If you find yourself dealing with headache pain, it may surprise you to know that you possess one or more lifestyle habits triggering the problem. While there are plenty of cases where a headache is caused by an underlying health issue, believe it or not, the vast majority of headaches are caused by relatively minor lifestyle causes. At IGEA Brain and Spine, our team of neurological specialists is always available to help get to the bottom of your headache pain. Fortunately, in most cases, you can resolve recurring headaches by changing your daily habits.
Lifestyle Habits That Produce Headaches
When you look at what causes headaches, it’s easier to see how simple, everyday habits can be behind that constant pain. Different factors – a reaction to food, or too much stress – can overstimulate the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves in your brain. As a result, your pain receptors become overactive or the chemical activity in the brain changes, leading to the aching, throbbing pain you know as a headache. In some circumstances, these seemingly inconsequential lifestyle habits can even produce debilitating migraine headaches.
As is true with life routines that may be creating health problems, the first step in mitigating headaches is identifying what may cause them. These are the more common triggers to watch out for:
Poor Sleeping Habits: If you stayed up late last night and today your head is throbbing, your poor night’s sleep may be at the root of your headache. A study conducted by Missouri State University found that rats deprived of REM sleep showed an increase in proteins that arouse the nervous system and a decrease in proteins that suppress it, resulting in more headaches. Try getting no fewer than eight hours of sleep daily.
Dehydration: When you aren’t consuming enough fluids, your brain tissue starts losing water. When this happens, the brain shrinks slightly, moving away from the skull and triggering pain receptors. To stop dehydration from ruining your day with head pain, make it a habit of drinking about seven or eight glasses of water per day. Increase this number if you consume dehydrating drinks like coffee or alcohol.
Regular Caffeine Consumption: For heavy coffee and tea drinkers, and anyone who regularly consumes caffeinated sodas or energy drinks, your favorite beverages may be a problem. Too much caffeine as well as caffeine withdrawal – if you skip your morning coffee, for example – can cause headaches. Try decaffeinated alternatives or perhaps just cutting down on your caffeine intake.
An Unhealthy Diet: An unhealthy diet prevents the body from receiving the nutrients it requires. Popular foods like cured meats, aged cheeses, along with foods containing artificial sweeteners and MSG are commonly linked to headaches. An improperly balanced diet may also cause a deficiency of vitamins D, E, and B, each of which can be the source of anything from an occasional migraine to frequent headaches.
Too Much Stress: Your demanding work schedule and daily responsibilities could be the problem too. Stress can and does cause headaches. As a matter of fact, 80% of US adults get tension headaches. Even worse, when layering in poor posture, hunger, and poor sleep, it becomes quite easy for any of us to become overcome by tension headaches. Left unattended, stress, and the headaches they produce can cause more dangerous health problems, like high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Reduce the stress in your life with deep breathing exercises, meditation, or exercise.
Dealing With Headaches
Knowing the lifestyle habits that may be behind your headache pain will help you replace your harmful habits with healthy ones. You may still have an occasional headache, but at least you know you are mitigating your exposure to the most common causes.
When you are experiencing headache pain, follow these easy-to-do home headache and migraine treatment options:
- Place a heating pad around your neck and shoulders to ease the pain
- Get some rest. Even a 20- or 30-minute nap can help
- Massage your temples and the area around your shoulders, jaw, and neck
- Drink a glass of water or decaffeinated herbal tea to rehydrate
When You Need Professional Care for Treating Headaches
It’s true that lifestyle habits are often the cause of headaches, but sometimes more serious factors are involved. If you are concerned, or if your headache pain becomes severe, schedule an appointment with a member of the team at IGEA Brain & Spine. With seven locations in New York and New Jersey, no matter where you are in the tri-state area, you’re never far from a proven, compassionate physician who can help.
If you or a loved one is experiencing severe headache pain, contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our locations in New Jersey or New York. Proper treatment of your condition isn’t—and never should be—optional, and at IGEA Brain & Spine, it never is.