Most headaches are nothing more than a temporary discomfort. Unfortunately, when a headache suddenly hits, it can quickly become more than a minor annoyance, especially if you’re trying to focus on other important responsibilities at the time. Understanding possible causes, or more specifically what’s likely to trigger a headache, can help you take proactive steps to minimize future occurrences.
Who Gets Headaches?
Anyone can have a headache at any given time. Boys experience more headaches than girls before puberty. As adults, women are four-times as likely as men to have a headache due to hormonal variations. Surprisingly, headaches tend to decrease in frequency with age for both women and men. Low energy and poor appetite can indicate that a baby or toddler has a headache. Related symptoms can include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Neck stiffness or pain
- Heightened sensitivity to noise or light
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
What Causes a Headache?
A headache with no underlying cause, referred to as a primary headache, occurs when parts of the brain sensitive to pain are over-stimulated. Chemical activity in the brain may also affect blood vessels and nerves surrounding the skull and cause a headache. Muscles in the head and neck can also be affected. Genetics sometimes increases the likelihood of experiencing a headache; with additional causes including:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Poor posture
- Nutritional imbalances or skipping meals altogether
- Processed meats and nitrates
- Changes in sleep habits or insufficient sleep
- Prolonged stress and anxiety
How Do You Treat a Headache?
Ancient Egyptians turned to aloe and poppy seeds for pain relief. Romans used tea leaves. Resting quietly in a dark room or applying hot or cold compresses to your head or neck can also be effective. Aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen are common over-the-counter treatments. Rubbing your temples in slow, circular motions can relax blood vessels near the skull. Headache remedies may also include:
- Small amounts of caffeine
- Gentle shoulder or neck massages
- Stretching and breathing
- Natural remedies like CBD and homeopathic applications
- Apple cider vinegar compresses
- Exercising to release endorphins
- Tricyclic antidepressants (for tension headaches)
How Do You Prevent Future Headaches?
Odds of experiencing a headache can be reduced by adopting effective stress management techniques, such as meditation and controlled muscle relaxation, and learning to how to defuse high-stress situations. Possible headache triggers can also be avoided by:
- Eating a balanced diet that includes lean proteins and green, leafy vegetables
- Getting at least 6-7 hours of productive sleep
- Drinking water throughout the day
- Keeping a journal to identify possible triggers
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A headache is going to be an unwelcome guest now and then. If there is no underlying cause, however, it should go away fairly quickly – and even faster if you’ve identified possible triggers and found remedies likely to be effective for you. If headaches suddenly become worse or occur with greater frequency, see what your doctor has to say.