Surprising causes of headaches

PHOTO: Surprising causes of headaches

Headaches and migraines are without a doubt one of the many bugbears in life.

Painkillers are usually the first antidote one thinks of while one's head starts to throb. However, trying to pinpoint the cause might help to reduce the pain and prevent the problem from occurring again.

Many reasons have been cited as causing headaches: Anxiety, stress, staring at the computer screen, and even sex.

While the bad news is that headaches do happen from time to time, the good news is that there are some ways to prevent it from recurring.

Here are some surprising causes of that throbbing pain:

Going to the hairdressers

This might come as a surprise to few, as a visit to the salon should be a relaxing one.

But having to hold your head back over the basin while having your hair washed might be one of the many causes of headaches.

The action of leaning back extends the neck awkwardly, stimulating one of the nerves that activates the trigemino-cervical neurovascular pathway, an electrical circuit at the back of the brain that generates pain when fired off incorrectly.

Michael Gross, a neurologist and clinical director, told the Daily Mail that other awkward positions also cause headaches, such as cradling a phone between your shoulder and ear, as well as sitting on a chair without any lower back support.

Coughing until your head hurts


A coughing fit tends to tone your stomach muscles a little but in fact, there is actually a recognised headache called the 'cough headache'.

This form of headache is triggered by forms of straining, such as sneezing, blowing your nose or bending over.

According to the Daily Mail, about one per cent of headaches are caused by coughing and men are more prone.

This occurs due to a pressure build-up in the brain - the pressure pushes the brain downwards when you cough and into the upper spinal canal, causing the headache.

The headache is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as neck pain, balance problems, vision problems, insomnia, and a ringing or buzzing in the ears.

So the next time you have a headache, notice if you are also coughing because it might be best to cure your cough first rather than your headache.

Jogging on the treadmill

Ever experienced a headache after working out?

This is known as 'exertion headache' and is caused by the swelling of blood vessels in the head, neck and scalp. The swell causes a build-up in pressure, which leads to a headache.

Some people experience severe pains within seconds of exercising and it can occur anywhere in the head. It is also most common in people susceptible of migraines.

Although one way to prevent this from occurring is to change the type of exercise - swim instead of run - but taking anti-inflammatories half an hour before exercising may help in reducing the swelling.


An anxious personality

People suffering from low self-esteem or tend to be anxious are more likely to suffer from migraine-style headaches, according to the Daily Mail report.

They are more vulnerable to stress, thus lowering levels of the brain chemical serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are believed to trigger pain.

Ham sandwiches

A number of food have been cited as the cause of migraines but ham is probably one of the leading factors behind it.

Ham contains tyramine as well as preservatives, such as nitrates or nitrites, which increase blood flow to the brain, triggering the pain pathway.

Tyramine is mostly found in preserved foods, such as pickled, smoked, marinated or fermented foods. Other foods high in tyramine include cheese, chocolate and processed meat.

Certain fruits such as pineapples and bananas consist of tyramine too.


For those who sport a cropped mane, fret not, as ponytails will not be one of the causes of your headache.

Women, or men, who have their hair pulled back tightly tend to suffer from a headache after a couple of hours. The same effect is felt in plaits, tight-fitting hats and hairbands.



Headaches are one of the common excuses to avoid making love but the climax of the act can lead to a headache, known as a 'coital headache', which builds up just before or during an orgasm.

The Clinic of Neurology in Risskov, Denmark, claim that these migraines affect men more than women and manifest as a tight, cramping dull pain at the back of the head.

Neurologist Mr Gross said that it is more common in those having sex with a casual partner.

"Probably because the excitement is greater," he said.

Hot showers

While some people find comfort in a warm shower, others actually suffer from a headache due to it.

It is believed that the change in temperature alters the body's blood pressure, including the head, leading to a sharp pain in the forehead, which rarely lasts longer than five minutes.

Cold water or eating ice-cream may also trigger the pain, more commonly known as brain freeze.


Smoking can bring on a headache, says researchers at the University of Salamanca in Spain.

The nicotine in the cigarette causes blood vessels in the brain to narrow, triggering the pathway, thus causing an attack.

Lack of sleep

Lack of sleep

Not having enough sleep is detrimental to your overall wellbeing and health and sleep loss is one of the main causes of headaches.

Just like people who are vulnerable to stress, lack of sleep lowers ones serotonin level, triggering pain in the head.

The Daily Mail reported that a study at the Headache Centre of Atlanta on more than 1,200 migraine sufferers suggests that those who sleep around six hours a night are also more likely to suffer more severe and more frequent headaches than those who sleep for longer.

Warm weather

It probably happens to a lot of people in Singapore - getting a headache just by walking under the sun during lunch hour.

According to a study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, it was found that headache complaints increased along with the rises in temperatures.

The risk of getting a stabbing headache jumped by an average of 7.5 per cent with every increase of 12.8 degrees Celsius.

Wear a hat or bring an umbrella to shade yourself from the sun and prevent the onset of a headache later on.