5 Surprising Causes of Headaches


Muscle tension and stress are two common causes of headaches, which afflict 45 million Americans (most of them women). But, sometimes the usual suspects don’t explain that pain in your head. Here are five surprising headache triggers:

  1. Sunny days. Heat from the sun can cause blood vessels in your brain to dilate bringing on headache pain. The sun’s glare can also irritate your eyes. When outside, stay in the shade. Wear a light-colored, lightweight hat to protect against the sun’s rays. Wear polarized sunglasses with UV-protective lenses. Drink plenty of water, too. A headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration.
  2. Weekends. The abrupt change in routine from a stressful week to a relaxing weekend is a common headache trigger. Other weekend culprits include: sleeping in or staying up late, drinking too much alcohol or drinking less caffeine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Avoid or limit dinking alcohol. And cut down on the amount of caffeine you drink during the week or drink roughly the same amounts on the weekend.
  3. Phones. Cradling your phone between your ear and your shoulder or tilting your head forward to read text messages, can strain your neck and lead to tension headaches. Use a hands-free device and hold your phone eye level when reading the screen.
  4. Sandwiches. Food preservatives (or additives) found in ham, bacon, lunch meats and deli-style meats can trigger headaches. Keep a food diary, avoid foods that seem to trigger your headaches, stick to a healthy diet and don’t skip meals.
  5. Pain relievers. Use caution when taking over-the-counter pain relievers (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen) for a headache. Overuse or misuse of pain relievers (exceeding the recommended doses or not following your doctor’s advice) can cause a ‘rebound’ headache. See your doctor if you have to take pain relievers more than twice a week or if your headaches are getting worse and won’t go away.

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