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What is the Most Common Cause of Migraine Headaches?

Mahogany Speaks is a nurse with 20 yrs of exp. in healthcare & 14+ yrs in Blogging. She has an MBA in HCM & owns an article writing svc co.


What Causes Migraine Headaches?

Migraine headaches can be downright devastating, stopping you in your tracks cold, forcing you to want to curl into a fetal position in a dark corner with your medication clutched in the palm of your hands.

Surprisingly, migraine headaches are prevalent. The pain caused by migraines is associated with blood vessel swelling and irritation of nerves surrounding the brain.

Often characterized by a throbbing sensation that occurs on one or both sides of the head, a migraine headache can last anywhere from four to twelve hours. While some individuals may only experience a single migraine in a lifetime, others may suffer several migraine headaches over he course of a single month.

There are a variety of factors that may place some individuals at a greater risk for experiencing a migraine than others. In addition to genetics and gender (women) that predispose some of us to migraines, there are also a number of triggers associated with migraines, actions/activities that we sometimes partake in to elevate our chances of experiencing one.

Here are five triggers associated with migraine headaches.

Stress and Worry can Trigger Migraines

Stress can be the root of all evil when it comes to our health, disguising itself in the form of many health ailments ranging from stomach aches to horrific migraine headaches. To prevent the onset of a migraine headache associated with stress, one has to identify the things that cause us to become most stressed. It is challenging to eliminate all stress but identifying those major stressors that trigger migraines may be vital in helping you avoid having one. This approach may mean taking the time to sit down and identify other alternatives to prevent varying situations, as well as finding ways to manage your stress better.


Migraines and the Menstrual Cycle

This next contributor is not something that we as women can control. It's simply Mother Nature doing her thing. For women, the start of the menstrual cycle can be a natural trigger for an unwanted migraine headache. The risk of a migraine attack increases for women who suffer from migraines during the 5-day peri-menstrual window (two days before the onset of menses and three days into menstruation). These headaches are reported to be far more severe, longer in duration, and more debilitating than the regular gamut of migraine headaches a woman typically experiences. Menstrually related migraines affect 6-7% of the population and can occur at various stages of the menstrual cycle.

A variety of treatments are available for menstrual migraines including rizatriptan, frovatriptan, naratriptan, estrogen, magnesium, naproxen sodium, and dihyroergotamine (Maasumi & Kriegler, 2017).

Caffeine Dependency and Migraine Headaches

Are you beholden to coffee in the mornings to kick your day into motion? If so, then you may have created a dependency that you are unaware of, which is like a volcano waiting to erupt. Unfortunately, with the repeated intake of caffeine daily, the brain expects that it will get that dose of caffeine daily.

When you do not consume the coffee or caffeine that your brain has come to expect, the pains of withdrawal syndrome take hold, emerging in the form of a nasty migraine headache in many cases. People commonly experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms over the weekend when they choose to sleep an hour or two later than usual instead of rising on time to partake in their regular cup of coffee.

If you have experienced these symptoms, it may be time to evaluate your caffeine consumption habits.

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Sleep Fragmentation and Migraines

Fatigue or poor sleep habits can set off a robust response in our bodies. Sleep fragmentation can have a significant impact on how our bodies operate. This condition is classified as short disruptions of your sleep and is a critical contributor to why we sometimes may suffer from daytime sleepiness. Causes of sleep fragmentation can range from sleep-disorder-related breathing patterns such as sleep apnea to periodic leg movements.

Sleep fragmentation causes many biological responses, including poor short-term memory, slowed reaction time, and changes in your mood. Unfortunately, it also increases the risk of headaches and makes us more susceptible to pain than we might generally be. Thus, daytime sleepiness can be a symptom of a migraine attack.

If you are experiencing problems with sleep fragmentation, it may be time to take steps to manage your sleep schedule better and seek the attention of a medical professional. First, you will want to monitor your sleep patterns, to evaluate how often you wake during the night. Additionally, you will want to document how long those wakeful periods last.

Hunger and Migraine Headaches

Are you thinking about skipping meals? Perhaps you are planning to fast in the upcoming weeks. If so, and you are a migraine sufferer (or not), you may want to reconsider skipping meals or take additional steps to prepare yourself for a possible migraine attack during your fasting program.

Other Migraine Headache Triggers to Avoid

Be careful about what you eat. Certain foods such as aged cheeses and meats contain tyramine that might trigger a nasty migraine. In addition, Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a commonly used flavor enhancer, can trigger a migraine headache.

Weather changes or even the slightest change in altitude can trigger headaches as well.

Natural Migraine Headache Prevention

There are a variety of natural activities that you can participate in to reduce the frequency of a migraine headache attack including acupuncture, yoga, massages and regular exercise.


Maasumi, K., Tepper, S. J., & Kriegler, J. S. (2017). Menstrual Migraine and Treatment Options: Review. Headache, 57(2), 194–208.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2016 Mahogany Speaks


NewLifeOutlook on February 16, 2018:

This was really helpful and insightful! Thank you :)

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