What Causes Headaches and How You Can Get Rid of Them
Almost 50% of all people in the world suffer from headaches. A headache is in the World Health Organization's list of the top 10 (among men) and 5 (among women) most common causes of a disability. In this article, we've collected some of the unusual causes for a headache, found out about the different types of headaches, and have some suggestions on how to get rid of them.
With the help of Bright Side's tips, you'll be able to prevent headaches or make them more manageable using these simple methods.
7. Sunlight and vitamin D deficiency
According to studies within the University of Eastern Finland, a vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of chronic headaches.
Scientists analyzed the serum vitamin D levels in approximately 2,600 people. People with the lowest serum vitamin D levels were prone to chronic headache development more than others. Chronic headaches were also more frequently reported by men who were examined outside the summer months as the level of solar radiation was lower during other seasons.
6. Bright light
People experiencing headaches often try to avoid bright light and spend more time in dark rooms. Beth Israel Medical Center's studies identified novel connections between neurons in the eyes and neurons in the brain that control our mood in physical parameters such as heart rate, shortness of breath, fatigue, and nausea.
In addition to the fact that bright light can be the cause of a headache, it makes patients suffer from annoyance, anger, anxiety, and desperation. Research participants also mentioned that they experienced constant discomfort, nausea, and shortness of breath.
5. Thunder and lightning
Scientists from the University of Cincinnati used mathematical models to determine if the lightning itself was the cause of the increased frequency of headaches or whether it could be attributed to other weather factors. The results revealed a 19% increase of the risk of headaches on lightning days, even after accounting for weather factors. This suggests that lightning has its own unique effect on people and their susceptibility to headaches.
Geoffrey Martin indicates that the exact mechanisms through which lightning and such meteorologic factors as humidity and barometric pressure trigger headaches are unknown. Nevertheless, this study shows ties between lightning and the occurrence of headaches.
4. Depression and anxiety
588 patients experiencing headaches took part in a study conducted at the National Defense Medical Center in Taiwan. In most cases, anxiety, depression, and unhealthy sleep were the main reasons for pain.
It appeared that factors such as emotional distress and frequency of headaches could influence each other through a common pathophysiological mechanism. For example, emotional responses have the potential to alter pain perception and modulation through certain signaling pathways.
Fu-Chi Yang, the author of this research, notes that the results potentially suggest that adequate medical treatment to decrease headache frequency may reduce the risk of depression and anxiety in migraine patients.
3. Medicines containing codeine
According to studies conducted at the Univesity of Adelaide, taking large doses of medicine containing codeine may contribute to serious headaches. It's a frequent problem among patients with high sensitivity to pain.
Jacinta Johnson says, "Pain sensitivity is a major issue for users of opioid drugs because the more you take, the more the drug can increase your sensitivity to pain, so you may never quite get the level of relief you need. In the long term, it has the effect of worsening the problem rather than making it better."
Studies within Johns Hopkins University confirmed that obesity is connected to headaches in general and migraines specifically, as well as with certain secondary headache conditions such as idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Additionally, because of the excess weight, migraines are most widespread in people of the reproductive age.
The higher the body mass index is, the more likely periodic headaches are to turn chronic. But physical activity and weight loss can help reduce pain frequency and even get rid of it.
Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology note that people's adaptation to cold temperatures can contribute to changes in headaches spreading throughout the population. Felix Key's study also highlights how past evolutionary pressures can influence present-day phenotypes in a cold environment.
Because of low temperatures, spasms of cerebral vessels may occur and it affects the process of blood circulation. In a cold environment, the blood oxygen level decreases and that's why people may experience headaches or a migraine.
Types of headaches:
Headaches can be divided into several groups depending on many different factors. Common primary headaches include tension, migraine, and cluster.
- Tension headaches are the most common. The most likely cause is from the contraction of muscles that cover the skull. When the muscles are stressed, they may become inflamed and cause pain. Among the most common causes are stress, fatigue, poor posture, and holding the head in an improper position for a long time.
- A migraine is a throbbing painful headache usually located on one side of the head that is often initiated by specific compounds or situations (environment, stress, hormones, anxiety, or flashing lights). They occur more often in women and may affect a person's ability to do common things.
- Cluster headaches are a rare type of primary headache. Such headaches tend to occur daily for periods of a week or more followed by long periods of time with no headaches. The cause is uncertain but may be due to a sudden release of the chemicals histamine and serotonin in the brain.
What can help?
Caffeine is widely used in many different spheres. It also has some significant medical features. Caffeine works as a painkiller when it comes to headaches (while cold water with ice may worsen the situation).
Clinical studies conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine show that we can get the best effect if we take caffeine together with analgesics.
We should also add that quitting caffeine may cause a headache. If a person is used to drinking coffee every morning and suddenly stops doing it, they're likely to experience pain.
Studies within the Technical University of Munich show that acupuncture fights well against tension and chronic headaches. Acupuncture was compared with sham acupuncture in 7 trials. Among participants receiving acupuncture, 51% of them had at least a 50% reduction in headache frequency. After 6 months of treatment, results were improved.
4. Green light
Scientists from Harvard Medical School revealed that green light significantly reduces sensitivity to light, photophobia, and can even reduce the severity of headaches.
Trial participants who used to experience acute headaches were asked to report any change in headache occurrences when exposed to different intensities of blue, green, amber and red light. In a well-lit room, nearly 80% of the patients reported an intensification of headaches with all colors except green.
Professor Rami Burstein and his colleagues also found that green light reduced pain by about 20%.
Wake Forest Medical Center conducted research to assess the effects of standardized meditation and yoga to reduce stress in adults with migraines.
It was revealed that subjects practicing meditation had trends of fewer migraines that were less severe. What's more, is headaches got shorter in duration and less disabling, and participants could even have control over their migraines. There were no adverse events revealed after meditation.
According to MD Vincent Martin, processed foods high in monosodium glutamate are potential headache triggers. Such processed foods consist of frozen or canned products, cheese, cottage cheese, some snacks, salad dressings, ketchup and BBQ sauces. It's recommended to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables along with kinds of meat.
It's also better to quit drinking alcohol as it's one of the main headache triggers. The most harmful drinks are vodka and red wine with high histamine content.
1. Colored glasses
Sunglasses with dark lenses are recommended to all people suffering from headaches and photophobia. But some patients complained that such a method wasn't always useful or comfortable. Then scientists from the Univesity of Cincinnati designed a study to assess the influence of colored sunglasses on people suffering from headaches.
It was found that 85% of patients reporting photophobia got relief from the symptoms. Such glasses mitigate bright light and can be used indoors, which can optimize relief in those who suffer from photophobia, or light sensitivity.
What tends to give you a headache? How do you cope with it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.