What Causes Headaches?

There are hundreds of possible causes for headaches but what are the most common headache causes …

It shouldn’t be surprising that what causes headaches is very diverse

There are hundreds of possible headache causes, given the variety of headache types and the diversity of headache sufferers.

Some headaches are the result of underlying medical problems or conditions, such as (in rare cases) brain tumors or cerebral aneurysms. But mostly what causes headaches are common everyday things, we take for granted.

In many cases simple eyestrain, the result of working too long at the computer, can cause a headache.

In other cases ordinary inflammation of your sinuses, due to a head cold or an allergy, can be the cause.

Overuse of certain prescription medicines can produce a medication overuse headache or MOH for short.

Causes of different Headache Types

Headache pain - What Causes Headaches

The exact cause may never be known for every headache, but constriction of blood vessels is thought to be the culprit in a wide range of cases.

Pain sensitive nerve fibers in your head, line blood vessel walls. When they contract (or dilate) your nerves are activated, sending pain signals to your brain and tension-type headaches or cluster headaches are the result.

Ironically, your brain can’t feel pain itself as it has no pain-sensitive nerve cells within it.

Causes of Migraine Headaches

A migraine is a severe recurring headache, usually affecting only one side of your head. It is characterized by sharp pain and often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and visual disturbances.

The cause of migraine headaches is not really clear. One theory that used to be popular was that blood vessels in certain parts of your brain spasm (become narrower), then dilate (open wide) and that’s what causes headaches. However, this theory isn’t the complete story and may not even be a main factor. It is now thought that some chemicals in your brain increase in activity and some parts of the brain then send out confusing signals which cause the symptoms.

The exact changes in brain chemicals, during a migraine attack, are not known. It is also not clear why people with migraine should develop these changes.

Migraine isn’t a really an inherited condition, but it often occurs in several members of the same family. So, there is probably some genetic factor involved. Therefore, you are more likely to develop migraine if you have one or more close relatives who have migraine.

What Causes Tension Headaches …

Tension headaches are sometimes confused with migraine. These are the common headaches that most people have from time to time. If you suffer from migraine headaches, you can also have tension headaches separate from the migraine attacks.

Tension headaches can result from various physical causes, such as tension in the muscles of your neck, tightness in your shoulder muscles and even tension in your jaw.

If you’ve experienced TMJ disorder (a condition resulting from tension of the temporomandibular joint, where your jaw tightens against your skull) you will be familiar with tension headaches as this can be what causes headaches of this type.

What Causes Headaches of Other Types …

Headache pain - What causes headchesIn more serious cases, what causes headaches is the result of some underlying disease, and these are referred to as secondary headaches.

This happens when a patient suffers from encephalitis or brain cancer, for example.

But the list of diseases that can cause headaches is also lengthy.

Everything from irritable bowel syndrome to rabies or even scarlet fever can be the culprit.

In many cases, environmental factors can also be what causes headaches.

Carbon monoxide poisoning, resulting from noxious fumes emitted by automobile exhausts, can cause severe headaches. In fact, headache is one of the chief symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Allergies, such as a sensitivity to pollen are a major problem for some.

Lead poisoning is a potential cause of headaches, though less a problem these days.

Food poisoning is still fairly common, though. Even when food isn’t actually toxic in general, such as being laced with a bacteria, you may be sensitive to compounds contained in certain foods or food types.

  • Common foods such as chocolate or cheese can cause headaches.
  • Caffeine has long been known to produce headaches when consumed too often and in too large a quantity.
  • Some preservatives, such as monosodium glutamate, can produce headache pain.
  • Red wine, even in moderation, can bring on headaches in individuals that can’t tolerate the tannins in it.

But position, posture and other controllable factors can be what causes headaches and may well be some of the most common causes of headaches.

As more and more of us use computers on a daily basis, more of us are producing neck tension, jaw stress, eyestrain and facial tightening.

Any of these can produce a headache if the circumstances persist, as they often do for those of us working in the information technology sectors and for call center workers, receptionists, etc.

So, what causes headaches?

Well, approximately 85% to 90% of all headaches are common tension headaches and they are typically the result of one or more of the above.

That means, in the overwhelming majority of cases, that the cure should be relatively simple and within your own control.

  • Check for food intolerances or allergies to food types.
  • Check your posture, make sure your spine is aligned properly, make sure your jaw is set properly, that it releases cleanly
  • Make 100% sure that your workstation or place of work isn’t putting undue stress on your shoulder or neck muscles.

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