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Diseases & Conditions

Main Causes of Migraine: Triggers, Treatment, and Prevention

4 Mins read

Migraines are painful headaches that often involve nausea and vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. This may occur in just one part of the head or be felt across the entire head. 

It can last from four to 72 hours (or more), and usually starts in early childhood and lasts through adulthood. While many factors contribute to the severity of migraine headaches, there are three main causes of migraine: triggers, treatment, and prevention. 

Read on to learn more about these causes of migraine and how they affect your migraines.

Understanding Migraines

Because migraines are complex medical conditions, it’s important to do some research before you decide to try migraine medication. And even if you do take medications for your migraines, there are a few natural ways to help prevent them. 

For example, make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation causes blood vessels in your brain to narrow and can lead to migraine attacks. Stay away from alcohol—even one drink can trigger a headache for some people with migraines.

Natural Treatments

Many natural treatments can help prevent migraines. Research indicates that magnesium supplementation can reduce a person’s risk of headaches by 50%. 

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of migraine attacks. 

For example, one study found that supplementing with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) reduced daily migraine attacks by 42%.

Avoiding Triggers

The first step in preventing migraines is learning what triggers your episodes. Tracking patterns can be difficult if you’re not sure what you should be looking for. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk. Even if you don’t have a primary trigger, most migraines are preceded by four warning signs or triggers. 

These include physical activity, skipping meals, stress, and exposure to light. Once you know what causes your migraine attacks, try reducing them as much as possible—particularly during times when they tend to happen most often. 

For example, if skipping meals tends to bring on an attack (and it does for many people), make sure that you eat regularly throughout the day instead of skimping on food at mealtimes. If bright lights are a problem (they are for many), wear sunglasses outside during peak hours when sunlight tends to be strongest.

Brain Training

One good migraine-preventative technique is known as biofeedback. Through a series of brain-training exercises that focus on breathing, muscle control, heart rate variability, and other factors believed to be related to migraines, patients can learn how to effectively communicate with their nervous system.

When they’re able to detect early warning signs (such as heart rate changes) that a migraine might be developing—rather than just waiting for an attack without knowing what’s coming—they can do something about it. 

Biofeedback does have some side effects that may make it inappropriate for some people (it can produce sensations similar to migraines), so you should discuss your options with a professional before beginning any type of treatment or prevention plan.


In addition to lifestyle changes, many people with migraine use medication to manage attacks. Depending on your symptoms and situation, your doctor may recommend preventative treatment to reduce the frequency or intensity of attacks. 

Some medications include a class known as beta-blockers (such as propranolol), calcium channel blockers (such as verapamil), antidepressants (such as amitriptyline), or triptans (more commonly referred to by their brand names – Imitrex®, Zomig®). 

Your doctor may also recommend combining medications if you suffer from frequent migraines. For example, a combination of aspirin and caffeine is often used for migraine prevention. 

Other preventive treatments include Botox injections, which are effective at reducing headaches when administered regularly every three months. These injections can cause muscle weakness or flu-like symptoms for up to two days after receiving them but are generally well tolerated by patients. 

It’s important to note that these are just some examples of available treatments—not all people will find relief using any one specific method alone! The best way to find out what works best for you is through trial and error over time—don’t give up until you find something that provides relief!

Tension Headaches

A tension headache is a pain in muscles at the back of your head or neck. Some people also have pain in their upper shoulders or forehead. It’s usually brought on by stress, anxiety, or problems sleeping. 

A mild case can be treated at home with simple self-care steps like taking a warm shower or bath, drinking water, and eating well. 

But if it doesn’t go away after three days you should see a doctor because these headaches can also be a sign of an underlying problem like an infection in your sinuses that’s causing pressure around your eyes.

Severe headaches like these need medical care. You may get medicine to relieve pain, muscle relaxants to ease tightness in your neck and shoulders, or anti-inflammatory drugs for inflammation. 

In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery to treat chronic headaches caused by nerve compression from conditions like herniated discs.

Get Help

In many cases, migraines can be managed with some common sense. 

Sleep is extremely important for your health; try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. And don’t forget about exercise—regular physical activity can boost serotonin levels and help relax tense muscles that might be a contributing factor in migraine pain. 

There are also several medications—including over-the-counter drugs such as Excedrin or Advil—that you can take to relieve headache pain at home. And if your migraines persist despite these simple measures, it may be time to consider preventive treatments (there are many!) or even brain surgery for severe cases.

Take Care Of Yourself

When migraines strike, they can have devastating effects on people’s lives. A 2015 study found that migraine sufferers are more likely to be depressed and anxious than those without migraines. 

But all hope is not lost. Although there’s no cure for migraines, treatments are available—including painkillers (the most common treatment), as well as botox injections or biofeedback therapy—that can help reduce symptoms and keep people moving forward with their lives. 

And if you suffer from chronic headaches as many migraine patients do, your life will greatly improve once you find a treatment method that works for you.

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