Stressed Woman

What Causes Headaches?

When you have a headache, it is not easy to focus on what might be causing it. However, once you have recovered from your pain, you can start thinking about how to prevent it in the future. To do this, you need to be aware of the things in your environment, diet and daily routine that may cause headaches. This process can be challenging.

If you need help discovering and treating your headaches, Foothill Neurology’s Headache Specialist, Dr. Heather McCoy, has over 25 years of experience helping patients recover from headaches. Plus, our clinic provides a spa-like environment with comforting amenities, so you can relax as we find the ideal therapy to relieve your pain long-term.

Common Types of Headaches

Most people get tension headaches and migraines, which are called “primary headaches.” If your head and neck muscles get tight, you could experience a tension headache. If abnormally sensitive nerve endings generate pain, it is a migraine attack. But what exactly causes muscle tension or hypersensitivity in specific brain regions?

The reasons people have headaches can differ significantly; many potential triggers exist. Standard tension headache triggers include:

  • Hunger
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Certain food and beverages
  • Abrupt cessation of certain medications
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep (fatigue)
  • Weather changes

Migraine headaches share many symptoms with tension headaches (stress, hunger and exhaustion). However, determining the cause of migraines is more complex. A combination of variables can trigger them, and each patient has a unique set of circumstances.

Standard migraine headache triggers include:

  • Certain smells
  • Being around smoke
  • Bright light, particularly flashing lights or sunlight
  • Certain food and beverages
  • Changes in a woman’s estrogen levels
  • Caffeine withdrawals
  • Abrupt cessation of certain medications or taking certain medications

When it comes to headache prevention, the simple answer is to avoid the triggers. If you can figure out what causes your headaches, you can take steps to reduce their frequency and severity.

Other Headache Disorders

Other headache types include:

  • Cluster
  • Post-traumatic, trigeminal neuralgia
  • Hemicrania continua
  • Secondary headaches like medication overuse and cervicogenic headache (from neck pain)

The Integrative Headache Care Center at Foothills Neurology treats these and other headache disorders.

Secondary Headaches Signal an Underlying Health Condition

Most headaches are not indicative of anything else being wrong, and they usually go away independently. Still, some headaches may signify an underlying health condition. These are secondary headaches, as they result from another health disorder.

Some secondary headaches are not serious and go away after the underlying issue is addressed. These include dehydration, sinus or medication-overuse headaches. Others disclose a potentially severe illness (like an infection, tumor, head trauma or stroke); therefore, disregarding them would be unwise. Instead, they should be addressed immediately with the help of a medical professional. Such headaches can be chronic and sometimes arise with different symptoms elsewhere in the body.

Who is Susceptible to Getting Headaches?

Headaches can affect anyone at any age. Approximately 96% of the population will suffer from a headache at some point. Still, experiencing headache symptoms several times per month can significantly impact the quality of life, causing additional problems like depression, anxiety and stress.

Let us help you live your best life, headache-free. Call Foothills Neurology to make an appointment (we take same-day appointments) or to ask about our immediate-acting and preventive treatments. In addition, we provide non-narcotic headache pain management solutions. Our team is committed to ensuring each patient feels cared for and at ease during their visit.

Foothills Neurology