A few social media characteristics that may make a migraine more likely.
There’s a reason it’s so enticing to keep scrolling on social media. Cool photos, fast-paced videos, and silly GIFs provide endless entertainment. All that visual stimulation may come at a cost, however. Social media and technology in general may be a trigger for people with migraine.
How Social Media Triggers a Migraine
Social media can trigger a migraine for a couple reasons. It mostly comes down to visual stimulation and poor ergonomics.
The visual stimulation that can trigger migraines include:
- Bright blue light: The artificial light in smartphones is one of the worst lights for migraine. Photosensitivity (or extreme sensitivity to light) affects up to 90 percent of people with migraine, according to the American Migraine Foundation. To make it worse, blue light exposure at night (when social media scrolling is common) can affect sleep and trigger a migraine indirectly.
- Rapid changes in light: When you scroll quickly on social media, you may watch a video with flashing ambulance lights followed by a neon-colored post followed by a dark photo followed by a glittery GIF. The constant changes in light may be triggering.
Then, there’s the ergonomics of using social media. Ergonomics refers to how things are designed or arranged to help you interact with it more efficiently. For example, you can lower or raise the height of your desk chair so that it’s easier to use your keyboard, and you can use a desk riser to lift your monitor up to eye level.
The problem with social media is that you usually use it on your phone. In many cases, people hold their phone close to their faces, look downward, and slump their posture. You may stare at your phone intensely for long periods of time without taking “eye breaks.” Poor posture is harmful for everyone, but it can also be triggering for people with migraine.
Preventing an Attack
You probably don’t have to quit social media to avoid migraines. Try these tips to avoid an attack:
- Limit the time you spend on social media or on technology in general.
- Reduce the glare by adjusting the lighting in the room or the brightness of your phone. Use a glare-reducing screen on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
- Use special glasses. Learn more here about sunglasses for migraine.
- Sit in a comfortable chair where you can practice good posture.
- Set your monitor at eye level, or hold your phone at eye level to avoid text neck.
- Take breaks. Try the 20/20/20 rule to give your eyes a break.
Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel like your migraines are out of control. Frequent migraines may be a sign that your treatment isn’t working as well as it should. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment for you, or help you tweak your lifestyle to keep migraines at bay.
Noah Rosen, MD, is the director at the Northwell Health Headache Center.