Health: What's Your Headache Trying to Tell You?
Written by: Sabina Rebis MD
Headaches are not all created equal. Whether you’re battling the sensation of a cymbal playing mechanical monkey clanging behind your temples or one of a more subtle dull ache, the triggers may be different. The most common reasons for headaches?
You’re not getting enough sleep.
If you’re a night owl, but your work schedule calls for an early bird routine, your 1 AM bedtime may be the culprit. For some, less than five hours of sleep may be related to an increased frequency of headaches. Sleep quality is also important. Poor quality sleep (aka, spending the night with Netflix running in the background or with your head in a funky position) can lead to a headache.
Too much booze... too little coffee.
It helps if you know your threshold (yes, we all have one) when it comes to your dinner wine servings. For some, more than two glasses can trigger an unpleasant migraine the next morning. Caffeine withdrawal is also a common trigger. If you suddenly skip your morning espresso, expect a headache to creep up on you by noon.
Overdoing it with the pain relief.
Analgesic overuse headaches are common in those who pop ibuprofen like candy. This is because chronic analgesic use (as in 2-3 Advils every 6 hours) lowers your pain threshold, and once the medication wears off, the pain may feel even more intense. Advil, Tylenol, or Aleve should not be used more than 15 days out of the month or around the clock for more than four days.
Taking the wrong pain medication.
There is a difference between how over-the-counter headache medications work and what type of headaches they are good for. Ibuprofen and NSAIDs (like Advil or Aleve) are anti-inflammatories and work on sinus and tension headaches. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) targets a different set of pain receptors. Migraines may not respond to either, since these headaches are a result of vascular changes.
Stress and tension.
Muscles respond to stress the way we do. They tense up, spasm, and become uptight. These spasms may last for days, and may require some serious meditation, stretching sessions, or if not relieved by more conventional methods, a prescription muscle relaxant. Identifying stressful triggers will help to eliminate these headaches, and incorporating techniques to naturally de-stress will axe these.