Migraines: Plan of Attack

Continuing with the second post of this three-part migraine blog series, we explore the various triggers and map the battlefield.


Part 2:  Mapping the Battlefield


While we may be eager to start fighting every migraine that comes our way, we first need to step back and map out our “landmine” triggers.  


The triggers come in many shapes and forms.  Some we can avoid and some we cannot.  Some may be obvious; some more subtle.  Sometimes we don’t have just one significant driving force but several sneaking up against us.  To be successful in our fight against migraines, we need to recognize when to step around, get rid of, or know how to deploy strategies against our triggers.


Here are some “landmine” triggers to consider:


Stress:  Can be negative stress (e.g., anxiety/worries, uncertainty, illness) or even positive stress (e.g., new job, promotion, coordinating your active family schedule).


Sleep:  Lack of sleep is usually an instigator or at least an enabler in fueling the migraine state.  This may result from insomnia, low total hours of sleep, or poor quality of sleep.


Let-down:  Sometimes you are amazed that in the middle of the hecticness you don’t get a migraine, but as you finally finish the deadline, complete finals, finish a busy week, or get started on a vacation and you treat yourself to sleeping in--bam, you’re instead rewarded with a migraine.


Suboptimal hydration:   This can come about not only from not drinking enough fluids, but also from heat and exercise losses, as well as from things that make us urinate more, such as alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and medications.


Foods/drinks:   This is not an exhaustive list, nor does it mean it will be a trigger for you, but you may want to look for any patterns

around the consumption of:

  • Red wine (or for some any type of wine, beer, or liquor)
  • Chocolate/cocoa (sorry)
  • Caffeine (trigger for some, helpful for others)
  • Gluten/Dairy/Sugar containing foods/drinks (may increase inflammation process in some)
  • Nitrites/Sulfites (left over food, additive in processed meats, found in some fruits/veggies/preservatives)
  • Aspartame (sugar-free foods, diet drinks, low calorie desserts)
  • Histamine/Tyramine (aged cheeses, smoked/cured/processed meats, fermented fruits/veggies, vinegars, nuts)

Weather/Climate:  Barometric pressure changes, storms, altitude changes


Lights:  Fluorescent lighting, bright sunlight, flashing lights


Sounds:  Loud or busy


Smells:  Perfume/Cologne, deodorizing sprays/scented candles, smoke, cleaning products


Seasonal Allergies:  Sometimes these trigger or exacerbate our migraines, but also be aware that the “allergy” symptoms we sometimes experience such as red/watery eyes, congested/runny nose, sinus area pressure/tenderness, or a droopy/puffy eyelid, may actually be manifestations of the migraine process itself.  You might think twice about some of your  “sinus headaches”.


Hormonal/Perimenstrual:  These can be some of the hardest triggers to control and sometimes we need to get ahead of it by a strategy called mini-prophylaxis.


Neck pain:  Can be an aggravating factor or can be part of the chronic migraine set of symptoms where neck and shoulder pain/tightness play more significant roles. 


With a better understanding of your particular migraine triggers, in the third and final blog post on migraines, we will focus on your Migraine Plan of Attack--the strategies to fight back!

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