While headache sufferers are unsure of the cause of headaches and it is still subject to ongoing research, many studies point to some likely culprits. However, this varies with the type of headache, tension, cluster or migraine …
Which headache sufferers are most likely to suffer from headache pain?
The pain of a headache can be excruciating and headache sufferers are prone to suffer from more than one type of headache. Why is this?
Tension headaches are so-called, because they are believed to be the result of different kinds of muscle tension. The risk factors for this are, not surprisingly, related to the different ways that muscle tension occurs.
Something as simple as holding a phone for an extended period between the ear and shoulder, for example, can contribute to a headache. The muscles are stretched and compressed in a fairly unnatural position and the result is inflammation, constriction of blood flow, stretched fascia and tendons. With the end result often a headache.
And, in those who have chronic habits like teeth clenching or grinding, there are similar common risk factors, we can compare to TMJ disorders, in which the temporomandibular joint connecting the jaw to the skull is irritated. This can often happen at night while sleeping when you have little or no no conscious control of your actions.
But with headache sufferers it seems there are more subtle and surprising risk factors at work too.
- Family history … is one of the clearest indicators of whether you are at risk of headaches of all types. Migraines have a strong tendency to run in families, while 40% of those with tension headaches share a family history with other sufferers. It seems genetics is a factor.
- Depression … whether genetic or environmental is another factor. Which is the cause and which is the effect can be difficult to sort out, but depression is correlated with 70% of those who suffer chronic daily headaches. In all likelihood there is a reciprocal relationship. Those who suffer from anemia, more often women (who tend to need extra iron), are at greater risk of becoming headache sufferers.
- Sleep apnea … If you suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea you are more prone to headaches. Though both may be the result of underlying factors they are frequently associated. Anxiety, whether during the day or at night, often accompanies both causes.
Gender is a factor in headache sufferers
In all types of headaches and in all headache sufferers, gender appears to play a part, but according to one large study women are at greater risk than men of both tension headaches and migraines. In the latter case, around 17% of women get them, while only about 6% of men.
Cluster headaches, in which pain occurs for short periods every day for weeks, frequently affect more men than women.
The reasons for the precise differences that produce the different percentages are unclear. But differences in lifestyle can largely be discounted these days, with women in the workplace as often as men.
Lifestyle Factors …
Some lifestyle differences that are common to both sexes are definite risk factors.
Skipping meals, drinking excess alcohol, (especially red wine, though excess varies from person to person), stress and sometimes even excess exercise can increase the risk of headache.
Though family history, gender and other factors can’t be controlled they can be dealt with by proper treatment. In the case of lifestyle issues, the ability to change it, and the need to control it is even stronger for headache sufferers. For chronic headache sufferers, the first step should always be proper diagnosis.