Top 10 Headache Causes That Can Hide in Plain Sight


Headaches and migraines are arguably one of the most common conditions to affect our health.  They impact men and women, young and old, and people throughout the entire world. Of course, there are many types of headaches.  For example, a tension headache and migraine episode have very different origins and presentations and might require a different approach in order to get relief.  Some common headache types can have their roots in things that everyone encounters in their daily lives. In fact, the following contributing factors can be so ordinary that they’re hiding right in front of our eyes:


  • Dehydration – dehydration can easily be blamed for many cases of headaches, and it’s thankfully one of the easiest things to correct.  Water is the main component of the human body, making up about 60% of its weight. Every tissue, organ, and cell needs adequate water to survive.  There is no single formula to determine the exact amount of water you should be consuming on a daily basis, but according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should aim for about 3.7 liters (15.5 cups) and women 2.7 liters (11.5 cups) each day.  This replaces the water lost from breathing, perspiration, urination, and bowel movements.
  • Post-concussion syndrome – after a concussion, headaches can linger for a long time after the initial injury.  Following a concussion, most people will experience resolution of their symptoms within a few weeks.  In post-concussion syndrome, symptoms can last for months or even drag on for years. Post-concussion headaches can vary from person to person and can resemble a tension-type headache or migraine.
  • Caffeine (either withdrawal or overconsumption) – most people understand that caffeine can become an addiction that causes physiological effects in the body.  If you’ve either eliminated caffeine or have been drinking more than usual, that can be reflected in the development of headaches.  Quitting caffeine “cold turkey” can cause withdrawal headaches. If you are looking to eliminate caffeine, tapering off can help to avoid the pain of withdrawal headaches.  Also keep in mind that caffeine hides in many places – coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, and even medications that are used to get rid of headaches are all caffeine-containing culprits.  
  • Hypertension – high blood pressure is commonly present without any symptoms, which is why it can be so dangerous.  In some cases, hypertension can come along with headaches depending on how much blood is reaching the brain.  When blood pressure runs high, the blood vessels constrict which can lead to the development of headaches. Also worth noting is that headaches can also be a side-effect of some high blood pressure medications.
  • Sinus infection – having chronically inflamed, congested, or infected sinuses can lead to sinus headaches.  People experiencing sinus headaches often feel intense pressure or throbbing in the eyes, cheeks, brow, and forehead.  Some people’s teeth might even ache and the pain can increase when bending forward and lying down. Tension headaches and even migraines can sometimes be mistaken for sinus headaches.
  • Medication overuse (rebound headache) – rebound headaches ironically occur from the regular and long-term use of medications used to treat headaches or migraines.  These can be over-the-counter (I.e. Advil, Tylenol) or prescription medications. For occasional headache relief, medications can do the trick.  However, if taken more than a couple of times in a week, they can trigger rebound headaches. Rebound headaches usually start when you stop taking the pain medication.
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) – MSG, used in some foods as a flavor enhancer, is one of the most common food additives to trigger headaches and migraines.  MSG causes the dilation, or opening, of blood vessels and excites certain nerves in the brain. Other food ingredients or additives connected to the development of migraines include nitrites (used to cure meats like salami and bacon) and tyramine (found in aged foods like wine and cheeses).
  • Scalp pressure – items worn tightly around the head can be a hidden cause of headaches. Excess and lasting pressure on the scalp can cause a headache or migraine to arise.  If you need to wear a hat, helmet, goggles, or anything else that squeezes or puts pressure around the head, make sure that the fit is just right. Even tying hair back in a ponytail that is too tight can be problematic.  
  • TMJD – jaw problems and headaches often go hand in hand.  Many people dealing with TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) have recurring headaches, migraines, or ear/face/neck pain as well.
  • Cold food or beverage – this is the classic “ice cream headache” or “brain freeze” headache associating with consuming something cold.  These headaches can be extreme and very painful but are usually very short in duration. One theory about why ice cream headaches happen is that as the cold passes across the roof of the mouth blood vessels quickly narrow, causing a brief, intense headache.  People who are prone to migraines have been found to be more at risk of also being prone to ice cream headaches.


Headaches and Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

A lot of people know that chiropractors have the ability to help with headaches and migraines.  What you may not know, however, is that there is a subspecialty that exists within the chiropractic profession that addresses a particular area of the spine and nervous system that can have a critical impact.  Upper cervical chiropractors focus on the upper part of the neck. If this part of your spine is not aligned properly it can cause abnormal changes in brainstem function, blood flow, and pressure in the head and neck.  These factors have been implicated in a variety of headache types.

Many patients have achieved natural, lasting relief with upper cervical chiropractic care.  To find out more about us and what sets upper cervical care apart, contact us for more information to see how we can help.



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