HEADACHE TRIGGER: Your Boss
Anything that increases your stress level makes you more prone to tension or migraine headaches. Tension headaches apparently result from a heightened sensitivity of nerve pathways in the brain that relay pain. Migraines result from changes in the brain itself. During a migraine, brain signals cause the release of chemicals that change blood vessel diameter. The signals also activate inflammation in the brain, which can cause a migraine headache.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Warm Weather
The likelihood of migraine or other severe headache increases with the temperature. One study found a 7.5% increase in headache risk for every 9 degrees of Farenheit. Low barometric pressure, which often precedes rain, was linked to a small increase in non-migraine headaches.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Strong Scents
Strong smells, even nice ones, trigger migraines in many. We don’t know exactly why, but the odors may stimulate the nervous system. The most common culprits are paints, dust, perfume, and certain types of flowers.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Hair Accessories
How you wear your hair may affect your head. A tight ponytail may strain tissue in your scalp, causing a hairdo headache. Headbands, braids, and tight-fitting hats can produce the same effect. Letting your hair down usually brings fast relief if this is the cause of your headache.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Exercise
Strenuous exercise, sex included, can cause exertion headaches. In this case, blood vessels in the head, neck, and scalp swell, causing a build-up in pressure. Examples: jogger’s headache and sex headache. These types of headaches are most common in people who are prone to migraines.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Poor Posture
Slouching at your desk will do as much as working up a sweat to build pressure in the head and neck muscles. Poor posture includes hunching your shoulders, using a chair without lower-back support, staring at a monitor that is too low or too high; and cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder. Check your workplace if you get frequent tension headaches.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Cheese
Aged cheese, including blue cheese, cheddar, feta, mozzarella, parmesan and Swiss, is a very common migraine trigger. The culprit is tyramine, which forms when certain types of protein break down. The longer a food ages, the more tyramine it contains.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Red Wine
Tyramine is also found in red wine and some liquors. Alcohol increases blood flow to the brain so the effects may be more intense. Take a preventive dose of medication if red wine is a trigger for you, if, say, you’re going to a cocktail.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Cold Cuts
Processed meats are undesirable for two reasons. 1) They often contain tyramine, 2) They contain the food additives nitrates or nitrites. These additives increase blood flow to the brain in some people. Headaches caused by food additives are usually felt on both sides of the head, unlike in classic migraine, which is usually on one side at a time.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Skipping Meals
This can cause your blood sugar to drop, depriving your brain of the only source of fuel it can use. But don’t try to cure a hunger with a candy bar. Sweets cause blood sugar to spike and then drop even lower.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Smoking
Smoking can trigger headache in the smoker and the second-hand smoker. Nicotine is the culprit; it causes blood vessels in the brain to narrow which is the process at the start of a migraine. Reduction of exposure to nicotine helps particularly cluster headache sufferers. Cluster headaches are extremely painful headaches that occur in groups.
HEADACHE TRIGGER: Caffeine
Caffeine is, in fact, found in many headache medications. But chain- chugging coffee can be a cause of headaches. If you’re hooked on caffeine, cutting back abruptly can worsen your headaches; caffeine withdrawal is a headache trigger.
HEADACHE SOLUTION: Identify Triggers
Identifying triggers can help you prevent headaches. The best way is to keep a headache diary of foods you eat, stressful events, weather changes and physical activity. You can find patterns, and avoid your personal triggers.
HEADACHE SOLUTION: Manage Stress
Stress-busting techniques can help you to manage migraines. Meditation, massage and acupuncture – if you can get it – can be experimented with to find what works for you.
HEADACHE SOLUTION: Stretch Your Legs
Moderated exercise relives stress. Walking is a great defence against tension headaches. Swinging arms relax neck and shoulder muscles, breaking up shoulder knots which cause tension headaches.
HEADACHE SOLUTION: Eat Regular Meals
This means not getting hungry and keeping up blood sugar. Drink enough too; dehydration is another common headache trigger.
HEADACHE SOLUTION: Physical Therapy
This combines exercise and education to reduce pain and improve range of motion. For tension headache, physical therapy can strengthen neck and shoulder muscles and give you new habits that lead to better posture.
HEADACHE SOLUTION: Medication
Drugs like Aspirin and Ibuprofen (NSAIDs) relieve many types of headaches. But avoid continuous use, to avoid overuse headache or rebound headache. Talk to doctor about the different medication options, especially for migraine.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
See him/her for unusually severe headaches or those lasting more than a couple of days. Let doc know if your headache pattern changes, like if there are new triggers. If your headache comes with paralysis, confusion, fever, or stiff neck, seek help.
See you next week.
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