Migraine Attack Triggers – What You Can Do To Avoid Them!

May 26, 2023
by Gable Holderness, MSN, APNP

Knowledge is power! Understanding the potential triggers that can cause a migraine attack is an important step in managing and reducing the frequency and severity of attacks.

What triggers a migraine attack for one person may not trigger a migraine attack for another. I have put together a list of the most common migraine triggers and what you can do to minimize their impact.


Stress is one of the most common, if not the most common trigger for migraine. Stress may trigger a migraine attack, having chronic migraine creates more stress, and the cycle continues. Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing techniques, and getting regular exercise can help reduce stress and, in turn, the frequency and severity of migraine.



Hormonal changes such as those that occur during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause can also trigger migraine. While hormone changes are primarily out of our control, women who suffer from migraine attacks are often advised to track their menstrual cycle to identify any patterns in headache frequency.



Disruptions to sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping, can trigger migraine. Getting regular, restful sleep is important for preventing headaches. Set a consistent bedtime routine that allows sufficient time to sleep. Create a sleep environment that is dark, quiet, cool and comfortable. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and meals too close to bedtime.



Certain food and drink, such as processed or aged cheeses, foods containing MSG, alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners may trigger migraine. Keeping a food diary can be a helpful tool. Identify any problematic food or drink to avoid in the future.



Skipping meals, fasting, or going for long periods of time without eating or drinking water, can trigger migraine. Eating regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and staying hydrated can help to prevent headaches.



Sensory triggers, such as bright lights, loud noises or strong odors can also trigger  migraine. To minimizing feeling overloaded, wear sunglasses outside or blue light filtering glasses when looking at screens indoors, use ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones when exposed to loud noise, and skip the strong perfume and scented laundry detergent.



Changes in barometric pressure, temperature and humidity can trigger migraine. We can’t control if it snows, rains or if the temperature rises or falls. Keep an eye on the weather forecast so you can take extra precautions to attempt to anticipate barometric pressure changes. During these times, pay special attention to managing stress, hydration levels, and keep abortive (as needed) medications handy.



Some medications, such as birth control, triptan medications or medications containing caffeine can trigger migraine. Other medications such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen can cause medication adaptation headache (otherwise known as rebound headache) due to the frequency of use. Talk to your medical provider about any, and all medications (meaning both prescription and over the counter medications) you are taking to see if they may be contributing to your headaches.

In conclusion, there are many triggers that can cause migraine. Keeping a headache diary can help you identify your individual triggers. Sharing your headache diary with your medical provider is a valuable contribution to developing a plan to manage your migraine attacks. By understanding your triggers and taking steps to minimize their impact, you can take control and live a productive and fulfilling life!

Mind+ Neurology, a specialized headache and migraine clinic, offers walk-in Urgent Care for immediate rescue from severe migraine attacks. The newly built clinic is located at 12200 Corporate Parkway, Suite 400, Mequon, WI 53092. As an independent practice, no referral is needed. Mind+ Neurology is accepting new patients. Go to mindplusclinic.com to schedule an appointment today!