Headache Causes

Almost everyone has had some experience with headaches, a term used to describe pain in any area of the head. Headaches can be occasional and infrequent or can be a chronic problem. Most headaches are not severe, but some people suffer with brutal pain that can be debilitating and affect every part of the normal daily life. There are lots of different types of headaches, such as migraine, tension headache and cluster headache, and some may be related to disease or trauma. Diagnosing a headache can be difficult for doctors to do because there are many different causes.


According to NeurologyChannel.com, tension headaches are the most common form of primary headaches and are caused by stress or muscular tension in the head, neck and upper back. Prolonged poor posture is a common contributor to tension headaches. As an individual sits at a computer for a long time the head normally hangs forward, causing a tremendous amount of additional stress to be placed on the muscles of the neck. Eventually this tension will lead to pain. Anxiety or mental stress can also cause muscles to become tense and constricted, leading to the same type of headache.

Hormonal Changes

Some headaches, such as migraines, can be triggered by changes in hormones. Women who suffer with migraines often note the onset of headaches just before or during a period as estrogen levels drop, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pregnancy and menopause can also disrupt normal hormone disbursement and lead to headache.


There are many lifestyle factors that can trigger the onset of a headache. These include a change in the normal sleep pattern and especially the decrease in the amount of sleep obtained. Certain foods have also been noted as triggers, such as alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated drinks and salty foods. Fasting, or allowing blood glucose levels to drop dramatically, can also cause headaches.


Certain types of headaches can be triggered by seasonal allergies. The immune response to an allergen causes mucus production and congestion that can build up in the sinuses and lead to pain. The sinuses lay just behind the cheeks, nose in the eyes and can be filled with inflammation.


A brain tumor can cause headaches that generally began mildly and build in intensity and frequency as the tumor grows. The tumor does not need to be cancerous or malignant to cause headaches. If your headaches are caused by a brain tumor they will often be accompanied by blurred or double vision, memory loss or other neurological deficits.


A brain aneurysm is a weak spot in one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain. This weak portion of the artery wall bulges out, creating a small balloon. Headaches may occur before the aneurysm ruptures.

Other Causes

There are many other possible causes for headaches, including cold or flu, vision problems, carbon monoxide poisoning, and several diseases.

About this Author

Dr. Blake Biddulph received his chiropractic degree from Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas in 2007 and has been practicing as a chiropractic physician in Provo, Utah, ever since. He has a special interest in spinal rehabilitation and treats patients with a variety of neck and back conditions. He has been writing health-related articles and newsletters for several years.