Almost everyone has experienced a headache at some point in life. It may be a regular occurrence and you can’t get rid of them, or you may be new to the whole headache thing and have no idea what to do. A Health.com article entitled “Get Headaches? Smart Ways to Deal” offers some great suggestions for fending off headaches. We’ll take a look at several types of headaches and some potential solutions for avoiding them.
What Causes Headaches?
If you consistently grind your teeth, especially at night, you may find yourself waking up with a headache in the morning. See your dentist to inquire about getting a mouth guard or other treatment to protect your teeth and your head.
Hormonal fluctuations like the dip in estrogen just before a period or during pregnancy or menopause can cause headaches. If you’re pregnant, talk with your doctor about how to relieve the pain. Otherwise, ibuprofen a day or two in advance.
An overwhelming majority of headaches come from good ol’ stress. In fact, 80% of all migraines originate from stress, which causes the adrenaline and cortisol hormones to fluctuate. As if that wasn’t enough, stress doesn’t exactly relax the body – tense face and neck muscles can also contribute. Try getting a good massage or just stopping every now and then to slow down and breathe. If your work environment allows, you may want to do some basic head/neck stretches.
Low levels of the hormone serotonin can lead to dilated blood vessels in the brain, activating a major nerve involved in migraines. From there, the resulting inflammation and release of chemicals can be painful. One suggestion from a Health Courage article entitled 5 Ways to Bring Back Your Energy says that if you struggle with getting regular sleep, you should try to go to bed at approximately the same time every night. The same goes for waking up, even if it’s on the weekend. This rhythm may help your body know when to go to sleep. Regular exercise also does wonders for the quality of sleep.
High temperatures may also trigger migraines for some, especially if they are already prone to having migraines. Shifts in air density (barometric pressure) may cause a headache as well. If you can’t avoid the heat (the 1Dental office is based in Texas – we understand…), try to avoid any other familiar triggers. Keep an ibuprofen or something similar on hand just in case.
If the nerves in your nose are sensitive, you may get a headache after sniffing something unpleasant or strong. The main nerve associated with migraines has extensions in your nostrils, so certain smells may trigger that familiar ache. Steer clear of strongly scented cleaning products, perfume stores or anything else that might overwhelm your nostrils.
Whether your work environment exposes you to harsh fluorescent lighting or you spend a lot of time directly in the sun, bright light can also be a trigger. It may even come from staring at your computer screen too long (Do you have computer vision syndrome?). You may not be able to change your work situation, but wherever possible, try to use incandescent bulbs instead of fluorescent. As strange as it sounds, hanging pictures on the walls or filling a stark, white room with other decorations can help reduce the amount of light reflected in the room.
The brain is very sensitive to changes in blood sugar, so if you skip meals, it may trigger a headache. Similarly, certain substances can fluctuate blood vessels to constrict and expand, so you may want to limit foods with those substances if it seems to give you headaches. These substances include:
- Phenylalanine, an amino acid, can be found in chocolate
- Tyramine, an amino acid, is in foods like aged cheese and red wine
- Nitrates are commonly found in processed meats like deli meat and hot dogs
Some food allergies can cause headaches as well. Drink a lot of water and eat regularly to balance your blood sugar, and eliminate any specific foods that seem to cause headaches.
Headaches can be a slight annoyance, or they can be debilitating. Determining the cause of your headache may help you avoid it next time. Try these suggestions next time you feel a headache coming on – or just avoid the triggers altogether. If you have continual migraines, see a doctor.
Do you get headaches?