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When Stripes and Patterns Cause Migraines

From striped sofas to patterns of parallel lines — these visual cues could be bringing misery to millions of headache sufferers, according to scientists.

While the link between flashing lights and certain different forms of epilepsy is well known, some static patterns made up of bars and lines are now suspected of inducing headaches and migraines.

Why do static, vertical stripe patterns cause problems?

It may be understandable that the flickering or movement of light could overstimulate the brain, but how do static patterns produce these results?

Some researchers have hypothesized that our brains are just not comfortable with extreme stripe patterns because they are not found in the natural world. Stripes in nature, such as on animals like zebras, are not perfectly uniform. When we encounter a perfectly striped pattern — especially with high contrast—our brains simply do not know exactly how to process the visual input.

So whether you’re healthy or have a neurological deficit, your brain distrusts the information.

Is it possible to minimize the impact of vertical stripe patterns?

With the prevalence of these patterns in our world —from crosswalks on the streets to window blinds in your home—it is important to find ways to minimize their impact on your health. If you have control over your exposure to these visuals, researchers suggest:

  • blurring the edges of the lines
  • avoiding sharp contrast designs
  • making the stripes vary in size
  • creating slightly wavy lines
  • overlaying perpendicular lines to create a checkerboard pattern

If you do not have direct control over the type of pattern, then avoiding or covering them may be your best option. In addition, precision tinted lenses may be an effective solution for helping reduce the hyper-reactivity that occurs after viewing these types of images. These simple changes helps the brain interpret visual information without such a strong reaction.


Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.