42017Apr
Migraine Headaches and Common Triggers

Migraine Headaches and Common Triggers

Headaches are common and let’s agree that when they do occur they can put a damper on our day. This is particularly the case for migraine headaches which involve throbbing pain in the head, nausea, and a desire to hide in a dark and quiet room. Migraines can significantly affect quality of life.

What is a migraine?

Important developments in the understanding of migraine have observed that areas of the brain which are involved in the perception of pain, have a preexisting sensitivity to sensations such as light, smell, sound, hormones, and stresses. At times, these nerves in the brain can ‘over-react’ to these sensations and result in the production of symptoms such as headache and nausea.

What are the most common migraine triggers?

  1. Stress

Migraine sufferers consistently have been proven to have higher stress levels. What is particularly interesting is that the migraine headache will commonly begin the day AFTER someone has a stressful day. Therefore, it appears to be the brains reaction to being relieved from dealing with stress that is the actually trigger. Regardless, controlling stress levels throughout the year is important.

  1. Too long between meals

Whether on purpose due to following a particular diet or just having a hectic day in life and missing a meal, fasting can trigger a migraine. Don’t stress out your body by letting blood glucose levels drop too low (otherwise known as ‘hangry’). Additionally, don’t forget to stay hydrated!

  1. Sounds, Sights and Smells

Migraine sufferers may be sensitive to loud and aggravating noises, or even perfumes and nail polish. Even the bright Okanagan summer sun can be a trigger. If so remember to keep those sunglasses on.

  1. Hormonal

Females suffer migraines more commonly then men because some sufferers are very sensitive to imbalances between estrogen and progesterone in the body. If you consistently suffer bad headaches between 2 days before to 3 days after the onset of menstruation, you can be assured that hormones are a trigger for you. Have a chat with you GP and naturopath regarding this relationship if present.

  1. Sleep

Easier said than done, however getting consistent daily hours of sleep (7-8hrs) has been found to prevent migraines from occurring. If you are getting a lack of sleep (less than 4hrs) or a high variability one day to the next, this has been found to predict increased headaches. Be careful sleeping in, as too much sleep can also trigger a migraine.

  1. Alcohol & Foods

For some, alcohol even in small amounts can trigger a migraine. Not all types of alcohol are culprits, in fact it may be the congeners and biogenic amines which are commonly found in red wine and foods such as dark chocolate.

  1. Musculoskeletal dysfunction

Many patients observe that they get less headaches, including migraines, when their neck and upper back joints and muscles are functioning more optimally. Have a chat with your chiropractor, acupuncturist or massage therapist about this relationship.


Dr. Chris Carter, BSc, DC, MSc (PainMgt)

Active Living Chiropractic & Massage

Kelowna, BC