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13 Surprising Headache Triggers

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13 Surprising Headache Triggers

All the way back in 4,000 BC, it was thought that evil spirits were the cause of headaches. The cure? Removing a portion of the skull to allow the spirits to leave, of course.

We know better now, and though it can still certainly feel like evil spirits are wreaking havoc inside your skull when you get a pounding headache, the causes and triggers are actually often everyday things and activities. Here, a roundup of headache catalysts that may surprise you:


1. Relaxing

Taking it too easy can be bad for you, according to researchers who probably also hate kittens and rainbows. Weekend headaches? It might be because as a stressful work week comes to an end, your levels of stress hormones drop. That causes a quick release of neurotransmitters that send impulses to blood vessels to constrict and then dilate, causing a headache. Stay pain-free by not waiting until the end of the week to finally relaxómake some time during the weekdays for walks outside or a yoga class or two.


2. Your Phone

If youíve ever found yourself slouching over your phone playing Candy Crush for hours, you may want to give it a rest. The brightness of your screen activates the retina and the nerves behind the eye, which can cause eye strain and head painóand the same goes for your laptop.


3. Lightning

Feel like your head is thundering when thereís lightning outside? Youíre not the only one. A study published earlier this year in the journal Cephalalgia found that for those who already suffer from chronic headaches, the risk of getting a headache increased 31 percent when lightning struck within 25 miles of the participantís home. The risk of migraine increased 28 percent. Further research is needed to determine the exact link, but the studyís author points to a few different reasons lightning may trigger headaches, including electromagnetic waves emitted from lightning, the increases in air pollutants that lightning causes, and the release of fungal spores.


4. Arguments

Need a reason to be a lover, not a fighter? Anger can cause the muscles on the back of your head and neck to tense up, leading to a tension headache. You also tend to take shorter breaths when youíre anxious, and the less oxygen you take in, the more blood vessels constrict, causing head pain. The next time you feel yourself reaching your boiling point, take deep breaths and focus on releasing the tension in your neck and head.


5. Your Period

Well, itís official. Short of getting you out of gym class in eighth grade, your period is out to make you suffer. A drop in estrogen just before your period can be behind head pain, causing blood vessels to dilate and muscles to go into spasm. Between 50 and 75 percent of women who have migraines suffer from migraines linked to their menstrual cycle.


6. Your Purse

If your purse is over ten pounds, itís probably causing neck strain…which leads to head pain. Balance out the load and carry a purse and a tote (one on each shoulder) if youíre going to be walking for a while.


7. Dehydration

Chug, chug, chug! Experts say that not drinking enough water can cause blood vessels in the brain to narrow, reducing the brainís supply of blood and oxygen, causing a headache. Feeling thirsty is actually your bodyís way of telling you that youíre already dehydrated, so make sure youíre downing water throughout the day.


Next Page: 6 more headache triggers, including sex, exercise, your office chair, and more.

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Read more: Conditions, General Health, Headaches, Health

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Diana Vilibert

Diana Vilibert is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. You can be blog-friends with her at, or tweet her at @dianavilibert.


+ add your own
9:06PM PDT on Mar 23, 2014

The thing that has helped with my chronic migraines the most is changing my diet. Still trying to find the underlying cause, but this should be the first step for anyone suffering from regular headaches or migraine. Caffeine is number one trigger. Great book: "Heal Your Headache." By David Buchholz, M.D.

1:19AM PST on Dec 10, 2013


1:26PM PST on Dec 3, 2013


1:38AM PST on Dec 2, 2013

how about a bump on the head and then lack of sleep?

8:30AM PST on Nov 16, 2013


4:11PM PST on Nov 4, 2013


6:07AM PST on Nov 3, 2013

thanks for sharing

1:52AM PDT on Nov 3, 2013

if there was no greedy government and no evil harmful murdering bastards then there be no head aches

6:01PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

Wow, I didn't know that about relaxing! I do get headaches sometimes when I exercise. It's interesting how our bodies work. Sleep is also a headache trigger I find (or lack of even!). Thanks for the article. :)

3:05PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

yup king steve is a big source up here

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

Thank you, I eat all those foods, and it's so good to know I am getting what I need. I can't say I'v…

I would like to know the foods this might be in naturally. Thanks for the article.

I'm not sure I agree with all of these. I've had a number of them, and the friendliness or lack of …

excellent article, thank you

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