Can stress cause migraines?

Teri Robert
Pain Medicine

There's still some debate among migraine experts about whether stress is a migraine trigger. In fact, there's a debate scheduled on this at the upcoming International Headache Congress. In the end, what really matters is correctly identifying triggers. Before accepting that stress itself is a migraine trigger, it's a good idea to rule out other possible triggers that may be encountered during stressful times, such as:

  • messed sleep patterns,
  • missed or off-schedule meals,
  • drinking too little and becoming dehydrated,
  • consuming too much caffeine, and
  • crying.
People who suffer from migraines can have various triggers, one of which may be stress. Other triggers can include lack of sleep, certain foods and dehydration. Learning better ways of coping with your stress can help reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines. Some ways to reduce stress include relaxation techniques, regular exercise, getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet.

Yes. Stress can trigger both migraine and tension-type headache. Events like getting married, moving to a new home, or having a baby can cause stress. But studies show that everyday stresses—not major life changes—cause most headaches. Juggling many roles, such as being a mother and wife, having a career, and financial pressures, can be daily stresses for women.

Making time for yourself and finding healthy ways to deal with stress are important. Some things you can do to help prevent or reduce stress include:

Eating healthy foods Being active (at least 30 minutes most days of the week is best) Doing relaxation exercises Getting enough sleep

Try to figure out what causes you to feel stressed. You may be able to cut out some of these stressors. For example, if driving to work is stressful, try taking the bus or subway. You can take this time to read or listen to music, rather than deal with traffic. For stressors you can't avoid, keeping organized and doing as much as you can ahead of time. This will help you feel in control.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.