A headache, also known as cephalalgia, is a continuous pain in the head. This head pain can have a variety of causes and can affect different people in different ways.
Headaches can definitely interfere with your quality of life. They can make it difficult to function, let alone enjoy those little, important moments in life. When I have a headache, my work suffers, I snap at my husband and kids, and I feel like I’m not fully enjoying life.
A headache can throw everything else out of balance. It can affect your relationships, work, ability to exercise, eating habits, stress level and more.
The best way to prevent a headache is to recognize the headache triggers. Here are 12 common reasons why your head may hurt – and what you can do to avoid them:
One of my main migraine triggers happens to be the weather. I can predict if it’s going to rain or snow better than most meteorologists. My head will start hurting about 24 to 48 hours before a weather front comes through. Sunny, hot days can also trigger a headache, as well as drastic temperature changes. While you can’t control the weather, you can wear sunglasses on sunny days and make sure you stay hydrated.
If you become dehydrated, it can trigger a headache. That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of water on hot days and after you exercise. Besides, drinking water offers many other health benefits.
Drinking too much of certain liquids, such as caffeinated drinks, can lead to a headache. While caffeine in small amounts can help relieve a headache, drinking too much has the opposite effect. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics – meaning they remove salt and water from your body. Drinking water is the best way to avoid a headache induced by too much caffeine or alcohol.
I love perfumes, candles, air fresheners – anything that smells pretty. However, I avoid them like the plague. Anything that has a strong scent will trigger a headache for me. Bad smells can also contribute to headaches. Odors from paint, nail polish, gasoline and other chemicals can lead to head pain. Your best prevention with these smells is to use them in an open or ventilated space.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Stress and anxiety can cause you to tense your face and jaw muscles which can lead to a headache. You can even experience a headache after the stressful time is over. The hormones that are rampaging through your body as you handle stress will suddenly drop after you relax. This change triggers your brain to narrow and then widen your blood vessels and then cause a headache. The best prevention for tension headaches is to work on controlling your stress level. Use relaxation techniques to help you unwind.
Slouching at your desk or when sitting on the couch can build up pressure in your head and neck muscles. Hunching your shoulders and back, staring at a monitor in an awkward position or cradling a phone to your ear can all contribute to a tension headache. Make sure you get up and walk around every hour or so and practice good posture while sitting.
Foods such as peanuts, chocolate and red wine all contain an amino acid called tyramine that can cause headaches in some people. Nitrates – found in hot dogs, salami and sausages – can also trigger headaches. Even some cheeses and dairy may contribute to headaches.
If you’re a woman, then you probably already know that hormones are a major headache trigger. You may find your headaches are more frequent or severe around your menstrual period. The female hormone, estrogen, drops during this time and can lead to head pain.
If you skip a meal, your head may start to hurt before you realize that you’re hungry. By not eating, your blood sugar dips and causes a headache. Eating regular healthy meals will help you avoid blood sugar fluctuations and head discomfort.
Lack of Sleep
A lack of sleep can trigger a headache. Good sleep habits can help you feel more rested, alert and headache free. Try to follow a good bedtime routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends.
Styling your hair may be a pain, but how you wear it could be causing you pain, too. A tight ponytail can strain your scalp and make your head hurt. Headbands, braids and hats can even lead to a headache. If you’re experiencing a headache, letting your hair down may be a quick fix.
While it seems ironic, it’s true. As many as 25% of all headaches may actually be a rebound effect brought on by overuse of common pain medications.
Prevention may be the best medicine. Try keeping a diary of your headaches. Track when you have a headache and note what the weather was like, what you had to eat or drink, smells, sleep habits and your stress level. You may find a pattern that can help you avoid your headache triggers. You can focus on living a pain-free, balanced life!