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What Causes Headaches?

What Causes Headaches?

Thousands of Utahns struggle with chronic headaches, which often get worse during the winter months. Once you discover what kind of headache you suffer from, you and your doctor can find the treatment that is most likely to help. So, what causes headaches? And what can be done to prevent them?

Types of Headaches

There are more than 150 specific types of headaches, but the most common types include:

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache among teens and adults. They usually manifest as a dull pain in your forehead or around the back of your neck. As the headache progresses, it can develop into a full band of dull pressure around your entire head.

Tension headache triggers may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor posture
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Caffeine (or lack thereof)
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Dehydration

Tension Headache Treatment

Tension headaches can usually be successfully treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medication, like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen. If these OTC pain relievers don’t help, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication.

Tension Headache Prevention

There are many ways to reduce your chances of developing tension headaches, including:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get enough sleep (at least seven hours)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat regular, balanced meals
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake

Migraine Headaches

Migraines are significantly more severe than tension headaches. Migraines often come with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. These painful headaches can last for hours or even days. Migraines are unique to each individual and can happen in stages.

Migraines can have many symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Tunnel vision
  • Seeing black dots, wavy lines, or flashes of light
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Exhaustion
  • Tingling or numbness in limbs
  • Bloating
  • Muscle pain or weakness

Migraine Treatment

There is currently no known cure for migraines. However, there are several treatments and home remedies, including:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Nausea medicine
  • Triptans
  • Preventative medicines, including some seizure medicines and antidepressants
  • Neuromodulation devices

Migraine Prevention

Migraine prevention techniques are similar to those used for tension headaches, including:

  • Identify and avoid triggers
  • Manage stress
  • Eat on a regular schedule
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get lots of rest

Above all, your goal should be to live as high a quality of life as possible. Please see your doctor if you have severe or frequent headaches, or if they interfere with your daily life.