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Headaches are easily one of the most common yet bothersome health problems, with more than 50 per cent of the global adult population suffering from it. Be it babies, teenagers, adults or the elderly, headaches spare no one.
Headaches can be caused due to several reasons. From underlying health issues to your food habits, several factors can trigger that throbbing pain which will want you to take a break from the world and sit in a dark, silent corner for some relief. Let us explore the causes of headaches today.
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches can often be unbearable. It may disturb your work and make every moment painful. But what kind of headaches do you suffer from and what causes them? Here are some of the reasons for your headache, which you may not have noticed.
The primary reasons for those nasty headaches are migraine, high tension and stress levels and lack of sleep. People who are strained at work and go through tremendous mental pressures suffer from these types of primary headaches .
The secondary headaches, on the other hand, are not that common compared to primary headaches. They are usually caused due to an overdose of ice cream, sinus and spinal problems . These kinds of headaches are quite severe, and immediate attention is required. If you are prone to developing a lot of frequent headaches, then here are some of the primary reasons behind your pain .
1. Sleep: The Lack Of It And Too Much Of It
Yes, sleep loss and oversleeping are common headache triggers. Studies point out that a lack of sleep increases the creation of proteins in the body that cause chronic pain, which reduce your body's ability to ease pain (lowers the body's pain threshold) and can trigger intense migraine and tension headaches . For some people, sleeping longer than usual can cause headaches because of the effect oversleeping has on certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin.
The variations in the REM (rapid eye movement sleep) cycle can lead to cluster or migraine headaches . Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, insomnia, and teeth grinding can disrupt one's sleep cycle and trigger wake-up headache and hypnic headache .
2. Eating Habits
The foods you eat are directly linked to the possibility of headaches developing. That is, fasting, eating high-sugar foods, dieting rigorously and skipping meals can lead to headaches . Also, delayed or irregular meals can also trigger severe hunger headaches due to the blood-glucose levels falling too low . Hunger causes your muscles to tighten, triggering a tension headache.
Some specific foods and drinks cause headaches. Bananas can cause headache in people who are sensitive to tyramine while alcohol causes dehydration which in turn makes your head hurt a lot.
3. Head Cold
If you happen to get wet in the rain and get a head cold, you will surely have frequent headaches. A head cold occurs when a viral infection causes symptoms such as a stuffy nose or a headache; basically, symptoms that affect your head .
Stress and headaches are interlinked. Stress can cause a headache, and a headache can make you stressed. High levels of stress can make the blood vessels in your brain throb, causing sharp pain and irritation. Stress is one of the primary triggers of tension-type headaches .
5. Hormonal Changes
Headaches, especially migraine headaches, have been linked to the female hormone oestrogen, which controls chemicals in the brain that affect the sensation of pain . Therefore, a drop in the oestrogen levels can trigger a headache. This is why women complain of terrible headaches during periods, a time when the hormones are fluctuating, leading to chemical imbalances. Genetic issues, a family history of hormone imbalances, or certain diseases can cause your oestrogen levels to drop. Some of the other causes of hormonal headaches are pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause, hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives etc.
6. Caffeine Consumption
Just like sleep, caffeine too bats for both the teams. That is, consuming caffeine can trigger headaches in some people, while it can ease headaches in some. Headaches can be caused by caffeine overdose. People prone to migraines may experience more headaches after coffee consumption . This is believed to be due to the effects caffeine has on serotonin or brain electrical activity .
7. Certain Medicines
Experts point out that analgesics, medicines that are used to relieve pain can trigger headaches in some people . Termed as medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches, the regular, long-term use of medication may trigger headaches. While these pain relievers offer relief for occasional headaches, if you take them for more than a couple of days a week, they may trigger medication overuse headaches .
8. Sexual Intercourse
Studies point out that some people tend to experience severe headaches after intercourse, a condition known as coital cephalalgia . Such headaches occur either at the time of orgasm or much before the body gets ready to experience orgasm or after attaining orgasm. Statistics say that men tend to suffer such headaches more than women. Also, those suffering from low blood sugar could experience headaches during intercourse .
Studies have revealed that smoking seems to increase the risk of cluster headaches. For some people, even the smell of tobacco or smoke can trigger a headache. In people suffering from migraine, smoking quickly triggers a headache . This is because the smoke pumps carbon monoxide into your brain and blood, increasing the chances of getting a headache. Smoking also deprives the tissues of oxygen, and the numerous chemicals present in cigarettes could have a toxic effect on both the liver and the brain, triggering headaches .
