headache

The 10 Most Common Causes Of Headaches And How To Reduce Them

A headache is a pain caused not only by conditions such as stress, but it can also be related to simpler things like perfumes.

An everyday tension headache is the most common type of primary headache.

It involves a constant “bandlike” pain on both sides of the head and the pain can extend to the neck and behind the eyes.

This type of headache can last from minutes to days but in general is not severe enough to stop you from everyday activities.

Currently 1.6 billion people are affected by tension-type headaches and women tend to suffer more than men.

The most common factors for headaches include:

1. Emotional tension

Muscles in the back of your neck and head tense up when you are angry and so cause you a tension headache.

An easy step to overcome anger is to start breathing deeply and slowly or count to ten, which gives you time to cool down.

Exercise, talking about your feelings with a friend and relaxing regularly can also help to control  anger in the long term.

2. Stress

It is a feeling of being under emotional or mental pressure.

Demands from work, relationships and financial problems can all cause stress and bring you anxiety.

Headaches related to stress usually occur after long work hours as the tension during the week builds up, but the throbbing headache only comes after a waking up on Saturday.

The drop down of stress hormones after rest causes a quick release of the brain’s chemical messengers, which in turn make blood vessels tighten and then widen, ending in a headache.

A simple solution is to avoid more than eight hours sleep and add more relaxation to your week days.

Exercises like yoga, deep breathing and massage to reduce the muscular tension can all help.

Avoid squashing all your leisure and entertainment into the weekend when there are five more days of the week to come.

3. Lack of sleep

Irregular sleeps patterns can result in fatigue, problems with attention, lack of motivation, aching muscles  and waking with everyday headaches.

Poor sleep can trigger the production of a specific protein (P2X3) which is linked to the initiation of chronic pain.

Behavioural therapy and changing your sleeping habits, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule and avoiding late night TV can potentially lessen episodes of headaches.

4. Dehydration

Water loss causes brain cells to shrink, which activates pain receptors in the brain and in turn leads to a headache.

Most have experienced the “morning after” headache due to drinking alcohol as it causes dehydration.

The obvious solution is drinking enough water.

5. Sex headache

Headaches are often used as an excuse to reject sex.

But headaches related to sexual activity are a serious condition caused by accumulation of pressure in the neck muscles and the head.

Sex headaches can happen just before or at the moment of orgasm and the pain can last for minutes or up to three days.

While some individuals need to consult with a doctor, in most cases the headache is harmless and there is no need to avoid sexual activities.

Taking painkillers a few hours before sex can block the headache.

6. Eye strain

Focusing on a visually intense task, such as computer work, driving and reading or staring at digital devices such as smart phones, video games and computer screens for a prolong time can cause eye fatigue.

Both intense bright lights or even dim lighting can cause eye strain.

Eye dryness,  blurring of the vision, increased sensitivity to light as well as headaches are symptoms of eye strain.

Some simple changes in habits can reduce or prevent these problems.

If you are using a screen, place it at least 20 to 26 inches away from your eyes and adjust it slightly below eye level.

Use a glare filter over the screen or change lighting to reduce glare and reflection.

Look off into the distance every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds and have regular breaks from the computer.

Put a warm wet  flannel on tired, closed eyes.

7. The weather

Grey skies, high temperature and humidity can play a role in causing headaches.

Changes in weather can irritate nerves due to the activation of chemicals in the brain.

Obviously you can’t change the weather to fix the pain but you can check the predicted forecast to take preventative action, like taking pain killers.

8. Posture

Bad posture increases pressure on the shoulders,  neck and upper back which generates a headache.

The skull will start pounding due to the pain and sometimes the face, and particularly the forehead, flushes.

The important thing is to take regular breaks and get away from sitting or standing in one position over a long time.

If you are on the phone all the time try to use special head sets to reduce muscle strain between the shoulders and in the hands.

An osteopath, a physical therapist and using the Alexander technique can improve posture problems.

9. Skipping meals

Hunger lowers blood sugar and a diet high in sugar or processed carbohydrates often makes you feel hungry.

Low blood sugar triggers headaches and mood swings in most people.

However, cutting down on processed carbs and sugar, having breakfast and eating small portions, but more often, are the treatment for headaches associated with hunger.

If you have a poor appetite, bathing before a meal improves blood circulation and increases desire for food.

10. Housework and smells

Some chemicals found in perfumes, hair sprays, fragranced air fresheners, cleaning and laundry products can trigger headaches, so no wonder if housework gives you a headache.

Cosmetic products including soaps, shampoos and conditioners, along with skin lotions, creams and perfumes contain certain smells which can cause headaches.

It is best to avoid products with strong smells and certain chemicals.

Try fragrance free air fresheners and household cleaning products.

If a colleague next to your desk wears heavy perfume use a desk fan.

And finally if it is possible, keep the doors and windows open at home as often as you can.

Headache image from Shutterstock