The 5 Worst Cities for Migraines

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Migraines aren’t just bad headaches; they’re a neurological condition that leads to severe, pulsing, throbbing pain, at times to the point of being disabling. Plus, other symptoms often accompany the pain, including blurred vision, light sensitivity, nausea, and dizziness.

An estimated 39 million Americans experience migraines, though that number may be higher due to undiagnosis. For those who live with migraines, avoiding potential triggers is a common goal. Bert Sperling – who’s behind the website BestPlaces – attempted to identify states where trigger exposure is potentially highest, creating a list of migraine hotspots that those who experience migraines may want to avoid.

Sperling’s released information didn’t dive deeply into the exact reasons every city was positioned in a specific spot on the list, only referencing a few basic points relating to particular cities. As a result, the published data is a bit lacking. However, many consider the methodology sound. Based on his research, here’s a look at the five worst cities for migraines.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is considered the worst city for people with migraines, mainly due to lifestyle factors and widespread food triggers based on what’s popular in the area. Lifestyle factors generally include points like how many hours the average person spends working, the amount of overtime commonly performed, the number of reported sleeping issues, exercise frequency, and even how often people experience sunburns.

When it comes to the food factors, this point focuses on how frequently residents eat potentially migraine-triggering foods, which is an expression of how common they are in diets within the region. Cheese, chocolate, citrus, pickles, sausage, hot dogs, pizza, sour cream, and other foods are triggers for some who experience migraines. Additionally, drinks like coffee, tea, cola, and alcohol can lead to migraines. Generally, cities with higher rates of consumption of potential trigger foods and beverages could increase the likelihood of a person consuming one, which may lead to more migraines.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is the second-worst city for people who experience migraines. Lifestyle factors are the biggest reason, as Madison actually scored the worst in this category when compared to every other city. However, other factors also played a role in its position, such as environmental triggers and the number of migraine-related prescriptions.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock made the list of the worst cities for migraines, with environmental factors playing a significant role. Environmental triggers can include extreme temperatures and rapid weather changes. Additionally, some other societal points – ranging from commute times to divorce rates — were also included as part of the environmental category.

Knoxville, Tennessee

While Sperling didn’t explicitly state the reasons Knoxville came in fourth on his list of the worst cities for migraines, environmental factors likely played a role, particularly those relating to weather.

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is considered the fifth worst city for migraine sufferers, primarily for the same reasons as Cincinnati. Common lifestyle patterns in St. Louis can potentially lead to migraines. Additionally, foods and drinks that are known as potential migraine triggers are more prevalent in the city.