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5 Common headaches and their causes

Head splitting, eye piercing, blinding pain are just some of the ways we women describe our headaches. From the impression that a jackhammer is being driven through our heads to the feeling of dull pressure behind our eyes, headaches can mean more than pain in your head. Headaches can often be the precursor to more serious illness or a side effect of medication. Understanding the causes of headaches can help you get better control over the pain before the pain takes control of you.

What type of headache do you have?

Headaches come in many forms. For some women, headaches are a part of a chronic syndrome or arrive on the edge of their menstrual cycle. The different types of headache and their causes may surprise you.


Many women don’t realise they have a migraine because they don’t often experience the same symptoms that others do. A migraine can last up to three days with throbbing typically on one side of your head.

The cause of a migraine headache is directly related to the nerves in the brain and the ability of the blood vessels to expand and release pain-causing chemicals. Many factors can trigger migraine headache such as your sleep patterns, body weight and extremely warm weather.

Tension headaches

A tension headache is often misdiagnosed as a migraine but is actually one of the most common headaches. The causes of tension headaches are difficult to identify, though doctors believe chemical imbalances and tightening of the muscles in your neck and scalp may trigger them. If you’ve just recovered from a tense situation, it’s likely that you have what is called a let-down headache. This type of headache occurs after the stress has passed.

The Rebound headache

Similar to a tension headache, rebound headaches can occur daily and mimic the dull pain of a tension headache or the throbbing of a migraine. Over-the-counter medications and prescription pain relievers are the main culprits behind a rebound headache. Cutting back the amount of medicines and painkillers you take can reduce the number of rebound headaches you experience.

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Menstrual migraine headaches

It’s no coincidence that you get a headache right before the start of, or shortly, after your period starts. Menstrual migraines are the second most common headache that women get and feel the same as an ordinary migraine. The oestrogen in your body takes a nose dive around the time of your period and that sharp drop often releases pain-causing chemicals. This is why your entire body may ache when your period starts, including your head.

Sinus headaches

Often accompanied by a pounding in your face, eyes and forehead, this type of headache is commonly confused with a migraine because of the intense pressure and throbbing that comes with it. Sinus infections, colds and allergies are the causes of a sinus headache.

Ways to prevent headaches

Although it is hard to stop headaches developing 100 percent of the time, you can try to prevent them by exercising to relieve any stress and getting adequate rest. Inadequate water intake can also contribute to frequent headaches as well as not eating regularly. Your pillow or sleeping position or even how you sit at your computer could be impacting the muscles in your neck and may be contributing to headaches. Your diet could be causing your headaches as well. Food allergies or sensitivities can lead to headaches so you may have to eliminate certain foods from your diet.

Consider keeping a journal to note when a headache comes on and possible causes. Record when the last time you ate was, what you were doing when the headache came on, how many fluids you drank that day and what, if anything, you did to make the pain go away. If the headaches persist be sure to consult a doctor and come prepared with the notes you’ve been keeping.

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