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Overcoming Common Headache Triggers

June 17, 2020
Published in: Primary Care

Woman putting pressure on her temples with her hands

Headaches can range from minor inconveniences to debilitating occurrences. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 50% of people will experience a headache at least once a year. Thirty-percent of people will experience a more severe headache called a migraine. What can be done to prevent headaches? Keep reading to discover ways to overcome common headache triggers.

Diagnosing a Headache

A headache can manifest itself as pain in the headache, neck, and/or face. Headaches are caused by tissues around the skull, brain, spinal cord, eyes, ears, and face becoming irritated and inflamed. Although headaches are common, people who suffer from chronic headaches are considered to have a headache disorder. Headaches are classified into three different categories, including primary, secondary, or cranial or facial nerve pain.

The most common type of primary headache disorders is tension headaches. Tension headaches tend to occur more frequently in women. Migraines and cluster headaches are also considered primary headaches.

Secondary headaches are caused by injury or infection. Conditions like encephalitis and meningitis can cause secondary headaches. Injuries like a fall or concussion can also cause secondary headaches.

The third category of headaches is characterized by inflamed nerves in the cranium or face that result in headaches. There are thought to be as many as seventeen types of headaches than span each category. It’s important to talk with your doctor about the specific symptoms you’re experiencing so that your headaches can be accurately diagnosed.

How to Keep Headaches at Bay

There are many factors that contribute to headaches and headache disorder. Here are some of the common triggers and what you can do in response to them.

Soothe the Stress

Stress is a primary culprit of headaches. Sometimes obvious factors are causing stress like a divorce, death in the family, or loss of a job, but even daily stressors can wear down your health over time. Make self-care a regular part of your day. Spending even a small amount of time doing something you enjoy can help reduce stress and the headaches that stress can cause.

Be a Diet Detective

What you eat and drink can trigger headaches. Common culprits include alcohol, caffeine, cheese, yeast, preservatives like nitrates and artificial sweeteners, and highly processed or pre-packaged foods. When you get a headache, make note of what you’ve eaten before the onset. This can be an important clue to determine if your diet could be triggering your headaches.

Eat Consistently

For some, the recommendation of three meals a day and two snacks falls by the wayside when life gets busy. However, not getting enough to eat or not eating on a regular schedule can trigger headaches.

Evaluate Your Exercise

Regular exercise is an essential part of staying healthy. However, strenuous or prolonged exercise can cause headaches for some people. In some instances, this can be a sign of a more serious health condition.

Sleep Soundly

Sleep is a restorative time that helps keep you healthy. A disrupted sleep schedule or sleep disorders like insomnia can also trigger headaches. Getting a consistent eight hours of uninterrupted sleep can reduce the likelihood of headaches.

Headaches are a common occurrence and are usually harmless. However, more serious headache disorders can drastically reduce your quality of life. If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic headaches, contact primary care provider. You can also learn more about migraines and headaches by reading Pain Points: The Anatomy of Headaches and Migraines as part of our Health Focused blog series.