Nearly everyone gets a headache at some point of life. Headache is one of the most common medical complaints and more than 45 million Americans (about one in six) suffer chronic headaches each year.
Headaches are generally classified by cause: the first category is primary headache and the second category is secondary headache.
A primary headache isn’t a symptom of an underlying disease, but is caused by problems with pain-sensitive structures in your head, for example chemical over-activity in your brain, issues with the nerves or blood vessels of the head or even genes that make you more susceptible to develop such headaches. An example of primary headache is migraine.
A secondary headache is a symptom of a disease that can stimulate the pain sensitive nerves of the head and temples, for example acute sinus infection, brain tumor, strokeand more.
Headaches can be triggered by a variety of factors, but if you experience chronic or frequent headache, see your doctor as it may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Top Causes of Headache:
1. Alcohol and hangover headache – Most of us are familiar with the old hangover, although the actual cause of it is not known. Yes, it is clear that a hangover follows a heavy night of boozing, but it is not clear whether the pain comes from inflammation or the effect alcohol has on blood vessels. It is also thought that dehydration may be another cause of hangover headaches, along with a late night. There is also cheeky little ingredient found in red wine and other alcoholic drinks, known as tyramine, which could be causing your post-booze headache. Tyramin is also found in aged cheese, including blue cheese, cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss cheese.
2. Dehydration and skipped meals – If you haven’t drunk enough water, and have skipped a meal, then that could be why your head is hurting so much. Try drinking 8 glasses a day of water, and eat regular balanced meals that combine protein, complex carbohydrate and healthy fat throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level stable. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, which contain water, along with essential vitamins and fiber that your body needs to stay healthy (and fight off headaches!).
3. Cold-stimulus headache – Eating cold food like ice cream, cold drinks with ice, or milkshakes is one of the causes of sharp pain in head. But if you can’t stand the sensation of a ‘cold-stimulus headache’, to put it in it’s official term, then simply eat your ice-cream more slowly and take smaller bites/licks. However, I do appreciate that it’s hard to do when the ice-cream tastes so good!
4. Stress – We all put up with stress. Whether it’s dealing with work, school, kids or annoying boss. Stress is indeed associated with headaches and a tingling sensation in the head. The science behind it is that migraines usually follow a tense situation, as during times of stress the body produces cortisol to help you through the tough time, and then when the cortisol levels reduce, you are more susceptible to a migraine. It is annoying that after you’ve got through a stressful time, you get lumbered with a banging headache!
If your headache is stress related, you can try reducing the stress by experimenting with stress relieving techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, pilates, meditation (find here 7 simple an effective meditation techniques to reduce stress), a relaxing massage or a relaxing aromatherapy bath. Aromatherapy and essential oils can help in relieving headaches, and you can find more information about it in my previous article how to relieve headache using essential oils. If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapywhich will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.
5. Digestive problems – According to Chinese medicine, the head represents the digestive system. That means that all headaches are in some way linked to digestive health. Monitor your digestion after eating certain foods, to see if there are any particular foods that cause you to experience any digestive discomfort, and also a headache.
Further reading: Read my previous articles about 8 best natural methods to treat digestive problems and find here top 10 herbal teas that will work wonders on your digestion. You can also try this recipe for delicious digestive detox smoothie.
6. Exercise-induced headache – If you have gone ultra-hard in the gym, then that could be the cause of your headache. Try mixing up your workout with other activities to see if that relieves the pain. Some people find that they just need to warm up longer. While pushing yourself to hard can trigger headache, moderate exercise considers to be a great stress reliever. There are various muscles that can contribute to headache, but the major culprits are the muscles that connect the upper neck to the shoulder blade and the muscles that connect the first two vertebrae to the skull. Walking is a good choice as it increases circulation and helps to relax the neck and shoulder muscles.
7. Food allergies and certain foods – Some migraines and headaches are associated with food allergies or reactions that can be caused by preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, and other additives. Cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, cheese, caffeine and nitrates in processed meats, are known to be the most common culprits. Keep a record of what you eat and try to identify patterns that will help you to avoid the trigger. Then try cutting out the suspicious foods from your diet to see if there is any improvement or consider allergy testing by your doctor.
Further reading: Read my articles about 10 symptoms of gluten sensitivity you probably didn’t know about and scientists identified probiotics that protect against food allergies.
