Chronic Migraine Triggers

Easing The Never Ending Cycle Of Pain...

The Short Answer

Chronic migraines destroy lives. Their frequency leaves sufferers almost unable to live. The first stage however in combatting chronic migraines is to understand your personal chronic migraine triggers.

In this article we list a range of potential triggers to consider, measure and try to avoid before trying out other natural migraine treatments.

The Difference Between Causes And Triggers

It is important to recognise the big difference between chronic migraine causes and chronic migraine triggers.

The term chronic when dealing with migraines refers to the frequency of attacks – any more than 15 days of suffering in a month for 3 months in a row and you are considered to be suffering with chronic migraines.

The cause of your chronic migraines are the reasons why you suffer with migraines in the first place.

Chronic migraine triggers, on the other hand, are the specific actions that can lead your migraines to happen more frequently.

It is vital to know your triggers.

Your migraine triggers will ultimately be personal to you – everyone is affected differently by different types of stimulus.

However, we do know that some triggers are fairly universal and affect a lot of people (albeit to different levels).

Knowing your personal triggers and how badly they affect you is the first step in successful treatment. Once you know what affects you, you know what to avoid.

If you can then avoid the majority of your chronic migraine triggers, then you can potentially reduce the frequency of your attacks to the point that they become ‘episodic’ (suffering for less than 15 days a month) and not chronic.

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Chronic Migraine Triggers

The first key stage in identifying the triggers for your migraines is to keep a diary.

By keeping a good diary you can go back after you’ve suffered a migraine to see what might have set if off.

You need to write down a short note of everything you do – from activities to what you eat, which medications you take (if any), when you take them and how you were feeling.

For women, it is also important to take note of where you are in your monthly cycle. This is not just important for menstrual migraines, but general migraines are also affected by hormonal changes.

Migraines are affected by change.

Your diary will help you to go back afterwards and recognise that change. Recognising the change that affected you can help you to avoid it in future.

Typical migraine triggers include –

  • Bright lights
  • Loud Music
  • Strong Smells
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Poor posture
  • High Caffeine Use
  • Sugary Drinks
  • Salty or Spicy Foods
  • Aged Foods such as Cheese or
  • Cured Meat
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Birth Control
  • Medications (especially vasodilators)
  • Headache Medication
  • Weather


We look at specific triggers and why they are bad, in a lot more detail in our article on ‘migraine triggers’. The key take away is that change causes stress, anxiety, hormonal changes and a number of other problems that can lead to more migraines.

Similarly, foods with very high levels of tyramine, salt or sugar can all trigger more migraines. If you rely on the wrong foods, in a high stress environment, it is quite possible that enough trigger could actual move your migraines from ‘episodic’ (occasional) to ‘chronic’ (frequent).

‘Rebound’ Headaches

These are also known as ‘medication-overuse headaches’ or ‘medication headaches’.

The journal of Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety describes it them as

“a debilitating condition in which frequent and prolonged use of medication for the acute treatment of pain results in worsening of the headache.”

This is particularly relevant to sufferers of chronic migraines because the migraines strike so frequently that you are still on medication for the last episode, when the next one strikes.

This is a serious problem because the natural response is to carry on taking the meds.

Before long, you’ve been on the same drugs (and increasingly high doses) for weeks on end.

Your so-called migraine relief has actually become a trigger for your migraines.

This then creates two major problems –

  1. Your migraines will actually be WORSE rather than better for taking the drugs.
  2. Your body will quickly develop a dependence on the drugs, resulting in withdrawal symptoms if you did suddenly stop taking them.

If you start suffering with medication-overuse headaches, you will effectively be in a no-win situation. The drugs are making your migraines worse, but stopping them will result in withdrawal symptoms.

For reference, ‘medication overuse’ is defined as

“ using a compound analgesic, opioid, triptan or ergot derivative on at least 10 days per month.”

(Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease

You will of course have to reduce and then stop taking the drugs, potentially swapping your treatment for a more natural treatment (with less side effects).

The Final Word –

Learning which triggers bring on a migraine is essential is reducing them. This is especially true for chronic migraines, where their frequency is a massive issue in itself.

The other issue that is considerably more prevalent in chronic migraine sufferers is that of medication-overuse migraines or ‘rebound migraines’.

This occurs when your medication is being used so frequently that it actually becomes part of the problem and potentially a major problem in itself.

However, once you can recognise (and then avoid) your chronic migraine triggers, then the frequency should reduce. A diary is key in identifying these triggers and assessing how they affect you personally.

You can then start trying different migraine treatments to see which are most effective for you.

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References Used –

1. Maria Lurenda Westergaard, Signe Bruun Munksgaard, Lars Bendtsen, and Rigmor Højland Jensen. (June 2016). Medication-overuse headache: a perspective review. Therapeutic Advances In Drug Safety.
2. Mark W. Weatherall. (May 2015). The Diagnosis and Treatment Of Chronic Migraine. Therapeutic Advances In Chronic Disease.

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