Causes of Chronic Migraine & Factors That Can Trigger It

Contributor: Nancy Dixit


Migraine is the most common form of headache, but not all headaches are migraines. Fortunately, the symptoms of migraines and headaches are different.

If you can identify the symptoms associated with migraines and headaches, you can determine whether your headaches may be migraines.

In this article, we will explore the causes of migraines and the factors that can trigger them.


What is a migraine?

The term “migraine” refers to a headache that is usually (but not always) on one side of the head. This is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Chronic migraine was defined as having headaches for at least 15 days per month, for at least three months.

It starts as less frequent headache episodes which gradually escalates into more frequent episodes.


Migraine indicator

  • The pain is moderate or severe and is often intense.
  • The pain may be on one side of the head or both.
  • Headaches cause a throbbing, pounding or throbbing sensation.
  • The pain gets worse with physical activity or movement.
  • The patient should experience nausea, vomiting, and/or light and sound sensitivity along with the headache.

For some people, the warning symptoms known as auras occur before or with a headache.

Auras can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, or other disturbances, such as tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking.


Did you know about 3 percent of people who experience episodic migraines develop chronic migraines each year?

Migraine causes

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain.

While it’s not clear what causes these changes in brain activity, it’s possible that your genes make you more likely to have migraines as a result of certain triggers.

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If you have a family history or one of your parents has had migraines, you have a 50 to 75% chance of getting migraines.

To determine how susceptible you are to hereditary migraine headaches, genetic test is your best choice.

Pain results from signals that interact among the brain, blood vessels, and surrounding nerves. During a headache, certain nerves from the blood vessels are activated and send pain signals to the brain.


There are migraine “pain centers,” or generators, in the midbrain area. Migraines begin when overactive nerve cells send impulses to your blood vessels.

This causes the release of prostaglandins, serotonin, and other substances that cause swelling of the blood vessels around the nerve endings, causing pain.

Common chronic migraine triggers

Various lifestyle and environmental factors, known as “triggers,” can trigger migraine episodes.

These triggers may include hormonal, emotional, physical, dietary, environmental and drug factors.

Emotional trigger

Stress, anxiety, tension, shock, depression, excitement etc. come under emotional triggers.

Stress is the biggest cause of all; emphasize is a trigger for nearly 70% of migraine sufferers.

As per studies, 50 to 70% of people have a significant relationship between their daily stress level and their daily migraine activity.

Relaxation therapy, meditation, exercise, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can go a long way in managing stress.

Hormonal changes

For women, hormonal headaches often occur during periods due to hormonal fluctuations.

Hormone-related headaches can occur as a result of oral contraceptives, menopause, or pregnancy due to hormonal imbalance.

Even migraines can occur around menstruation due to changes in estrogen levels.

Menstrual headaches often develop 2 days before or 3 days after menstruation or during ovulation.

Many women find their migraines improve after menopause, although menopause can trigger migraines or make them worse in some women.

Changes or irregular sleep schedule

There is a close relationship between irregular sleep and migraines.

Sleep renews and repairs all parts of the body—including the brain. If you don’t get enough rest, or if you wake up often, you may experience more headaches and it can get worse.

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Caffeine and alcohol

Several lifestyle factors, including alcohol intakecoffee consumption, and smoking, have been considered as risk factors for migraine.

This is because caffeine narrows the blood vessels that surround the brain, when consumption is stopped, the blood vessels dilate.

This causes increased blood flow around the brain and pressure around the nerves. This can then trigger what is known as a caffeine withdrawal headache.

Did you know that for about a third of people who experience migraines, alcohol is also a trigger?


Dehydration or insufficient fluid intake can trigger migraine headaches. Some people are much more prone than others to headaches related to dehydration.

However, it can be avoided by making sure they drink enough fluids every day.

If you have migraines, it’s important to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can help you prevent migraine attacks.

Note: Keep in mind that migraine attacks or other types of headaches can last a long time if you’re not hydrated enough.

Last thoughts

Migraine headaches are the worst, but the only real way to get rid of the pain is to know what kind of headache you have.

If you have frequent or occasional migraines, it’s important to understand your personal migraine triggers and do your best to avoid them.

Tip: Avoid unnecessary use of painkillers, without consulting a GP, until the root cause of the headache is diagnosed.

Migraines run in families, especially migraines. In fact, children whose parents had migraines were up to four times more likely to develop them as well.

In addition, make it a habit to have preventive health checks as they can help you gain complete insight into your health.

It will also help you take action to improve your overall well-being.

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