8. Environmental factors – It is said that there is more than 12,000 substances and pollutants in the environment, which can cause headaches as people become more sensitive to the chemicals in the atmosphere. Mold, smoke, pesticides, plastics, perfumes, deodorizers, chlorine, radioactive fallout, carbon monoxide, or even the toxins from your wall-paint, contain substances that build up toxins in the body an can result in headaches. To help reduce the level of toxins in your environment, place several air filtering plants in your home and office and spend more time in nature.
9. Changes in sleep and lack of sleep – A study showed that those who get 6 hours or less sleep a night, are more prone to headaches than those who get 8 hours. So snuggle up, read a book, count sheep and do whatever it takes to get your must-needed zzz’s! You deserve it!
Further reading: Find here 23 dangers of sleep deprivation. Some of them will surprise you.
10. Poor posture – As well as to much exercise, it seems that just sitting down and relaxing can cause a headache. However, it is the case of slouching at your desk that can cause pressure in the head an neck muscles. So sit up, de-hunch your shoulders, and use a chair with lower-back support, (or use a comfy cushion!). You can also try these exercises to improve your posture.
11. Symptoms of disease – As mentioned above, this is also called secondary headache, unlike a primary headache which isn’t a symptom of an underlying disease. There are many diseases and medical conditions that can cause headache. If you experience unusual or persistent headache and you suspect something might be wrong, best to visit your doctor.
12. Hormonal headaches – The reduction of estrogen that occurs just before your period can cause migraines. Other hormonal fluctuations can also trigger headaches during pregnancy, pre-menopause, and during menopause. While some people opt for over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, you can also try some of these natural alternatives for ibuprofen.
13. Excessive medication use – Also called rebound headache. Overuse of pain medication can lead to the development of rebound headaches.
14. Temperature changes – As if there weren’t already enough triggers for headaches/migraines, the weather can also be a culprit! While you can’t control the weather, you can wear sunglasses on a sunny day and make sure you drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
15. Smoking – I suppose it’s no surprise that naughty cigarettes can cause headaches. But be careful folks, even if you don’t smoke yourself, second-hand smoke still contain nicotine, which causes blood vessels in the brain to narrow. So either give-up smoking, or persuade someone whom you spend a lot of time with to pack it in, and then you can be headache free.
Further reading: Smoking is one of the habits to stop right now if you want to be healthy. Read about them here.
The best way to avoid headaches is to identify your trigger or triggers so you are able to prevent the headache before it starts. Try to think about what you eat, physical activity, stressful events or weather changes and if one or several of them cause you a headache. Then try to identify patterns that will help you to avoid this triggers.
Headaches happen. The good news is there are several simple things you can do to ease the pain without a trip to the doctor or drugstore. Try these tips and get to feeling better fast.
Go Hot and Cold
If you have a migraine, place a cold pack on your forehead. Ice cubes wrapped in a towel, a bag of frozen peas, or even a cold shower may lessen the pain. Keep the compress on your head for 15 minutes, then take a break for 15 minutes.
If you have a tension headache, place a heating pad on your neck or the back of your head. If you have a sinus headache, hold a warm cloth to the area that hurts. A warm shower might also do the trick.
Let Your Hair Down — Literally
If your ponytail is too tight, it could cause a headache. These “external compression headaches” can also be brought on by wearing a hat, headband, or even swimminggoggles that are too tight. In one study, women who loosened their hair saw their headache disappear.
Embrace Your Dark Side
Bright or flickering light, even from your computer screen, can cause migraine headaches. If you’re prone to them, cover your windows with special blackout curtains during the day. Wear sunglasses outdoors. You might also add anti-glare screens to your computer and use daylight-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures.
Spit Out Your Gum
Chewing gum can hurt not just your jaw, but your head as well. The same is true for chewing your fingernails, lips, the inside or your cheeks, or handy objects like pens. Avoid crunchy and sticky foods, and make sure you take small bites. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about a mouth guard. This may curb your early-morning headaches.
Take Meds in Moderation
Pharmacy shelves are stocked with pain relievers for all kinds of headaches. They may work, but to get the most benefit with the least risk, follow the directions on the label and these guidelines:
• Choose liquid over pills. Your body absorbs it faster.
• Take painkillers as soon as you feel pain. You’ll likely beat it with a smaller dose.
• Avoid drugs that contain caffeine or multiple ingredients. These are more likely to cause “rebound” headaches. This is what happens when you take medicines too often or for too long. They actually make your condition worse, not better.