with hormones. Some women find their migraine attacks start at puberty and are linked to their menstrual cycle.
Exercise helps prevent migraine, but for about a third of people living with migraine, exercise is also a trigger.
Food-related triggers occur in about 10-20% of people with migraine. Many people will crave snack food such as chocolate or chips in the early stages of a migraine attack, leading them to conclude that particular food is a trigger.
Too much caffeine can contribute to the onset of a migraine attack. Some people find that suddenly stopping caffeine altogether can also be a trigger.
Mild dehydration can have an impact on people who have migraine. However, more often you will crave water in the early phases of a migraine attack.
Certain trigger factors can be related to environmental issues such as dust, smoke, high altitude, weather changes, heat, humidity, loud noises, strong smells, exposure to glare or flickering lights.
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.