How to Figure Out Your Migraine Triggers

Migraine headaches are excruciatingly painful, and can be debilitating. If you have migraines you may be at your wits end trying to figure out why they are happening.  There is hope I, I went from having at least 9 a month to now 3 or 4 a month. The key to reducing your migraines and understanding them is to learning what triggers kick off your migraines.

Unfortunately not everyone has the same triggers and typically there is more than one trigger for each person.  Sometimes you actually have to have two or three present to actually trigger the migraine.  This puts the added complication that you are looking for multiple problems that might or might not be occurring at the same time.

Kind of like weight loss – it might be your diet, exercise, stress levels or a health problem.  Only by tackling each one at a time can you figure out which is the problem, or figure out that all areas are a problem.  Migraines are exactly the same; you must uncover all of the problems not just one or two.

So how do you figure out what your triggers are?

Track Everything

Begin by keeping a headache diary. When I was going through this process I created an excel sheet that tracked everything from my workout for the day, my illness level (did I have a cold, etc), was I having my period, plus activities that might impact my migraines such as an evening at the bar.

When I say I tracked everything that is pretty close to the fact so just a few more to give you an idea of what you might want to track: travel schedule, how long it took to get rid of migraine, did it go away naturally or did I take medicine, and even the weather.

It’s also important to write down, as nearly as possible, what you were doing right before your migraine started. What was going on at home, work, socially?  So even if you don’t track everything daily, make sure you do a complete analysis of the things right before your migraine hits.  Not just immediately before but even up to 24 hours before.  One of my triggers is stress, but not during a highly stressful event but the next day.  Once the stress is going my body collapses and gets a migraine.

I used excel but you could also use a large calendar (the weekly appointment books with individual time slots are great as they help with times), a journal or an online migraine journal.

Begin to Eliminate Triggers

Once you have begun to figure out what your triggers might be then begin to eliminate those from your life.  If it is a food, beverage or activity that you control try and remove them for a minimum of 2 weeks and preferably 4 weeks so you can see if your migraines decrease.

If they have not decreased then feel free to slowly add them back in.  While adding them back pay attention to how your body reacts.  It may be that you still need to find a couple more triggers to get them to stop, but the trigger you tested actually made them worse instead of going away.  Keep doing this as you uncover new triggers.

Patience is Vital

I wish I could tell you I reduced my number of migraines in a month, but it did actually take years, yes I said years.  Plus I still get them even though I know most of my triggers.  This process will take time; don’t look at this as a quick solution to the pain.  It will help but it will take time.  Especially since a migraine can be triggered by so many things and so many different combinations of things.  Kind of like peeling an onion, there are more and more layers to uncover.  Keep going, and eventually it will pay off!

The first step to treating migraines is to find out what’s causing them. Keeping a diary of your day-to-day activities will help you track down your triggers. The more you know about what’s causing your migraines, the better chance you have of fighting them off.