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What Causes Headaches? 12 Common Reasons Your Head Aches

Although much about what causes headaches is not completely understood, it is known that environmental factors and genetics both seem to play a role. Serotonin imbalances, along with imbalances of other neurotransmitters, may also play a role in the occurrence of headaches.

Doctors once thought headache pains stemmed from muscle contractions of the face, scalp and neck or from stress, tension and other heightened emotions. Research now suggests those diagnosed with headaches do not have a significant muscle tension increase.

Common theories about what causes headaches support “mixed signals” or interference between neurological nerve pathways, which is then exhibited by heightened pain sensitivity in those who have headaches. An increase in muscle tenderness, a common headache symptom, maybe because of overactive pain receptors.

There is no single factor that can be pinpointed when trying to determine what causes headaches and migraine headaches. There are a number of factors that might contribute to the cause of a headache. Below are common headache causes.

What Causes Headaches?

Hormonal fluctuations in women

Fluctuating levels of estrogen can trigger headaches for women. Women who have a history of headaches often report these headaches just before their period begins or during their period, which is when there is a marked decrease in estrogen. Other women have an increased occurrence of headaches during pregnancy and also during menopause. Hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives can worsen headaches and migraines, while some find these hormonal medications are beneficial.


Did your grandparents or parents suffer from frequent headaches or migraines? if so, you might have inherited a propensity toward chemical imbalance that can make you susceptible to headaches.


Certain foods can trigger headaches and migraines. Alcohol (especially red wine and beer), chocolate, aged cheeses, aspartame, excess amounts of caffeine, salty foods, monosodium glutamate and processed foods are common culprits. Skipping meals can also trigger headaches. Stop drinking alcohol and eating other common offending foods can reduce the number of headaches and migraines experienced.


Elevate stress levels at home or at work can trigger headaches. Anxiety can also lead to frequent headaches so if this is the root cause, anxiety relief must first be addressed through yoga. Yoga for depression is believed to help alleviate stress, anxiety and other symptoms of depression.

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Changes in sleep patterns

Either getting too much sleep or not enough sleep can instigate a headache, as can jet lag. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is one of the easiest headache cures to rectify.

Weather changes

A drop in barometric pressure or changes in weather can prompt a headache.

Sensory stimuli

Sun glare, bright lights, loud noises and overpowering scents and smells, along with chemical sensitivities, dog allergies and other allergies, can produce a headache or migraine.


Check with your doctor or pharmacist about medications that can aggravate headaches and migraines. Sometimes migraine relief is found simply by switching medications.


Straining your eyes can be a factor in what causes headaches. With more people focusing on a computer screen all day long, this cause is becoming increasingly common.


People who suffer from depression often also suffer from migraines and headaches. Depression chat lines are a good place to seek information about headaches related to mental health issues.


Though high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because of the lack of hypertension symptoms, headaches are a symptom that is often overlooked. Have your blood pressure checked to rule out this cause, especially if you also experience dizziness. Headaches are also common system lupus symptoms, autoimmune symptoms and many other disorders.

Physical factors

Holding an awkward position for a long period of time, having poor posture or clenching your jaws can cause tension headaches.

Wrap Up

What causes headaches can be any number of the factors listed above. Knowing what causes of headaches apply to you might be helpful in determining an adequate treatment for headache relief. Also, there are different types of headache and their causes might require different levels of care. Finding what causes headaches is always the first step. Once you determine what triggers migraines, tension headache, or other types of headache, you can then determine the best ways to relieve the headaches.

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