All of us, without exception, have experienced a headache – that pain in the head. It is the most common symptom, experienced by man and the most common cause of absentees from work.
There are various causes that trigger a headache. Some are benign while some can be life-threatening.
Your other symptoms that accompany a headache can often help the doctor to identify the cause in most cases.
These factors differ from individual to individual and each cause may be pertinent to a particular individual.
How you can tackle these factors, the remedies, are also explained to help prevent recurrence and to reduce the frequency of the headaches.
Factors that trigger a primary headache are benign. This type of headache includes a tension, or a migraine or a cluster headache.
Factors that trigger a secondary headache are pathological. They may include simple harmless ones such as inflammation or strain of the neck muscles or they may be serious in nature such as a stroke or a space-occupying lesion in the brain, which can be life-threatening.
1) Mental stress
This is the most common cause of a headache. The mental stress can be due to reasons, which you may not be in control of. It may be due to job-related factors at work or some personal problems related to finance or sickness.
People with a high stress threshold are more capable mentally to bear the stress while the capacity of more sensitive people to bear stress is low.
Mental stress, therefore, manifests itself through various symptoms and headache is one such common symptom. Tension headaches and migraines are the types of headaches that are triggered by the stress factor.
Solution: If you face such headaches quite often, taking pills will be a temporary solution. A more practical solution lies in increasing your stress threshold so that you can manage stress well and ward off further headache attacks.
The most beneficial method is to de-stress yourself by doing meditation every day and on a permanent basis. Psychotherapy too will help, because talk sessions with your psychotherapist will give you a mental boost to start with.
2) Certain foods
It is some foods, which you eat that can trigger a headache. You may be allergic to these foods, which can cause cold and sinusitis that can lead to a headache. It could be any food that you eat. It varies from individual to individual, but such common foods that can cause a headache are:
- Alcoholic drinks such as red wine, whiskey, beer and champagne
- Processed meat
- Food preservatives such as Tyramine, Tyrosine, Nitrates and Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Ice creams and cold foods
- Certain fruits like avocado, pineapple, papaya, strawberries, and raspberries
- Certain vegetables like mushroom, lentils, raw garlic, onions and olives
- Dairy products such as aged cheese, sour creams and yogurt
The solution lies in identifying such foods. Be aware of what you have eaten before a headache sets in. It isn’t difficult and once you have identified such food or foods, avoid them in future.
3) Sleep deprivation
Sleep is far more important to your health and mortality than you think. As an adult, you need about 7 hours of sleep (it may vary from person to person).
If you do not get proper sleep, you are prone to developing certain psychological and physical complications. Headache is quite common in people who face sleep deprivation.
The solution is to adopt certain lifestyle measures and certain changes in your sleeping environment and sleeping habits that will help in giving you proper sleep.
4) Improper posture
Improper posture either while sitting for long hours (for example in front of a computer) or while sleeping can cause a strain on the muscles of the neck and head. This can lead to a pain in the head and neck.
The solution is to use a proper pillow, which you feel most comfortable to sleep on. Secondly, always get used to staying upright when you walk or sit on a chair. Adopting the right and proper posture while working at the desk or on a computer always is the only long-term solution
5) Certain strong odors and aromas
The smell of certain perfumes especially the strong ones, paints, air fresheners and even household cleaners can trigger a headache.
It is believed that these smells irritate the nerves, which can cause a headache and sometimes dizziness.
The solution is to identify such smells and avoid using those substances.
6) Hormonal Changes
Headaches are also seen in women due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. The rise and fall of the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, before and during the menstruation period triggers a headache in some women.
Solution: At such times, take an over-the-counter pill if the pain is severe. Otherwise, you could use a balm or oil to massage your forehead.
7) Medicines that Cause Headache
The list of prescription and over-the-counter medicines that can cause a headache is long and it varies from person to person.
Such medicines can be simple decongestants and antihistamines you use for cold or oral contraceptives or medicines used for diabetes or high blood pressure.
The list is endless and you can easily identify a medicine that gives you a headache. Talk to your doctor who may then put on some other medicines for the same problem.
Even a regular smoker can get a headache if he has smoked more cigarettes on a particular day. Smoking can cause headache in a beginner.
Even second-hand smoke can cause your head to pain in some people. The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes narrowing of the blood vessels. This decreases blood supply to the brain and this can trigger a headache.
Solution: If you are prone to a headache due to this cause, you should stay away from cigarette and cigarette smoke.
9) Changes in Seasons
The onset of humid weather such as in the rainy season or a hot summer or barometric pressure changes can be a cause of head pain in some individuals.
This is because the hypothalamus in the brain is sensitive to weather changes and can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, which can cause a headache.
This type of headache is referred to as a barometric pressure headache and it is caused by a dramatic change in the air pressure around you such as before a storm or when flying.
Solution: The ideal way to tackle these headaches is to avoid living in places with such triggering climates, but that may be difficult for various compelling reasons.
If you live in such a place, you must use homemade remedies to tackle such headaches. Apply ice packs to the area of pain on the head. Take a warm shower. Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Avoid triggers that can worsen the headache.
10) Sex Headaches
Sex headaches are brought on by sexual activity and occur during the orgasm. They can even start during foreplay. They occur due to overexertion. Most of them last only for a few minutes but can extend for a few hours in some people.
The solution to prevent this seems a little difficult to advise. However, the best thing to do in such cases is not to have sex when you are physically or mentally exhausted.
Dehydration is due to inadequate intake of water and fluids and loss of body fluids and essential salts through sweat.
This leads to chemical changes in the brain, which is very sensitive to imbalances of electrolytes levels in the blood and can result in a headache. Certain postures like bending over can aggravate the pain.
Solution: If you are prone to such headaches or even otherwise, you must drink plenty of water throughout the day.
As a healthy adult, you must drink 12 to 15 glasses of water every day. There are a host lot of benefits of drinking adequate water.
12. Eye Strain – another common headache cause
Straining your eyes by concentrating on a particular activity for long periods can cause headaches in lots of people.
Extended driving periods or sitting in front of a computer or reading for long periods can strain your eyes, which can give you a headache.
This type of headache goes away after you have rested your eyes. However, if you need spectacles, it is necessary to get them after testing your eyes.
The solution lies in taking frequent breaks during any activity, which can strain your eyes. Read how prevent eye strain.
13) Missing a Meal
Missing out on a meal or postponing it can cause blood sugar levels to fall, which can cause a headache in lots of people.
Even having too many sweets can increase your blood sugar and can be a cause. Low and high blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels in the brain and elsewhere to dilate, which triggers a headache.
Solution: If you are prone to such headaches, be sure to balance out your diet and eat at regular times.
14) Certain Hair Styles and Hair Accessories
Certain hairstyles like a tightly tied ponytail can cause tightening of the scalp connective tissue, which can cause a headache and even hair loss. Tight-fitting headbands, braids, tight-fitting hats can also cause a headache.
Solution: Avoid using these hair appliances and adopt hairstyles that do not cause tug at your scalp.
15) Caffeine Withdrawal
People who drink too much coffee or tea or other beverages, which contain caffeine like energy drinks, become dependent on their daily intake of caffeine.
They become caffeine addicts, which is not healthy as it can cause health complications. When they stop their caffeine intake, they suffer from caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Headache is one manifestation of such withdrawal.
The solution is to stick to a moderate intake of caffeine drinks and not overdo it.