For Some, Migraine “Triggers” Prevent Headaches

Jul 06, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats

If migraines were a simple condition, we would likely have them all figured out by now. But the truth is that they are a very complex condition, and we don’t understand them fully, yet.

In case you’re not convinced of that yet, check out some of the new data presented at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society.

This data shows that what most of us consider migraine triggers can actually help prevent migraines for others. This means that it’s important for us all to consider our migraines individually, avoid our personal triggers and seek treatments that actually work for us.

Charting Migraines and Triggers

The data used to come to this conclusion comes from Curelator Headache. This app is similar to a headache journal that a person has on their smartphone. After putting in their data, the app does the analytical work to identify personal triggers as well as things that might have a protective effect.

The subjects for this study were 284 individuals who used the app for 90 days. They put their data into their phones, recording many aspects of their daily routine easily because of the digital interface. When the data was analyzed, they were in for a surprise. In fact, they only were able to link a small proportion of suspected migraine triggers with actual migraine attacks. They found that “less than 20%” of suspected migraine triggers could actually be linked to migraines. Even more significantly, it was more often the context, not the trigger itself that led to the migraine.

There are two major benefits of this for migraineurs. First, when faced with the sheer numbers of potential migraine triggers, many migraineurs feel helpless. There’s no way they can avoid all these things. But knowing that only a small number of them might actually be their migraine trigger, people can begin working their way through the potential triggers and learn which ones matter for them.

Also, as people learn that many so-called triggers can actually have a protective effect, they might have more motivation to try out some of the things they’ve been avoiding, and in the process discover an important non-pharmaceutical approach to preventing their headaches.

The Implications for Migraine Treatment

But just as the study highlighted the need for a re-evaluation of migraine triggers, it also pointed out that our thinking about migraine treatments might be all wrong. The lead researcher for this paper said, “Pharmaceuticals, and the therapeutic pathways that drive them, are developed and tested on aggregate populations and target an average patient, who in fact may or may not exist.” In other words, drugs developed to treat migraines may be effective for a small percentage of the population of migraineurs.

According to the preliminary data from the Curelator app, it seems that many migraineurs have a completely individual pattern of migraines. Their triggers, protectors, and, probably treatments, are very different. It makes sense, then, that people who have migraines might have very different treatment needs.

If you are trying out migraine treatments that have been prescribed to, but they’re not working, it’s not your fault, it’s the fault of the treatment, which has limited effectiveness. It’s important that you try new and different migraine treatments so you can find one that actually works for you.

If you haven’t tried TMJ treatment for your migraines, perhaps you should. Many people find that TMJ is the optimal approach to treating their headaches.

To learn whether TMJ treatment is is right for your migraines in the Dallas area, please call (817) 481-6888 for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Becky Coats at Grapevine Dental Care.