Is Reading a Migraine or Headache Trigger?

Reading_triggerReading has long been an escape from my migraines. I’ve been lucky because many people say their eyes are too sensitive (photophobia) or have migraines or headache triggered by reading. Since my photophobia is generally manageable — and I usually read when I already have a migraine — I thought I was free. Apparently not.

It started when my massage therapist mentioned that her physical therapist relieved her migraine (a true migraine, not a bad headache) by working on muscles in the back of her head. The idea is that moving your eyes causes these muscles to move, which can trigger migraines or headaches.

Having felt better during Christmas week, when I had no time to read, I experimented. Friday morning I spent 30 minutes on the computer and barely looked at it again until this morning. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were low pain.

Yesterday started out well, but was interrupted with a nasty migraine. One so bad that abortives were entirely ineffective. It continued through the night, but let up by morning. I’m back at the computer with frequent breaks. Today’s fate is too early to tell. My head pain seems to be increasing only a bit.

The experiment has already had good outcomes. I know to rest my eyes regularly. I’ve rekindled my love for NPR. I can exercise, cook or clean even exercise while “reading.”

13 thoughts on “Is Reading a Migraine or Headache Trigger?”

  1. I’m 37 and having migraine attack since the time i was 24. I just cannot read for more than 20 minutes. If i cross the limit then the i get migraine attack. It’s really horrible to go through this. I cannot pursue my studies. I have showed to many opthalmolosigts and nuerologists but in vain.

  2. Computer screens trigger migraine, more while reading rather than watching videos, and I am witness to it. I only started experiencing migraines after I started using computer.

  3. Hi i have had migraines all my life i have just pick up a pair of glass as was sent to have my eyes teat by G.P.I have got them with a blue tint on as the blue lens help with the bright lights.It also helps in reducing your migraines.If you are not in need of glass you can buy blue sunglasses.Hope this helps.

  4. Has anyone seen a doctor or neurologist to find out if there is a treatment for reading triggering a migraine. Is there any hope that it will heal itself if given enough rest?

    I don’t know of any treatment, but most people go through phases where reading is a big trigger then it doesn’t bother them much at all. It tends to go up and down, which is at least some comfort.


  5. Last two months have not been able to read without getting severe headache. I have turned to audiobooks. Recently visited a doctor to betold they are migraine. Took two excedrin migraine tabs on Tuesday which helps. Also what helps is going in cold swimming pool and laying on my back. Can read for about ten minutes at a time. What is a eye pillow?

    An eye pillow is basically a tube of fabric (usually silk) that’s filled with flax seeds and lavender. You lay it over your eyes when you lie down. Many people find the weight and smell soothing. You can buy them or make your own. See Google for links and instructions:

    My favorite one is Barefoot Yoga eye pillow.


  6. reading accually helps my headaches go away too, my older brother gets migraines and it runs in the family. Music helps me too, any kind, but mostly loud for me. Good tips btw!

  7. Great tips. Audiobooks have been my savior. I don’t know how much difference it makes for my migraines, but lying on the couch with an eye pillow is superior to holding a book.

  8. I find posture has a huge amount to do with whether or not I get a migraine (or usually just a headache as is most often the case) while reading.

    Doing neck stretches in the morning can really help those times when I get lazy with my posture… 🙂

    But to answer the question – I don’t believe reading itself is a migraine trigger provided you’re responsible (take breaks, keep hydrated etc)

  9. I would echo questions regarding font/background color. There is emerging research into color vision and other visual relationships in migraine sufferers, and as with other things, we may not be normal–at least not during at attack.

    Sometimes a color overlay or tinted lenses can help.

  10. Do you notice a difference with font color and background color? I sure do.
    For example, I absolutely cannot read white text on black, be it in a magazine or on the computer screen. It makes my eyes work to hard and I begin to get a headache, which can develop into a migraine if I’m not careful.

  11. The body’s codes are so hard to crack. Obviously, plenty of migraines will occur and you’ll never know why… but these watchful experiments of yours seem sure to lead to some measure of control. Being so aware (and patient) can be tough. reading about your mindfulness helps give me strength to continue paying attention to my ups and downs to see if I can make a difference in my pain(s).

    Sometimes, I’d just like to “be”, you know? Not pay attention, not have to wonder all the time. Not have to monitor things. C’est la vie maladie!

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