Lesser Known Reasons For Headaches

Suffering with a bursting headache? Painkillers not helping? You should not ignore it because a headache can be a symptom of some serious medical problem. But in most cases it is not a cause for concern and the headache will pass with time even if sleep and medication is not helping. Although headaches are so common, many people still do not understand why it occurs. Even medical science cannot explain the cause of headaches in every instance. But if you understand some of the common and not so common reasons for a headache, you may be able to take the necessary measures to prevent it.

You may want to first look at some of the common causes of constant headaches, whether it occurs as repeated episodes or persists without stopping. And if you are a migraine sufferer then it is important to look at a list of migraine triggers. Remember that it is important to see a doctor if your headaches are unrelenting. Diagnostics tests and scans may be needed. However, if you are given the all clear then take a look at some of the reasons for a headache that may people do not know.

Red Wine

Any type of alcohol can cause a headache. But if you are a wine drinker, you will find that red wine is more of a problem than white wine. The exact reason for this difference between red and white wine as a headache trigger has not been conclusively identified. The current theory is that sulfites in red wine may be the reason. These preservatives are not found in white wine. Another trigger chemical in red wine appears to be tyramine.

But do not confuse headaches with just being a red wine problem. You could suffer with a headache after drinking white wine as well and even beer, spirits and cocktails may be a problem. These alcohol-induced headaches may be a separate entity from hangover headaches which are more often due to dehydration. Either way, if you find that a specific alcoholic beverage is a problem then avoid it. You may even have to avoid alcohol altogether.

Strong Odors


People who tend to suffer with headaches on a frequent basis are more likely to be sensitive to scents which could serve as a trigger. It is usually strong scents like perfumes, incense sticks, deodorizers and air fresheners that pose a problem. The exact reason why this happens is unclear. It is believed that only strong scents with certain chemicals may be a problem. For example, you could smell something very bad and the scent may be strong but it will not trigger a headache. Yet if you smell a strong perfume which has a pleasant scent and you will get a headache.

Ideally you should avoid wearing strong scents or using strongly scented products in your home or car. But it may not always be avoidable. You may be in an elevator with somebody wearing a strong scent or use a public toilet with a strong deodorizer. It appears that the chemicals in these strong scents stimulate the central nervous in a different way from regular sense of smell. Try to stand out in the fresh air for a while and it may clear up your headache.

Hair Styles

It may seem like an old wives’ tale that certain hair styles and accessories can cause headaches but it is true. Remember that you hair is attached to the skin and pulling on your hair also pulls underlying tissue to some extent. Long hair that is heavy, tightly braided or tied hair and even hair bands could be placing pressure on your scalp, the underlying connective tissue and even straining some of the superficial head muscles. This does not mean that you have to cut your hair.

Try to observe which hair accessories are a problem and avoid using it. You may not realize that certain hair styles can be a problem and it may not cause a headache immediately. But if you cannot find any other reason for frequent headaches, then it may be worth considering a slight change in the way you wear your hair. Even hats can be a problem especially if it is tightly fitting around the head.

Cheese And Processed Meats

deli meats

There are many foods that may trigger a headache, especially if you are a migraine sufferer. But cheese and processed meats appears to be one of the more common trigger foods, be it a migraine or a headache. Processed meats may seem like an obvious trigger since it is packed with a host of different chemicals that are known to be bad for you. But even your favorite organic cheese can be a problem. The common ingredient in both cheese and processed meats seems to be tyramine. A chemical that is also present in red wine.

The tyramine content varies in different types of cheese. And when it comes to a headache, it also depends on just how much of cheese you consume. What is known is that the tyramine content increases as a cheese ages. So more mature cheeses are more likely to be a problem. With processed foods, it is not only tyramine that can be a problem. Processed meats are packed with nitrites and sodium which can trigger a headache in conjunction with the tyramine.

Cigarette Smoke and Caffeine

If you are a cigarette smoker then you will know that a host of symptoms may start up if you have not touched a cigarette for a few hours. It also happens if you are a coffee drinker who has not had your cup of java for a while. Headaches in these cases are actually withdrawal symptoms – nicotine in cigarettes and caffeine in coffee. Having a smoke or drinking a cup of coffee should remedy the headache.

However, you may also experience a headache when you use these substances, even if you are a long term user. It is dependent on just how much you use – smoking excessively or drinking large amounts of coffee may in fact cause headaches. Remember that these substances are stimulants and there are a host of side effects with stimulant use. Similarly, you may inhale cigarette smoke when somebody else is smoking or have the odd cup of coffee as a person who does not regularly consume caffeine and you will find a headache start up.

Pain Medication


Most pharmaceutical drugs have side effects. Even herbal remedies and nutritional supplements may have side effects. But you would not think that the very medication used to treat a headache can in some instances cause a headache. This may occur for two reasons. Firstly you may have developed a dependence on the headache medication and stopping it may cause withdrawal symptoms, one of which is a headache. It is more likely to happen when you are using heavy opioid pain killers (analgesics).

The other problem that may arise with pain medication is that you can develop rebound headaches. The reason why rebound headaches occur is not fully understood. It is believed that long term use of pain medication alters certain pain pathways in the brain. While your headache may be relieved as long as you use the medication, stopping it may then cause a headache tor recur. But the return of the pain may have nothing to do with the original cause of your headache. Instead it is a consequence of the medication you used. Therefore rebound headaches are also known as medication-induced headaches.

Weekend And Holidays

It is inconceivable that resting too much can be a bad thing. But are you really resting on your weekends and holidays. We all know that stress of work and other daily activities can trigger a headache. Modern life is busy and stressful. It is only logical that headaches should be less likely to occur once we get some time to “switch off” on weekend and holidays. But some of the things that we do while on holiday or during weekends may serve as a headache trigger on its own.

Some of the reasons why this happens seems quite implausible but is known to be a problem. Firstly you may be sleeping in too late or for too long. Remember that the sleep and wake cycle alters your brain hormones in different ways. Secondly you may not be using stimulants like nicotine and caffeine to the same extent as you would on a regular weekday. Another possible culprit is that you may be trying to do too much during your free time – even pleasurable activities can strain the body.



We all know that exercise has health benefits. So how can it cause a headache. Actually any stress or strain on the body can trigger a headache. It is no different with exercise since it physical strains the system. This should not stop you from exercising. Sometimes it is the chemicals that are secreted when you have a strenuous workout that may trigger the headache. At other times it may be dehydration from excessive sweating or even straining the head and neck muscles that may be a problem.

Speak to your doctor about these headaches after exercising. It is possible that the physical strain may be triggering a symptom of some serious disease which is otherwise silent. Sudden and severe headaches while exercising needs immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis can make all the difference. Try to keep rehydrating throughout your work out. Make sure that you warm up and stretch properly. Speak to a physical therapist about the right type of stretching exercise, not only for the muscles you work out, but for the entire body.

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