What causes headaches?
Common causes of headaches include diet and lifestyle factors, environmental factors, poor posture and muscle tension.
By making some simple tweaks to your working environment, diet and lifestyle, and managing your stress levels you should be able to reduce the number of headaches you have each month.
Not sure what causes your headaches?
If you are not sure what causes you to have headaches it would be worth keeping a headache diary for 3 months to see if your triggers are hormonal, lifestyle, environmental or stress related.
Here are some of the most common headache triggers.
Causes of headaches: Muscle tension
Having tense neck muscles can cause headaches. Muscle tension can be exacerbated by having pillows at the wrong height, having too many pillows, having poor posture or working with your computer set up at the wrong height.
Top Tip: If you find that you are holding tension in your neck try adjusting your working environment so that you’re not squinting at your monitor or holding your neck at a weird angle and check how your spine feels when you’ve got your head on your pillows.
Causes of headaches: Stress
Stress can be a big contributing factor to headaches. As you will know if you’ve ever been truly stressed, it can be impossible to think straight whilst your body is in fight, flight, freeze mode. Your body will start to shut down any unnecessary processes making it hard to sleep or eat properly.
This can all bring on a headache. If you are getting lots of headaches stress may be the cause.
Try listening to calming music, meditations or podcasts, do some deep breathing exercises or take a yoga class.
Related Article: https://www.sarahcooper.co.uk/lets-talk-about-stress/
Causes of headaches: Dehydration and hunger
One of the most common causes of headaches is dehydration and hunger. If you skip meals because you’re busy or don’t drink enough water it is likely you will have a headache.
Try to eat regular meals based around protein and fruit and vegetables and complex carbohydrates and have plenty of water to drink throughout the day.
Cause of headaches: Too much or too little caffeine
If you are used to drinking a lot of caffeine, suddenly reducing your caffeine intake is likely to bring on a headache.
That said, having too much caffeine can also bring on a headache.
Some people drink coffee more at work than at home (or vice versa) and suddenly changing may result in a headache.
Top Tip: If you want to reduce your caffeine intake do so slowly. If you’re very used to drinking caffeine and have a headache, having a caffeinated drink may ease your headache.
Cause of headaches: Hangovers
Hangovers can cause headaches due to dehydration. Your body will be working harder to process the alcohol. Alcohol is notorious for disturbing both your sleep patterns and your mood and may leave you feeling hungry.
Drink plenty of water before bed and eat a light snack. Try to eat and drink something if you can when you wake up.
Cause of headache: Hormonal Factors.
Fluctuating hormones can cause headaches. Many menstruating women notice that they have a headache when oestrogen levels dip in the last 2 or 3 days of one cycle and the first 2-3 days of the next.
If you’re finding that you have a headache from day 26 – day 3 of your period, hormones could well be a factor.
Headaches are also common during perimenopause (the run up to the menopause) and during the first trimester of pregnancy.
If you are in your second or third trimester of pregnancy and have a sudden, severe, headache please get urgent medical help
See NHS article on Pre-eclampsia Symptoms
Cause of headaches: Overuse of painkillers, Side effects of medication and the contraceptive pill
Painkillers can be helpful for headaches, if used infrequently in small doses. However most painkillers will give you a withdrawal headache if you use them often or overuse them.
If you are taking any medication whether prescribed or over the counter, double check if the side effects include headaches. The contraceptive pill can also give you a headache.
If you think your headaches are linked to your medication/contraception speak to your doctor for a treatment review.
What causes headaches? Colds, Flu and Covid, Sinusitis.
Colds, flu and some variants of covid-19 can cause headaches. Sinusitis can also cause headaches, especially when the sinuses get blocked.
Top TIp: Try drinking plenty of water and have lots of hot drinks in a wide-mouthed mug as the steam will help open your airways and ease your head.
Causes of Headaches: Sudden changes in lifestyle, holidays, weekends etc
Do you find that the minute you stop work or have a holiday you get a headache? This could be caused by a sudden change in lifestyle.
Chances are if you’re on holiday you will have had the anticipation of the holiday, the stress of packing, the panic about missing a flight or not finding the hotel etc.
Then suddenly you relax and then the headache comes. This can also be linked to changes in eating and sleeping patterns, drinking more or less caffeine and alcohol, heat, etc.
Top Tip: Try taking your foot off the pedal slowly in the run up to your holiday and try to keep some semblance of a routine. Keep hydrated and have regular meals.
Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every night and eat meals at similar times so your body knows what to expect.
When to seek help with headaches
Headaches following head injuries or where you
- have a high temperature
- have a non-blanching rash
- cannot tolerate bright lights
- Find it hard to put your chin on your chest (when you normally can do this!)
If you find that you’ve got a sudden, severe, blinding headache, or lose speech or use of arms etc get urgent medical help.
If you are at all concerned about your headaches, contact your GP, 111 or 999 depending on severity.
I am a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner and Writer from Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. I love writing about Health and Wellbeing, Mind Body Spirit and Reflexology. When I’m not at work, you can find me in the kitchen cooking up a storm!
If you’d like to book a treatment please go to https://www.sarahcooper.co.uk/book