HomeHealthWellbeingThe surprising causes that could be triggering your headaches

The surprising causes that could be triggering your headaches

Headaches are a common ailment that can disrupt your day and leave you searching for relief. From the dull throb of a tension headache to the piercing pain of a migraine, these head pains can stem from a variety of sources. Understanding the underlying causes and employing preventive measures can reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches.

Types of headaches

Tension headaches

The most prevalent type, tension headaches often result from stress, poor posture, or muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. They typically manifest as a constant dull ache on both sides of the head and may be accompanied by tenderness in the scalp, neck, or shoulders.

Tension headaches are often set off by:

  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • fatigue
  • hunger
  • caffeine withdrawal
  • abruptly stopping medications that contain caffeine, such as some pain-relieving medications
  • weather changes
  • food and drinks, such as chocolate; processed foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG); or alcohol.


Migraines are characterised by intense throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, and are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. While the exact cause of migraines remains unclear, factors such as genetics, hormonal fluctuations, certain foods, and environmental triggers can contribute to their onset.

Several triggers commonly associated with tension headaches, such as stress, hunger, fatigue, and sleep deprivation, can also provoke migraine headaches. However, pinpointing the precise causes of migraines can be more challenging. Migraine headaches may arise from various factors or a combination of factors, with the specific mix being unique to each person.

Potential culprits include:

  • being around smoke
  • certain smells
  • bright light, such as sunlight, or flashing lights
  • foods, such as aged cheeses, avocados, bananas, chocolate, peas, pork, sour cream, nuts, peanut butter, or yoghurt
  • alcohol
  • changes in oestrogen levels for women
  • taking certain prescription medications
  • food additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrates (found in cured meats).

Cluster headaches

These are excruciating headaches that occur in clusters or groups, often striking suddenly and repeatedly over weeks or months before disappearing for a while. Cluster headaches are thought to be related to abnormalities in the hypothalamus, as well as smoking, alcohol consumption, and changes in sleep patterns.

Sinus headaches

Caused by inflammation or infection of the sinus cavities, sinus headaches are often accompanied by facial pain, pressure, and congestion. They typically worsen with changes in barometric pressure or when bending forward.

Rebound headaches

Also known as medication-overuse headaches, rebound headaches occur when overuse of pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, leads to a cycle of worsening headaches. This type of headache often develops in individuals who frequently use pain medications to alleviate other types of headaches.

How to prevent headaches

To prevent headaches effectively, you need to identify and understand your personal triggers. This may require some detective work on your part. Keep a headache diary to record the details of your headaches, including when they occur, their severity, and what you were doing at the time. Note your diet, sleep patterns, activities, alcohol intake, stress levels, and any physical problems you’re experiencing. This will help you understand when and why they happen.

Once you’ve identified patterns, you can start to make changes to avoid these triggers. 

Here are some strategies to consider:

Maintain a healthy lifestyle: regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Incorporate relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to manage stress levels effectively.

Stay hydrated: dehydration can trigger headaches, so aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Limit your intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration and trigger headaches in some individuals.

Practice good posture: poor posture can strain the muscles in your neck and shoulders, leading to tension headaches. Be mindful of your posture, especially when sitting or working at a computer for extended periods. Take frequent breaks to stretch and reposition yourself.

Manage stress: stress is a common trigger for tension headaches and migraines. Find healthy outlets for stress relief, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. Consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.

Seek professional help: if headaches persist despite preventive measures or if they significantly impact your quality of life, consult a healthcare professional. They can help identify underlying causes and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as medications, counselling, or alternative therapies.

Remember, while these tips can help prevent headaches, it’s always important to consult with your healthcare provider for personalised advice, especially if your headaches are severe, frequent, or accompanied by other symptoms.

Have you found any surprising triggers for your headaches? What strategies have worked best for you in preventing them? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Also read: How to relieve a headache

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -


- Advertisment -

Log In

Forgot password?

Don't have an account? Register

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.