Triggers of migraine and tension-type headache

Handb Clin Neurol. 2010:97:161-72. doi: 10.1016/S0072-9752(10)97012-7.


Identification of trigger factors or precipitants is frequently recommended as a basic strategy in the treatment of migraine and tension-type headache (TTH). Trigger factors increase the probability of headache in the short term. Potential trigger factors have been examined most frequently in migraine and less often in TTH. Many of these factors are related to migraine as well as to TTH, but their prevalence may differ in the two headache types. In this chapter, we will review the findings of retrospective as well as of prospective and controlled studies. Taken together, virtually all aspects of life have been suspected to trigger migraine or TTH, but scientific evidence for many of these triggers is poor. Menstruation has a prominent unfavorable role in migraine and possibly in TTH. There is at least some evidence that environmental factors such as weather, lights, noise and odors, stress and other psychological factors, sleeping problems, fatigue and tiredness may play a role. In addition, intake of alcohol, caffeine withdrawal, skipping meals, and possibly dehydration may trigger migraine and TTH in some patients. Scientific evidence is lacking that any other food or food additive plays a relevant role as a trigger factor of headaches.

MeSH terms

  • Headache
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tension-Type Headache*