What Are the Common Causes of Headaches? - Tamang Alaga
Discover some of the common causes of headaches here.
Discover some of the common causes of headaches here.

What Are the Common Causes of Headaches?

Experiencing a headache especially when you least expect it can be frustrating. The main symptom of a headache is pain in the head or face or  throbbing or sharp sensations which may throw you off course for the day.

Headaches happen once you are exposed to triggers that cause nerves in muscles and blood vessels to be “activated” and send signals to the brain. As a result, your brain processes these reactions as pain and discomfort.

A 2022 study disclosed that 52% of people worldwide suffer from an active headache disorder. Moreover, 26% deal with tension type headaches, 14% suffer from migraines, and lastly, 4.6% of people deal with headaches for more than 15 days in a row.

It is said that there are a whopping 150 types of headaches. With an amount like this, it is no wonder that there are many potential causes of this common health problem. While most headaches are not threatening, certain types can be a sign of a serious underlying condition. Here are the types of headaches and their possible causes or triggers:

  1. Medical conditions or health problems
    These are the main causes of a type of headache called secondary headaches. Some secondary headaches can be linked to head injuries, high blood pressure or hypertension, sinus congestion, traumas, or tumors.

  2. Prescription medicines
    One potential cause of migraines (intense throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head) would be these types of medications, especially those prescribed for heart conditions, birth control, or menopausal symptoms.
  1. Osmophobia or sensitivity to smells
    Did you know that some scents can trigger headaches? Osmophobia, or sensitivity to smells, has been reported in 95% of people with migraines. Moreover, certain smells can also cause cluster headaches (wherein a nerve near your brain has been triggered). Some scents that can trigger headaches include cigarette smoke, exhaust from vehicles, perfumes, or cleaning products.

  2. Photophobia or sensitivity to light.
    Another type of sensitivity that can be linked to headaches would be lights. Certain types of light can trigger cluster headaches or migraines, such as flickering or repetitive lights, bright lights, glares from computer screens or monitors, and even fluorescent lights.

  3. Food and beverages.
    Some dietary choices can make you more prone to a headache. For example, bacon or meats that contain nitrites can trigger cluster headaches or migraines because these substances can expand blood vessels in the brain and cause headaches.

    Moreover, aged cheeses, avocados, bananas, sour cream, nuts, peanut butter, and yogurt have been linked to migraines. Lastly, chocolate, processed food with monosodium glutamate (MSG) and alcohol have been associated with tension headaches (wherein you have mild to moderate pain that resembles having a band tightly wrapped around your head).
  1. Weather changes.
    Pressure changes that result in shifts in the weather are said to result in chemical and electrical changes in your brain, as well as irritation in the nerves. Because of these factors, you may struggle with either cluster headaches, tension headaches, or migraines.
  1. Sudden withdrawal from medicines or substances.
    People who abruptly stop taking certain medicines or consuming substances may experience headaches. For example, people who suddenly stop drinking caffeine or take pain relief medicines may be prone to migraines or tension headaches.

  2. Lifestyle factors.
    Some lifestyle issues can lead to various types of headaches. People with migraines can experience headaches due to disruptions in their sleeping or eating patterns, poor posture that can lead to eye, neck, or back strain, or even emotional stress in response to issues at home, work, or school.

    On the other hand, stress, lack of sleep, fatigue, or hunger are known triggers of tension headaches.

Here is a quick guide detailing the potential causes of a headache and the particular type it can trigger:

Cluster  headacheTension headachesMigrainesNew daily persistent headaches
Medical conditions or health problems✔* 
Prescription medicines
Sensitivity to smells
Sensitivity to lights
Food and beverages
Weather changes
Sudden withdrawal from medicines or substances
Lifestyle factors

*Most cases of new daily persistent headaches are primary, but in some cases may be caused by other health problems 

One very effective way to manage a headache would be to take medicines that can target this condition. Ask your doctor about the ideal medicine you should take for your condition. Make sure you have some medicines available in your home or stashed in your purse so you can target headaches anytime and anywhere.

If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.