Migraine and Pain Triggers

By Pebbles Mendoza


Having spent the past six weeks staring at my phone screen, the tv, and out of my window, my migraine attacks have come back with a vengeance. But it’s not just these things cause migraine. When I suffered badly several years ago, my therapist gave me a few tips on other things that triggered an attack.

Mobile gadgets. Excessively repetitive movements, such as what we do with our thumbs when texting or gaming, can lead to all sorts of pain over time, including burning, tingling, numbness, weakness or shock-like sensations in the thumbs, fingers, hands or wrists that can sometimes radiate up the arm. It can be the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. Obviously, simple moderation is the answer, and you can always call instead of texting!

Active video games. These games make you do what real athletes do, and if you’re out of shape, good luck with that! Injuries reported range from minor sprains and strained muscles to torn ligaments and broken bones. Treat sports simulations like they’re the real thing and do warm-up stretches like athletes do. Make sure, too, that you have plenty of space to move around, and that it’s clear of objects and slippery spots.

Sitting style. You may look cool driving with the car seat reclined, but it also makes you have to slouch forward to grip the steering wheel and see the road ahead, which can cause pain in the neck, arms or back over time. The same can happen when you’re too near or too far from your desk computer. Always try to sit upright and let your back and head be supported by the chair/car seat and headrest, with the keyboard or steering wheel within comfortable reach so your arms are slightly bent and relaxed.

Processed food. If you have migraines, watch the stuff you eat. Aged or fermented foods such as cheeses, cured/processed meats, smoked fish and certain types of beer contain high amounts of a chemical called tyramine, a known migraine trigger. Protein-rich and otherwise healthy foods including milk, oats, yogurt and eggs may also contain unhealthy amounts of tyramine if they’ve been stored for a long time or kept in a fridge that's not cold enough. To know what to avoid, experts suggest keeping a food-headache link diary.

Relaxing. You read it right - relaxing. Or more specifically, how you keep your body in one position for long stretches of time, for example while watching television. It’s called “couch potato syndrome” because aches and neck stiffness result from lying on the couch or bed with the head turned to one side for hours at a time. To avoid the couch ouch, always try to sit up straight and maintain good posture even during your downtimes. Check, too, if your wall-mounted TV is too high and adjust accordingly.

Sleep posture. How you sleep can leave you aching when you wake up in the morning. People who sleep on their stomach can twist and hyperextend their neck, while those who sleep on their sides with one arm overhead put a strain on the shoulder after several hours. According to experts, better ways to sleep are on your back with pillows supporting the neck and legs below the knees, or on your side, with both arms below shoulder level and a pillow between the knees to support the lower back.

Caffeine. Sorry, my fellow coffee lovers, but this has to be in our list, as excessive caffeine consumption has been reported to trigger migraines. Remember, too, that caffeine is not just in coffee but also in tea, soft drinks and especially energy drinks, so monitor your daily intake accordingly. Ironically, caffeine withdrawal has also been found to trigger headaches, and even more ironic is that many over-the-counter headache medications contain caffeine!

Eyestrain. If you get headaches centered behind the eyebrows, it may be time for you to wear prescription glasses. Vision problems such as astigmatism, near-sightedness and far-sightedness make the eyes work overtime and, if left uncorrected, can cause massive headaches. Likewise, staring at a computer or gadget screen for long periods without taking a break can precipitate a headache. Have your eyes checked as soon as you can to see what’s needed. If you already wear glasses, it’s probably time for a new pair.

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