Headache: Triggers, When to Worry & Prevention

When should you be concerned about a headache?


Headache one of the most common daily health problems across the globe. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that, about 4% of all adults are affected by an aching head on 15 or more days every month. You may have a headache along with another minor health problem such as a sore throat, cold, or sinus problem.

In many cases, you can treat your headaches at home with over-the-counter painkillers and lifestyle changes, such as getting more rest and drinking enough fluids.



While there are many effective headache treatments, headache prevention is the place to begin. You’re not going to be able to prevent all headaches but you can minimize them with headache trigger management.  Even if you can’t stop every headache from happening, some simple changes can help you avoid at least a few.

There are a lot of headache triggers you can control and those you can’t. Some triggers are the weather and the hormonal fluctuations that occur with menstruation, ovulation and menopause in women.

The following are some common triggers for headaches and migraines. However, many are within your control:

Could it be something serious?

In the vast majority of cases, a headache isn’t a sign of a serious problem. But, rarely, it can be a symptom of a condition such as a stroke, meningitis, or a brain tumour.

A headache is more likely to be serious if:

  • it occurs suddenly and is very severe – often described as a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
  • it doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
  • occurs after a severe head injury
  • it’s triggered suddenly by coughing, laughing, sneezing, changes in posture, or physical exertion
  • you have symptoms suggesting a problem with your brain or nervous system such as weakness, slurred speech, confusion, memory loss, and drowsiness.
  • you have additional symptoms, such as a high temperature (fever), a stiff neck, vision problems, a sore scalp, or severe pain and redness in one of your eyes.

If you’re concerned that your headache might be serious, you should seek immediate medical advice.



How to prevent headaches

You may be able to prevent headaches by changing your daily routine. Identify possible causes of your headaches using a headache diary.

Avoid headache triggers

Knowing your headache triggers enables you to start your own headache prevention program. Keeping a headache diary can help you determine what triggers your headaches so that you can avoid the triggers. Include personal details such as what time you wake up and go to bed, exercises and activities you undertake and each headache that you get, what time of day it occurred, and what you did to resolve it.

Get appropriate amount of sleep

Either too much or too little can leave your head pounding. The average adult needs six to eight hours of sleep a night so make sure you get a steady six to eight hours each night. It’s best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Talk to your doctor if you have sleep disturbances, such as cough, snoring.

Don’t skip meals

Keep a regular schedule, and don’t greatly vary your diet. Eat healthy meals at about the same times daily. Never skip meals, and have a small, healthy snack between meals so that you don’t get too hungry. Avoid food or drinks, such as those containing caffeine, that seem to trigger headaches. Avoid excessive fat and high calorie diet if you’re obese and lose weight.

Exercise regularly

Regular aerobic physical activity can improve your physical and mental well-being and reduce stress. Keep a regular schedule, and don’t greatly vary your exercise routines. Choose activities you enjoy such as walking, swimming or cycling. In addition, practice a relaxation exercise once or twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes. You can also, try massage, which can reduce muscle tension, especially in your neck and shoulder muscles. Muscle tension can cause headaches or make them worse.

Reduce stress

Stress is a common trigger of headaches and can cause your head to pound. Therefore, find ways to deal with it.  Organize and simplify your schedule. Always stay positive. Try stress-reduction techniques, such as do some deep breathing, yoga or meditation when you feel stress creeping in.

Practice good posture and body mechanics at home and at work

Sit straight in your chair with your lower back supported. If you sit most of the day, take breaks once an hour to stretch your neck muscles. There are some specific neck exercises you can do during your breaks. If you work at a computer, adjust your monitor so that the top of the screen is at eye level. Use a document holder to keep the copy at the same level as the screen. If you frequently use the telephone, consider a headset or speaker phone. Do not cradle the handset between your shoulder and your ear.



About felclinic 583 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At felclinic.com we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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