What Causes Headaches?

Thinking about the the various types of headaches and headache sufferers it should not come as any surprise that the causes are just as diverse. There are countless possible causes for headaches including underlying medical conditions like the thankfully rare cases of brain tumors or cerebral aneurysms. However the most common headaches also have generally common causes.

In many cases simple eyestrain such as is experienced whan working too long at the computer can produce a headache. At other times, ordinary inflammation of the sinuses due to an allergy or head cold can be the culprit. Overuse of certain prescription medicines can also lead to a headache.

Although the exact cause is not always known, narrowing of the blood vessels is also thought to be the culprit in a range of cases. Pain sensitive nerve fibers in the head line the walls of the blood vessels and when the blood vessels contract the nerves send signals to the brain. As luck would have it, the brain itself cannot feel pain because it does not contain any pain sensitive nerve cells and tension-type or cluster headaches result.

However your blood vessels are able to dilate as well as contract and when they do so one theory at least holds that cluster headaches and migraines can be the result. Contemporary research suggests that there are also other much more important factors at work when it comes to migraines.

Tension headaches can arise from other causes like tension in the muscles of the neck, shoulder and even the jaw. Those who have experienced TMJ disorder which is a condition resulting from tension of the temporomandibular joint causing the jaw to tighten against the skull will be familiar with this.

In more serious cases headaches can result from an underlying disease and these are generally called ‘secondary headaches’. The list of underlying diseases this can cause headaches is lengthy and includes everything from irritable bowel syndrome to scarlet fever.

Often environmental factors also play an important part. Carbon monoxide poisoning such as that resulting from the gas produced by an automobile exhaust or many water heaters can create very severe headaches and indeed headaches are one of the chief symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Other causes include allergies, lead poisoning and food poisoning.

Even when food is not itself toxic as would be the case with food contaminated with a bacterial infection certain individuals will be sensitive to foods that will not affect people in general. Such everyday foods as chocolate and cheese will cause headaches in some individuals as will red wine, caffeine and some preservatives.

However posture, position and a variety of other controllable factors may well be amongst the most common causes. As an increasing number of people are working with computers on a daily basis so we are seeing more eyestrain, jaw stress and neck tension.

About 85% to 90% of headaches are common tension headaches that are normally the result of one or more of the factors detailed above. That means that in the vast majority of cases the cure is simple and within your control.