Headaches can range from the mildest to the most excruciating. The thing is, unlike other localized body pain, a headache is felt whenever a part of your body is unwell. It is your body’s way of communicating that something is wrong with it.
If you are hungry, you will have a headache. If you are tired, you will have a headache. If any parts of your body are in pain and not functioning well, it will let you know by the throbbing head pain.
What Causes Headaches
Headaches. That nagging discomfort that occurs in a blink when you encounter triggers you may not even be aware of. Stress, sleeplessness, or a whiff of a strong perfume can be enough to ruin your day.
Sometimes, headaches will clear away on their own. But when they become recurrent, it may point to other underlying causes. Treating the main cause is the only way of stopping a recurring headache.
Generally, headaches are divided into two main categories: primary and secondary headaches.
Primary headache means that the problem itself is head pain. It is further divided into three types: tension, cluster, and migraine headache.
Secondary headaches arise as a symptom of other issues like sinusitis, infection, high blood pressure, stress, or injury. Sometimes, a headache also happens as one of the symptoms of stroke.
What Headaches Tell You About Your Body
Here’s a brief explanation to understand headaches better:
Primary headache is the most common headache that makes up about 90% of what people experience. Its exact cause is unknown; but according to experts, primary headache does not point to an underlying health condition.
Its main triggers are lifestyle factors like drinking alcohol, lack of sleep, stress, skipped meals, and poor posture. If you eat certain foods or encounter scents you are sensitive to, it is highly likely to cause a headache. Highly processed foods that contain nitrates may also cause this nagging pain.
However, the location of the headache is variable for diagnoses since it can vary from person to person. Yet, it is a good enough starting point for doctors to diagnose its causes.
Tension headaches are felt around the eyes, temples, upper neck area and base of the head. The recurring pain is felt like a tight pressure in the head and may last for about half an hour. Its symptoms are mild and are often caused by stress, anxiety, bruxism (teeth grinding during the night) and poor sleep.
Migraine headaches are one-sided which means they almost always occur only in one side of the head. The severe throbbing pain is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Migraine headaches can last for a few hours until about 72 hours.
Cluster headaches are severe and occur on one side of the head, often in clusters. It means that it may happen regularly for months and be gone for some time. A cluster headache is accompanied by teary eyes, a red and stuffy nose, and eye puffiness. It may happen at the same time but only to one part of the head.
Underlying Causes of Headaches
A secondary headache is brought about by pain and inflammation happening in the different parts of the body. Most of these causes are rare but pose a more serious condition than primary headache. There are numerous possible causes of secondary headaches which vary in severity and are accompanied by other symptoms.
Sinus Headache: Sinus inflammation is caused by infections brought about by pathogens that cause flu and respiratory problems. Pollution, allergies, and dental infections may also cause it to swell, prompting a throbbing pain in the head. Sinus headache ranges from mild to severe. It is accompanied by a runny nose, fatigue, pain in the face, and pain that worsens with the changing temperature.
Dehydration: If you lack water and body fluids, your body will fail to function properly. In adults, dehydration is not always felt until you are very thirsty, hurting your head and peeing dark yellow urine. If you feel a throbbing headache, especially during hot weather, your body might only be telling you to refill yourself with fluids.
Eye Strain: Using your eyes for a long time while doing something can stir up a mild headache. If you are reading, working long hours at your computer, or performing any task that requires intense focus, an eye strain can happen. You can solve it by taking regular breaks and having your eyes checked by a professional.
Influenza and Other Febrile Illnesses: Headaches are common in fever and flu which come with other respiratory symptoms. It is your body’s way of telling you that you are sick and need some rest. Once the flu clears away, the headache will also go on its own.
Panic Attacks: A pulsating headache that occurs only on one side of the face may happen if you have anxiety and panic attacks. It comes with other symptoms like shallow breathing, upset stomach, and fatigue whenever you are stressed over something. Practicing relaxation and managing your triggers may help lessen, if not prevent, this kind of headache.
Medication Headaches: Medication headache or rebound headache is caused by a long-term use of pain medication. Overdosage, especially if you are taking it for a migraine, can make matters worse. With a rebound headache, the pain will subside after taking medication and come back whenever it wears off.
Caffeine Withdrawal Headache: Regular intake of caffeine makes the body dependent on it. If you stop its consumption, it will enlarge the blood vessels and put undue pressure on the surrounding nerves around the brain. The best way to mitigate it is to reduce the caffeine intake and consume it in moderation instead of abruptly stopping it.
Hypertension: Elevated blood pressure causes the blood to push through the arterial wall if you have hypertension. The throbbing pain can be felt on both sides of the head and gets worse with physical activity. Other symptoms like flushed face, numbness, tingling sensation, shortness of breath, and blurred vision are also present. If you’re not taking prescription medicine, you can try natural remedies such as Hawthorn Berries, Chamomile, Garlic, Ginger, Basil, Cinnamon and many others.
Secondary headaches may also arise as signs of diseases or injury such as but not limited to: brain aneurysm, brain tumor, concussion, encephalitis, glaucoma, meningitis, and stroke.
Home Remedies for Headaches
It is difficult to tell what exactly causes a headache. Doctors rely on accompanying signs and confirm it by running a series of tests.
If you have a mild headache that occurs because of flu, sinusitis, or obvious inflammation, home remedies can provide immediate relief.
You can take herbal teas if you are not currently taking any medication. Topical headache relief from essential oils also helps you feel better as they numb the pain receptors (but make sure to dilute them first)
A few potent herbal remedies for headaches are Ginger, Dill, Bay leaf, Turmeric, Watermelon juice, Basil, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Apple cider vinegar, Lavender oil, Mint, Eucalyptus oil, Lemon, Peppermint, Garlic, and Lemon balm.
DIY Headache Relief Remedy
Ginger and garlic are effective for headaches and will also help in managing flu and respiratory problems. It is also great for headaches accompanying nausea and digestive issues.
You will need: 1 tbsp. minced garlic, 1 tbsp. freshly ground ginger root, and 3 cups of water.
- Add garlic and ginger to boiling water and inhale its steam for a few minutes.
- You may also apply a paste of garlic and ginger and warm water as a poultice on your chest whenever you have cold and flu symptoms.
If you have a mild headache, steam inhalation, herbal teas, and essential oils are the go-to for pain relief. But if you have a bad and recurring headache, do take note of other symptoms.
Headaches are the body’s way of communicating internal malfunctions. So, pay close attention and don’t disregard the pain that keeps on bothering you.