Believe or not, there’s more than one. So before you reach for the Nurofen, find out what triggers yours and how you can beat it for good.
1. Pill popping headache – Reach for the ibuprofen every time you feel a twingle? Ironically it could be the cause! Experts believe that pills like codeine, paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen erode the body’s natural pain barrier. Anyone who takes more than 30 painkillers a month could suffer from daily headaches as a result.
Ease the pain – Stop taking tablets all the time, but be prepared for other short-term problems first. Stopping medication abruptly invariably causes withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, anxiety and insomnia, which can last up to two weeks. After the cold turkey period you should find your banging head has eased.
2. Emotional headache – Unreleased anger is the biggest emotional cause of headaches. That bottling up fury makes you even more susceptible to head pain than depression or anxiety.
Ease the pain – The best way to beat this kind of tension is to find ways to ease your fury – but expressing anger isn’t always the answer. Making an obscene gesture at a driver could lead to road rage for example. Instead, learn to lengthen your fuse so you don’t feel frustrated or angry so often.
3. Diet headache – Next time your head starts pounding, ask yourself when you last ate. If you’re hungry, the brain responds to the massage of starvation. It releases a adrenalin to access the store of sugar in the liver and these high adrenalin levels produce headaches.
Ease the pain – Quite simply, make time to eat! Don’t wait until you become starving hungry and don’t bank all your calories just for one meal. Instead, stabilize blood sugar level by always having breakfast, lunch and dinner and keep nutritious snacks in your handbag or on your desk – Brazil nuts are perfect as they contain magnesium, which has headache-soothing properties.
4. The C headache – What does C stand for? Chocolate, cheese, claret, coffee, citrus…Certain foods have been shown to trigger migraines. Cheese for instance, is rich in the chemical tyramine, which can cause blood vessels to dilate in the head.
Ease the pain – Keep a trigger diary. Whenever a headache strikes, note down what you’ve eaten that day. Continue until you have had at least five attacks. If certain foods keep cropping up, cut them out one at a time and see if it makes a difference. If a large number of foods are involved, see your doctor. If you cut out everything you run the risk of poor nutrition.
5. Office headache – Bosses may be one big pain, but more than likely it’s the environment you’re working in and posture that are to blame. Artificial lighting can be poorly maintained which can cause eyestrain and sitting at a desk for long periods of time also causes aches. When the neck becomes stiff through tension, the top of the spine also becomes rigid and normal blood flow to the head is hampered. This can eventually give rise to a dull, thudding pain that slows you down.
Ease the pain – The daylight breaks every couple of hours to allow the full spectrum of light into your eyes, giving them a brief respite from artificial light. Regularly check your posture: your shoulders shouldn’t be hunched and your neck shouldn’t be dropping down forwards. Gentle head and neck rotations will loosen things up and get blood pumping to your head properly.
6. Sex headache – No, not the ‘Not tonight, darling…’ kind, but head pain caused by having sex. Some people can experience a sudden severe explosive sensation in their head at the point of orgasm, also known as a ‘thunderclap headache’, which lasts up to half an hour. The most common symptom of this kind of pain is a dull ache at the back of the neck. This gradually intensifies as sexual excitement increases, which is thought to be related to excessive muscular contraction of the head and neck.
Ease the pain – You could turn your fella down and watch TV, but alternatively you can take two painkillers before getting down to it and keeping your head elevated during sex. Also, avoid strong coffee before lovemaking as it could constrict the blood flow to your head. But if you have high blood pressure or family history of haemorrhagic strokes (bleeding in the brain) you should seek medical advice.
7. Weekend headache – Although tension can bring on pain, so can the easing of it. If your head starts to thump on a Saturday morning, you could be having a ‘let down’ headache. It’s caused by a rapid shift from a stressful state to one of relaxation, it’s not fully understood why these attacks occur, but it’s quite common to be sensitive to this kind of change.
Easy the pain – Start looking at certain factors. Do you get a lie-in at weekends? Enjoyable as it is, just half an hour longer than usual in bed could be the source of your pounding. It could also be due to caffeine withdrawal if you’re drinking less coffee than you do in the week. Even a delayed breakfast could be the culprit. Unfortunately, you may need to stick to your weekday routine at weekends to avoid it.
8. Dehydration headache – Ok, we know you’ve read it a thousand times before, but as well as keeping you healthy, glugging two liters of water a day can even stop your head pounding. Water acts as a transportation system in your body, both delivering nutrients and removing waste products. If your body isn’t ‘watered’ regularly throughout the day, toxins can’t be efficiently eliminated – and a toxic body can lead to all sorts of ailments, including headaches.
Ease the pain – Simple – drink up! Aim to glug two liters of liquid a day. Obviously, the quantity can vary depending on many factors including climate and what you’re doing. If you’re exercising for instance, it’s best to drink 500ml just before working out and then top up with around 100-300ml every 15 minutes throughout your session.