What causes headaches? Is it your boss? Your friends? Maybe it’s something you ate or the song you jammed out to on the way to work. Either way, your head hurts, and you don’t know why. If you did, you might be surprised by what’s to blame.
Take a look at your diet, weight, environment and personal habits to determine whether one of the following unexpected causes is contributing to the pain.
If you’re carrying around a few extra pounds, you’re likely to suffer migraines and headaches more frequently. Some research suggests that low physical activity may be to blame for this co-occurrence. However, scientists still aren’t entirely sure how obesity causes more severe and frequent attacks. Maybe it’s due to inflammation or dietary choices. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt to focus on your health and fitness.
Hit the gym or try incorporating a few cardio or strength-based exercises into your daily routine. Head to the kitchen and prepare a few healthy dinners, too. Eventually, your hard work and determination will pay off so you look and feel happier and healthier.
2. Poor Posture
How many hours do you spend in an office chair every day? Poor posture or sitting in the same position all day can cause tension in your back, shoulders and neck, which can easily lead to a migraine. Typically, the pain will begin at the base of the skull and radiate up through your head. Sometimes, your forehead and face will ache, too.
Luckily, you can prevent these headaches by frequently switching positions and practicing better posture when you do have to sit or stand for long periods. A midday stretch or a more ergonomic office chair may also minimize symptoms and alleviate pain.
You’ve probably heard that a little hanky panky can cure a headache but, sometimes, sex can actually cause one. That’s right. Any type of sexual activity — especially the big O — can trigger a dull ache or sudden, throbbing pain in your head. Symptoms can last anywhere from several minutes to multiple days.
If avoiding sex altogether isn’t an option, try taking a more passive role during intercourse. Drinking water before and after may also help prevent headaches. However, if your symptoms grow more severe, there may be an underlying issue. In that case, it’s best to consult your doctor.
Have you ever woken up with a sore jaw or toothache? Odds are you’re subconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth at night. This condition is called bruxism, and it often causes headaches and worn-down teeth. However, it may lead to more serious problems like temporomandibular joint disorder, which can cause lockjaw and chronic soreness in or near the ear.
What can you do to stop clenching and grinding in your sleep? Wear a mouthguard and try reducing your stress levels. Up to 70% of bruxism is triggered by stress, so consciously relaxing your face and investing in self-care throughout the day may help.
Various air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds, lead, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide, can rob your body of oxygen and alter blood flow. These acute effects often result in headaches but can also trigger migraine attacks in sensitive populations.
Unfortunately, air pollution is unavoidable, especially if you live in a metropolitan area or someplace that experiences frequent forest fires. However, you can limit exposure to some pollutants inside your home by avoiding harsh chemical cleaners and paints that contain VOCs. Opt for all-natural products instead, and periodically open windows to increase airflow and improve ventilation.
Gray skies, high humidity, storms and temperature fluctuations can all incite head pain. These weather conditions alter atmospheric pressure and create an imbalance in your sinus cavities and inner ear. Chemical imbalances can also occur within your brain, so headaches are common whenever the weather changes.
You can’t control the weather, so preventing pressure-related headaches ultimately comes down to taking care of yourself. Drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep, avoid stress triggers and keep some pain relievers nearby just in case. Limiting your time outside may also help.
Most people know you can get a headache from being dehydrated, but few realize hunger can have the same effect. When you skip a meal, your body releases hormones that tell your brain you’re hungry. These same hormones raise your blood pressure and tighten vessels, triggering a headache.
The most obvious way to prevent these symptoms is to eat something. Snacking throughout the day will also help ward off hunger-induced migraines. Plan ahead and pack meals for work, long car rides and other situations that limit your access to food.
For most people, a morning cup of joe is nonnegotiable. In some cases, it can even relieve a headache. However, drinking too much coffee can trigger caffeine rebound, which occurs from withdrawals after repeated overconsumption.
If you consume more than 200 mg of caffeine per day and often experience headaches between lattes, you might be dealing with rebound. In this case, it’s best to slowly decrease your intake, enjoy coffee in moderation and find more natural ways to boost your energy.
9. Hair Accessories
How you wear your hair can also take a toll on your noggin. Tight ponytails, headbands, twists and braids can pull on your hair and strain the connective tissue on your scalp. Eventually, these styles can cause headaches and even hair loss.
If you suspect your updo is hurting your head, let your hair down and give your scalp some time to recover. You can also try switching up your style to include loose braids or messy buns that don’t put so much stress on your scalp.
Cold cuts and other processed foods often contain tyramine and nitrates, additives that can constrict blood vessels in your head and brain. If you’re sensitive to these substances, you’ll typically develop a headache within 24 hours due to the stress on those nerves and vessels.
Avoid food-induced headaches by skipping the premade grocery store subs and cured or processed lunch meats. Opt for deli meat and fresh protein sources like chicken, pork and fish instead.
Talk to Your Doctor
Taking preventive measures is key to keeping headaches at bay. However, if you take precautions and still suffer frequent or severe migraines, it’s time to seek professional help. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and consider potential causes. They may also schedule an MRI or CAT scan to take a closer look at your brain and rule out any underlying conditions. At the very least, they’ll offer a diagnosis or prescribe treatment to alleviate or prevent symptoms.