Whether it’s a throbbing in your temples or one-sided pulsations, there are must be headache causes! Headaches are the most common medical complaint. They may range from a mild, tolerable pain to a feeling that wants to crack your head open!
To better understand what you can do about your headache, let’s talk about the two main types of headaches and what causes them.
Primary headache causes
Primary headaches are conditions caused directly by problems with certain structures in the head. Excessive activity in pain-sensitive structures can also be a cause. These can include muscles, nerves and blood vessels in the head and neck area. In some cases, a change in the brain’s chemical activity can also be one of the headache causes.
Examples of primary headaches include tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines. Depending on the main condition, there are various factors that can trigger or cause a headache.
Some common causes and triggers of primary headaches include:
- Spasms in the muscles surrounding the skull
- Increased sensitivity of the nerves in the head
- Physical stressors like overwork, exhaustion and prolonged manual labor
- Lengthy periods of intense concentration
- Emotional stress
- Poor posture
- Lack of sleep, or a change in sleeping patterns (like jetlag)
Secondary headache causes
Secondary headaches are due to another condition that affects or stimulates the nerves in the head. Such stimulation can lead to pain and discomfort. Simply put, secondary headaches are actually headache symptoms caused by a different condition.
Common secondary headache causes are:
- Sinus headaches – caused by congestion in the sinuses, like during a cold, flu or sinusitis.
- Spinal headaches – caused by a low volume of the fluid found in your spine, like in certain procedures such as a spinal tap or spinal anesthesia
- External compression headaches – caused by wearing headgear that is too tight, resulting in pressure on the head and its structures
- Rebound headaches – In some instances, overuse of pain medication (like using painkillers for weeks) can cause headaches
- Brain freeze – Quickly eating or drinking something too cold can cause discomfort in the head. “Ice cream headaches” is also another term for this.
- Thunderclap headaches – headaches that are sudden and intense with multiple causes
- Menstrual period and cramps – read more about it in my post – Cramps and Headache? These Meds Can Help
Dehydration, hangovers caused by alcohol and teeth-grinding while sleeping are other possible things that can cause secondary headaches. Other conditions, like concussions, influenza, dental problems and ear infections can also cause a headache as a symptom.
Some headaches go away on their own, while some linger for a few hours. If your headache gets too bothersome, you can consider getting an over-the-counter pain reliever. Watch out for my next post on medications you can take for headaches!
Remember that a headache can be a symptom of a more serious condition. If your headaches seem to be severe and recurrent, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor.
You can also read more about migraine headaches, its symptoms and causes here!