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, for example, acute sinus infection, brain tumor, stroke and more.
Headaches can be triggered by a variety of factors, but if you experience a 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 , a relaxing massage or a relaxing aromatherapy bath. Aromatherapy and essential oils can help in relieving headaches.
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.
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.
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!
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!).
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.
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.
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.