We’ve written before about when to worry about a headache; luckily, the large majority of headaches are non-emergency. However, even a mild headache can be a big disturbance in your day—not to mention a painful one—and knowing the common causes of headaches or triggers can help you avoid more headaches in the future.
In general, most headaches fit into three main categories: sinus headaches, migraine headaches or tension headaches.
1. Sinus headaches happen when you have a sinus infection or congestion that puts pressure on your sinuses. Often, over-the-counter cold medication or sinus relief medication can treat the symptoms of your headache until it goes away. However, if you think you do have a sinus infection, you will likely need antibiotics, so make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
2. Migraine headaches typically aren’t serious, but can be among the most painful. While time, painkillers and desensitization (low light, reduced noise) can help with symptoms, sufferers of frequent migraines should talk to their doctor about prescription medication. It’s also helpful to consider what your specific “triggers” for a migraine headache may be. For some people, what they eat or drink can be an easily identifiable culprit. For others, it could be more complicated, with certain smells or stimulants causing abrupt nerve pain.
3. Tension headaches are the biggest wild card of common headaches, simply because there are so many factors that can lead to a tension headache. For instance, the cause of a tension headache can be as simple as lack of sleep, stress or the weather changing. Other common causes are caffeine withdrawal or dehydration, so your body may just be telling you what it needs.
The first step in treating a common, non-emergency headache is to do your best to figure out the cause. If you think your headache is from lack of sleep, you can take an over-the-counter headache relief medication to treat your symptoms, then just make sure to get to sleep earlier. Or, if you know certain foods or drinking alcohol triggers your migraines, avoid them.
Unfortunately, knowing what causes your headache isn’t always that simple. Sometimes, your best course of action is to take over-the-counter medication and treat your body with kindness until your symptoms pass. Drink plenty of fluids, rest and eat clean, nourishing foods.
However, if your headaches persist, worsen or continue to happen on a more frequent basis, it may be time to make an appointment with your doctor. A physician can help you determine additional causes you may not have considered or offer further treatment options so you won’t continue to suffer.