15 Surprising Things That Can Trigger A Migraine

Health | Did You Know

15 Unexpected Triggers For Painful Migraines

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Pulling the blinds closed, lying down in the dark, popping an aspirin, and hoping to fall asleep before the pain gets any worse.

That's how most people deal with migraines.

These nasty headaches are very common, as 15% of all adults live with them according to the World Health Organization.

Sasha Wolff - Wikimedia

Despite the fact that so many of us put up with them, there are surprisingly few ways to deal with migraine pain.

Here's one solution: learn the surprising things that can trigger an awful migraine, so you can lower your chances of getting one in the first place.

1. Tight hairstyles

Max Pixel

Yes, your beauty routine may be taking a toll on your health.

Any kind of hairstyle that pulls back on your head - including ponytails, braids and buns - can irritate the nerves in your scalp, triggering a headache.

Thankfully this is easy to avoid. Just let your hair down (literally) and the nerves will relax.

2. Strong smells


Many people say that a certain smell will trigger their migraines - like cigarette smoke or gasoline.

This may be true, but in fact experts say any strong aroma can set off a migraine.

It's impossible to completely avoid perfume, fresh paint and cooking smells, but remember that these could trigger a migraine and limit your exposure to them.

3. Hunger


When your body is craving its next meal, you enter a condition called adrenal fatigue.

Your blood sugar levels drop, making your muscles contract.

This can lead to fatigue pain, irritability, and even a headache.

One big cause is skipping breakfast, so make sure to start your day with a healthy meal.

4. Caffeine

Julius Schorzman - Wikimedia

This compound in your tea and coffee is tricky, and you'll need to balance it carefully to avoid a headache.

Too much caffeine in your system can bring on a headache, but so can caffeine withdrawal.

If you're a regular coffee or tea drinker, try to stick to your routine as much as possible to maintain a healthy balance.

5. The weather

Storm clouds
John Kerstholt - Wikimedia

Just as some people insist they can predict the weather using their joint pain, a sudden change or pressure can bring on a nasty headache.

Changes in barometric pressure can trigger a nerve in your sinus, or disrupt the balance in your inner ear.

Both of these lead to splitting headaches, and they're more common on days with large temperature swings and sudden storms.

6. Your sleeping position

Esther Max - Flickr

You may not realize it, but the way you lie down to sleep at night has a huge impact on your health.

For headaches, your biggest concern is sleeping on too many pillows, which can "flex" your head and cause a migraine.

Bad sleeping posture also cuts into your shuteye which - you guessed it - can trigger a headache.

7. Your personality


Research says that people who describe themselves using certain traits - rigid, reserved, obsessive - tend to have more headaches.

It's no surprise, because that's the perfect description of someone under stress.

Focus on relaxing and your head will thank you.

8. Sex

rt69 - Flickr

Yes, sex is good for your health, but it has downsides too.

During sex, you may feel a gradual headache building - men experience it more often than women.

This is caused by changes in blood pressure. Don't confuse it with sharp, sudden head pain, which could be a brain hemorrhage.

If you suffer from sex headaches, you can manage them by eating regularly and drinking plenty of water.

9. Pickled foods


Foods that have been pickled are loaded with a natural compound called tyramine.

Eating too much tyramine can trigger a headache. So be careful with foods like pickled vegetables, aged cheeses like Gouda, and smoked foods like tofu.

The same compound is also in bananas, onions, avocados, beer, meat, and (sadly) chocolate.

10. Jaw pain

Jaw pain
Canadian Chiropractic Association

Maybe you've heard of TMJ, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

It's a chronic condition that causes pain from a misaligned jaw.

More than 20% of adults are estimated to have it, and it can also cause painful headaches.

The strain from the misaligned jaw affects head and neck muscles, causing the migraine.

If you have a noisy and painful jaw, you should consult a doctor.

11. Dehydration


Irritation, a lack of energy, and trouble focusing.

Those sound like symptoms of migraine pain, but they're also signs that your body is dehydrated.

Most of us just aren't drinking enough water, and headaches are one of the ways our bodies try to warn us.

Look out for any of these other red flags that you're dehydrated.

12. MSG


This headache-causing food additive is most famous for being used in Chinese food, but it's more common than you might think.

Lots of processed foods, including potato chips, salad dressing and canned soup, contain MSG.

Eat too much of the compound and it dilutes your blood vessels while exciting nerves in your brain.

You can probably guess that triggers a painful headache.

13. Your posture

Text neck
UltraSlo1 - Flickr

More and more people are suffering from "text neck," or neck pain caused by staring down at our phones and computers all day.

But bad posture can hurt more than just your neck.

Leaning your head forward all day puts pressure on the joints and nerves of your neck, causing a headache.

Start practicing good posture right now, and make it a daily habit.

14. Bright lights

Movie theater
Hashi Photo - Wikimedia

Do you get "movie theater headaches" when you see a film? You're not alone.

Plenty of people complain that bright lights can trigger a sudden migraine.

While it's not too hard to avoid bright and flashing lights, be wary of fluorescent lights too.

The blue-tinted light they give out can cause headaches too.

15. Extra body weight


A study found that severe obesity (calculated by BMI) increased a patient's chance of having a migraine by 80%.

When you add in that being inactive is also connected to migraines, you get plenty of good reasons to get off the couch.

Try adding some gentle exercise to your daily routine and see if your migraines fade away.

How to treat a migraine

Even if you avoid all your triggers, migraines have a habit of sneaking up on you.

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If you're dealing chronic migraines, and lying in the dark isn't doing the trick, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don't pop pain pills or headache medicine. While they provide temporary relief, patients describe killer "rebound headaches" when the medicine wears off.
  • Add more food rich in magnesium to your diet. Magnesium has been shown to keep migraines under control. You can find it in spinach, oats, fish oil, olive oil, and sunflower seeds.
  • If you're desperate for relief, consider getting this special ear piercing. Plenty of patients swear that it has cured their migraines.

How do you deal with headache pain?

[H/T: Reader's Digest, Health, Good Housekeeping]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories.