CS Magazine
Cedars-Sinai Magazine

The Pandemic-Migraine Connection

Woman writing in a notebook.

Changes and stressors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have increased triggers for migraine patients worldwide.

The most common triggers are strong odors, sleep disturbances, stress and reactions to certain foods, according to survey results published last fall in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences. Another study suggests that wearing masks and using disinfectants may also aggravate migraines.

"Many triggers are individualized," says Cedars-Sinai neurologist Ilana Lasner, DO. "So it's important to keep a health log to gain insight into your symptoms, habits and patterns. That way you can take steps to prevent a migraine or lessen its severity."



In reviewing your notes, ask the following questions:

1. Did I have a poor night's sleep?

Improve your sleep quality by following a peaceful pre-bedtime routine. Shut off the TV, take a bath or read. Avoid using your cellphone or tablet in bed.

2. Was it something I ate?

Aged cheeses and cured meats are common triggers, but your health log can help identify those unique to you. You may find that something surprising, like almonds, is a trigger for you, Lasner says.

3. Am I stressed out?

The pandemic, global tensions and personal concerns are unavoidable. Reduce their effects through meditation, breathing exercises and mindfulness practice. Enlist the help of friends or a therapist, if needed.

4. When did I last have water?

If you’re not getting about eight glasses per day, try using an app that reminds you to drink water. For variety, sip on some coconut water or herbal tea.

5. Have I become one with my chair?

More than a migraine trigger, a sedentary lifestyle is simply bad for your health. Start small and schedule stretches and walks into your day to form a healthy habit, then add in activities you enjoy, such as dancing, cycling or hiking.