Headache Triggers: Challenging Conventional Wisdom

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Anyone who suffers from regularly occurring headaches or migraines has tried to pinpoint the trigger of their pain. Headache triggers are the conditions and key variables that can set off head pain. For some people, it can be one solitary variable such as a flashing light, or a specific food. For other sufferers it’s a set of variables coming together to create the perfect headache storm.

Outlining one’s triggers has traditionally been the basis for understanding and treating head pain. Recently, however, studies have been digging deeper into the trigger- headache cycle and as a result have prompted even more questions.

Studies Generate New Questions: recent studies* tested headache and migraine sufferers’ trigger responses. The results were NOT overwhelming. In other words the triggers did not incite significant percentages of patient headaches, as conventional wisdom would dictate. This led researchers to question the process. Researchers did not suggest that sufferers were wrong in their assumptions about what triggered their pain, but rather suggest that the trigger might actually be a symptom. The example used is that while chocolate might not be a trigger for a migraine but the migraine might cause a chocolate craving – INTERESTING!

As the article says, “Do what works for you”, but consider your trigger could possibly be a different part of the headache cycle. For more information on this topic, check out Colleen Doherty, MD’s article Is Avoiding Migraine Triggers the Wrong Advice?

To narrow down your own personal headache cycle, track the date, time of day, triggers, foods and medications you’ve recently eaten, rate the severity of the pain, and how you gained relief. To start the process, download our helpful headache diary here.

For your personal headache consultation, contact me for the next available appointment. We can often schedule same day appointments for existing patients (408) 866-8820.

 

Studies Referenced

*Goadsby PJ, Silberstein SD. Migraine triggers: harnessing the messages of clinical practice. Neurology. 2013 Jan 29;80(5):424-5.

Hougaard A, Amin F, Hauge AW, Ashina M, Olesen J. Provocation of migraine with aura using natural trigger factors. Neurology 2013;80:428–431.

Marcus DA, Scharff L, Turk D, Gourley LM. A double-blind provocative study of chocolate as a trigger of headache. Cephalalgia 1997;17:855–862.

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