Migraine Triggers, Symptoms, and Treatments

My life consists of managing migraine triggers, symptoms, and treatments. What I experience is not what everyone else experiences. We are all different and react differently. Migraine is a tricky thing and so much more than a headache! This page consists of lists of what I'm experiencing and my stories. Remember that I am not a doctor and to consult one for medical advice.

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Migraine Triggers

I have a list of my top migraine triggers and how I manage them. I have personal stories, resources, and ideas on how to avoid or deal with migraine triggers. When I think I understand my triggers, it changes and I discover more possible common triggers.

While the cause of migraine is still unknown, triggers can bring on migraine attacks in many different ways in each individual. Triggers can vary from day to day, person to person. They are thought to cause a series of events in the brain which leads to migraine symptoms. Some triggers are avoidable or manageable. Larger triggers give little to no warning or allow prevention. I have linked my experiences below. I need consistency and it takes lifestyle choices and awareness to avoid migraine triggers. There are so many factors to consider. Identifying triggers can help and everyone is different!

Change in Routine

I need consistency in my life to manage migraine triggers. Any change in sleep, routine, hormones, weather, food, and life affect me.  I try to keep things on a schedule and when I can’t, prepare with ways to offset the change.

Weekend let down

Change in sleep

Hormonal Triggers

Do periods cause migraines? No, researchers are still working on the cause.  But my period triggers a migraine every month and is related. I first noticed migraine spikes when I started my menstrual cycle in high school.  The cramps were horrible but the migraines were the worst! I learned to prevent before my period and oftentimes after. The change before and after effect me. I have spoken with my gynecologist to have the best birth control that can help my attacks. I experience auras which is an important thing to discuss with your doctor.

Environmental Triggers

Any type of environmental change can trigger migraine. My Migraine Life likes consistency and I do my best to stick to it. Weather is a migraine trigger and so hard to avoid. I love to travel yet it is a lot to manage symptoms, prepare for migraine attacks and avoid common migraine triggers. I struggle with the light, sound, smell, and even touch sensitives where ever I go.

Food and Drinks

One of my biggest migraine triggers is food. There may be many foods that give you migraine spikes like hidden MSG, histamines, nitrates, sulfites, additives, and more.  There are many trigger foods to avoid and each person reacts differently and in different ways to each.

Caffeine can be a migraine trigger or, for some, a relief. It differs in each individual and should be experimented within a controlled way.


Exercise can make migraine worse or better. Depending on the day and type of activity I do depends on my migraine sensitivities, levels, and circumstance. Every day is different with exercise but I try to move my body as much as I can without causing more harm.

Emotions and Mental Health

Emotions trigger migraine and often comes in with anxiety and depression. Mental health affects the quality of everyone’s life. It should never be overlooked. I try to manage stress by giving myself self-care and awareness of how I’m feeling.


Medication overuse

Did you know that headache medication can cause you to have a headache? I didn’t either until I experienced it in high school. Medication overuse headaches are caused by taking too many medications which essentially causes withdrawal and perpetuates the cycle.  A more in-depth view of medication overuse can be found.

Stages of Migraine

Migraine symptoms can occur anywhere from an hour to days before a migraine attack.  It can serve as a warning and can differ with each attack.  Some migraine symptoms may be but are not limited to the list below.  I have linked my experience(s) with each. Remember, I’m not a doctor. I’m sharing my experience and linking all my stories to how it makes me feel every day. Everyone’s experiences will vary.

Prodrome Migraine

Mood changes

This is because levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine are affected by the migrainous process in the brain. [1] In all of the migraine phases, mood changes are present.  The mental toll of living with migraine is a roller coaster and one that is often uncontrollable.

Photophobia, increased sensitivity to light,  can begin during the prodrome phase and continue throughout the migraine attack. I am always sensitive to light and it almost always increases the pain of a migraine despite what phase I’m in.

Sound sensitivity- phonophobia, increased sensitivity to sound, can continue through the aura and headache phases. Once again, sound also can increase my pain.