In some people, alcohol may cause headaches. Of course, overconsumption could give a headache to anyone, but in some people, even a few sips could cause headaches. Firstly, alcohol expands the blood vessel, and when your brain's blood vessels dilate, you may get a headache. Also, alcohol dehydrates your body, and certain compounds like tyramine present in some alcoholic drinks could also trigger headaches, especially if your body is sensitive to it. Beer, scotch, wine and champagne contain such compounds .
For those who drink wine, the reason behind the headache could be tannin, and aged-red wine makes your body release histamines, resulting in cluster headaches. Another danger is the sugar content in alcohol, and also, certain chemicals present in hard drinks alter the chemical composition of your body, leading to headaches .
11. Use Of Laptops, Phones And Computers
Regular and controlled use of gadgets will not contribute to headaches. However, constant use can cause severe headaches that can be really painful. Your eyes are not biologically designed to sustain the bright light of a computer screen for hours on end. So if you look at the computer screen too long with the screen glaring at you like a car's headlight, you are bound to end up with a bad headache .
Get the screen of your computer replaced with an anti-glare screen and keep the brightness low so it does not constantly hit your retina so harshly.
12. Bad Posture
We fail to realise how heavy our head is until the moment we fall asleep in the middle of a boring lecture and then jump awake because our head lolled forward. So, do the muscles of your neck and shoulders and your spine a favour and maintain a good posture. That will prevent excessive strain on these parts of your body and will prevent headaches due to the compounded stress .
13. Regular Exposure To Strong, Odourous Chemicals
Ever felt a throbbing pain creeping up while you are near a petrol bunk or stuck in the traffic behind a bus that pushes out nothing but black smoke? Studies point out that a sensitive nose can quickly lead to a pounding headache. So, if you cannot escape the scent of these strong chemicals, get yourself a pollution mask that will tamp down the intensity considerably and save you from the terrible pain .
14. Tying Your Hair Too Tight
People with long hair can relate to this. When you pull your hair too tightly for a ponytail and add some bobby pins to it, it can trigger a headache . Ponytail headaches are a type of external compression headache; that is, it is caused by a stimulus that is located outside your head.
15. Excessive Exposure To Sunlight
Anyone who has ever gone to a school would know this. Long hours of assemblies and sports day are remembered along with the headache it caused at the end of the day. When you are exposed to high temperatures or spend a long time outside under the hot sun, it can trigger severe headaches .
16. Weather Changes
For some people, headaches can develop as a result of changes in the weather. Grey skies, high humidity, rising temperatures and storms can trigger headaches. Studies point out that pressure changes that cause weather changes are thought to trigger chemical and electrical changes in the brain, leading to a headache .
Some of the other common causes of headaches are as follows:
On A Final Note…
The causes of headaches can vary from person to person, with some common triggers being stress, lack of sleep, fatigue, hunger and caffeine withdrawal. Many people experience more than one of the various types of headache. If your headache is severe or reoccurring, you must consult a doctor and receive professional care.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When should you worry about a headache?
A: You should seek immediate medical attention if you have a sudden, very severe headache, and it is the first time it has happened. And also if your headache is severe or reoccurring, you must consult a doctor and receive professional care.
Q. What are the different types of headaches?
A: Some of the common types of headaches are tension headaches, cluster headaches, migraine headaches, allergy or sinus headaches, hormone headaches, caffeine headaches, exertion headaches and hypertension headaches.
Q. What cures a headache fast?
A: A cold pack, heating pad or hot compress, switching off the lights, not chewing, limited quantities of caffeine, mediation and chewing on a piece of ginger are some of the easiest ways to ease a headache.
Q. Why does my head hurt everyday?
A: The reason behind headaches vary from person to person. Headaches are usually triggered by lifestyle or environmental factors such as stress, changes in weather, caffeine use, or lack of sleep. Overuse of pain medication can also cause a constant headache.
Q. How do I know if my headache is serious?
A: Your headache pain may be serious if you have a sudden, very intense headache pain (thunderclap headache), severe or sharp headache pain for the first time, a stiff neck and fever, nausea and vomiting, a nosebleed, fainting spells and dizziness or loss of balance.
Q. Why do I wake up with a headache?
A: Disrupted sleep caused by snoring or sleep apnea may be the source of your early morning headaches.
Q. How do you tell the difference between a migraine and a headache?
A: Headaches cause pain in the head, face, or upper neck, and can vary in frequency and intensity. A migraine is an extremely painful primary headache disorder. Migraines usually produce symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than headaches. Some types of migraines do not cause head pain.