The Ten Most Common Causes of Migraines

Your job or partner are not the only reasons.

It is estimated that one in seven people will suffer from some debilitating type of migraine headache during their lifetime. In spite of this statistic, the precise cause of migraines remains mysterious and contested. One common hypothesis is that the searing pain of these headaches is linked to a widening of blood vessels that is triggered by a drop in serotonin levels, though research is ongoing. What we do know, however, is that there are certain common causes in the external environment. Here are the ten most common triggers of migraine headaches, and some advice about how they can be avoided.

  1. High stress levels

Any intense negative emotion can cause a migraine headache in a sufferer. Some people experience a particular link with anger or fear, while others report experiencing migraines after receiving a profound shock. However, it’s also worth noting that some migraines appear in the days after an alleviation of stress (for example, a headache might show up on the first day of your vacation after a terrible work week). If you’re a migraine sufferer, it’s important to take steps to keep stress under control. Make time for things that relax you, and keep firm boundaries in place to prevent others from draining your resources.

  1. Hormone fluctuations

Women are significantly more likely to suffer from migraines, and this fact may be explained by the frequent hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle. The majority of female migraine sufferers are more likely to experience headaches during or just after a period, but a small number of women report increased migraine frequency in the middle of the month (around the time of ovulation). For some women, the solution lies in experimenting with different types of hormonal contraception, but it must be stressed that other women find their migraines worsened by hormonal contraception.

  1. Grinding your teeth

If your dentist has noticed signs suggesting that you grind your teeth while you are asleep, you are at risk of developing a type of painful jaw joint inflammation called temporomandibular joint dysfunction (or TMJD). This condition can cause pain not only in the jaw but behind the eyes and around the ears. In addition, some migraine patients notice that their migraines tend to be most painful in the areas where their TMJD is causing the most significant problems. A custom fitted bite can be worn to reduce the damage caused by teeth grinding, which can in turn influence migraine likelihood.

  1. Dietary factors

Researchers have been able to establish a link between migraines and a range of specific foods. The most common foods and drinks associated with increased headache frequency are diary foods (especially chocolate and cheese), citrus fruits and coffee. However, a lack of appropriate foods can also play a role in triggering migraines. Specifically, low blood sugar levels associate with inadequate calorie intake can cause migraines (as well as less painful tension headaches). Migraine sufferers should try excluding certain key triggers from their diet for a trial period, and should never skip a meal.

  1. Lack of sleep

If you work night shifts or struggle to get more than six hours of sleep a night, you may be more likely to experience a migraine. On the other hand, there is a documented link between oversleeping and migraines as well, so the key is to sleep for around eight hours a night.

  1. An intense environment

For many people, the clearest trigger for migraines is over-stimulating surroundings. You might find yourself more likely to get headaches at loud concerts or busy nightclubs, or you may be struck by pain in a bustling mall that is lit with bright lights. Alternatively, your most salient environmental triggers might be strong smells (like cigarette smoke or pungent perfume) or very cold winds. If you notice that one of these environmental factors is in play for you, take measures to avoid it.

  1. Drugs

If you have recently changed your medication and also recently started to suffer from migraines, there is a good chance that these events are connected. In particular, some sleeping pills and drugs used to treat high blood pressure can cause a range of different headaches, and painkiller overuse can eventually trigger migraines as well. If you suspect a connection, talk to your doctor about whether there is a similar drug that you can try (in case it does not have the same link with migraines).

  1. High blood pressure

High blood pressure itself can also trigger migraines or make existing headaches worse, though this trigger is relatively rate. Still, migraine sufferers should always stay on top of potential hypertension by going for regular blood pressure checks and exploring the possibility of a connection.

  1. Physical discomfort

Migraines can sometimes be triggered by tense posture (such as the type you may adopt when sitting at the computer for hours at a time), intense physical exercise or lifting lots of heavy items. If you think that physical stress could be a migraine trigger for you, try to be more cautious about stretching your muscles, easing into exercise and sitting properly.

  1. Alcohol

Finally, some migraine sufferers eventually cannot drink any alcohol because just one drink triggers a headache. For others, there is a need to cut out specific types of alcohol, most common cider or red wine. In addition, migraines can be caused by the dehydration that you experience after drinking too much, so always order a glass of water with your alcohol drinks.  By: Dr. E. C. Gordon