Difficulty sleeping can be a symptom of migraine prodrome and a migraine trigger

Muscle Tension- I carry muscle tension in my back, shoulders, and neck triggering headaches. I use a variety of techniques to treat and work out my stressed body.

Aphasia is loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words. This makes reading and speaking difficult.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea


Not everyone experiences every phase. And not all people experience migraine aura. Here is what I experience

Phantom Smells- Allodynia is hypersensitivity to feel and touch to the point  “normal” feels painful

Migraine Symptoms

SymptomsMigraine symptoms can be so tricky. I never know if I’m coming out of an attack or rolling into another. Understanding the timeline of a migraine attack is important although there are many overlapping symptoms before, during, and after a migraine attack. The prodrome phase is where migraine symptoms begin. When thinking of the migraine attack timeline, I like the American Migraine Foundations graphic. The stages of migraine consist of prodrome, aura, headache, and postdrome.

Did you know you can have a migraine attack without head pain? I didn’t for a long time either. For me, head pain is the worst part of my attacks. Each headache is different and describing the pain is difficult. I have had head pain on both sides, one side, and ranged from mild to extremely severe.  Along with Chronic Migraine, I also have daily persistent headaches so it’s an everyday thing for me.

Head Pain

  • Throbbing
  • Drilling
  • Icepick
  • Burning


Postdrome Migraine

Finally, I crawl out of my cold, dark room after an attack and I want to be free of migraine symptoms. But the reality is, there’s still another phase. It’s what I call the zombie phase or the migraine hangover. The postdrome phase is often overlooked even though 60-80 percent of people with migraine experience it.   Postdrome is part of the migraine attack itself. The profound changes in activity and blood flow that occur during the aura and head pain phase of the attack, persist even after the pain has ended.

Whether I’m in the prodrome migraine phase, aura, headache, or postdrome, I’m dealing with a variety of migraine symptoms. The stages of migraine overlap and are different with each attack. The severity and frequency also vary.  Because of this, treatments also vary.

  • Memory loss
  • Clumsiness
  • Euphoric Mood
  • Depressed Mood
  • Fatigue

Migraine Treatments


Migraine treatments range vastly and so do their results for each person. There are many natural and medicinal migraine treatments.  Mind, body, and soul therapies can be used along with preventative and abortive efforts.  What works for me may not work for you.  I have tried a lot because a lot has failed, not been worth the money, side effects, or minimal help.  I have found migraine treatments that provide great relief and some that remain part of my daily life. Remember that my migraine treatment plans change and not all posts are up to the current date.  Please take a look at some common treatments I’ve tried and decide for yourself.

Stress: Relaxation Practices

Everyone is very sensitive and oils are a personal preference. At times it helps me while other times it triggers me. I usually prefer lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and migrastil.


Caution: This is not recommended for those with hemiplegic migraine. Drowning is an unfortunate possibility for a hemiplegic migraine attack if an attack occurs in a bathtub.

Muscle and Body Work

Ice Therapy–Ice is my go-to for headache treatment. A cold dark room, ice, and sleep are the most natural and effective ways I fight head pain.

I use these Cooling Headache Pads when I travel on the go.

  • Physical Therapy
  • Mouth Guard

Treating Migraine Triggers


Can trigger and can help treat depending on each person.  Often not recommended by physicians if you have chronic migraine but in episodic acute attacks, it can be used to enhance the effectiveness of some medications. It helps me but only with consistency on how much and when. Proceed with caution and medical supervision.

Sleep during a migraine attack provides significant relief for me. Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep and sometimes I wake with a migraine.

Eye mask or headache hat– to shut out the light and add cold therapy

Hydration-Dehydration is a known migraine trigger. I use additional electrolytes and tablets to help boost hydration along with lots of water.

  • Dark/Quiet Room preferred
  • Devices
  • Self Care

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Top migraine symptoms triggers treatments