Lifestyle Contributors to Headache

  • Werner John Becker
  • Allison McLean
  • K. Ravishankar
Reference work entry


Lifestyle factors and exposure to specific headache triggers can play a significant role in determining headache frequency in many individuals with migraine and tension-type headache. Attention to these aspects of migraine management as part of the treatment plan has the potential to improve overall patient outcomes. Unfortunately, much of the evidence for the importance of lifestyle factors and triggers in migraine and other headache types is based upon anecdotal evidence and clinical experience, rather than formal scientific evidence. The evidence that is available is reviewed in this chapter, and the following observations are based on this evidence and clinical experience.

Lifestyle factors which may be important in influencing the occurrence of attacks in these primary headaches are irregular or insufficient sleep, irregular or skipped meals, excessive caffeine use, lack of exercise, and obesity. Specific headache triggers which may influence migraine frequency, and perhaps to some extent tension-type headaches as well, include stress, hormonal changes in women, weather changes, too little sleep, sleeping in, perfumes, bright lights, alcohol, certain foods, exertion, and caffeine withdrawal. Patients with migraine, tension-type headache, and perhaps some other headache types may benefit from an organized plan to address lifestyle issues and triggers. A formal lifestyle assessment by a health care professional can be part of such a plan, as can behavioral interventions such as relaxation training, stress-management training, and the acquisition of pacing and self-monitoring skills.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea Migraine Attack Chronic Migraine Migraine Headache Chronic Daily Headache 
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Copyright information

© Lifting The Burden 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Werner John Becker
    • 1
  • Allison McLean
    • 2
  • K. Ravishankar
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Calgary and Alberta Health ServicesCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Alberta Health ServicesCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.The Headache and Migraine ClinicJaslok Hospital and Research CentreMumbaiIndia
  4. 4.The Headache and Migraine ClinicLilavati Hospital and Research CentreMumbaiIndia

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