Causes Of Headache


Most are shocked to learn that the causes of tension headaches are unknown.  Many inform us that the cause of a tension headache are tight muscles on the neck.  This however does not seem to be the mechanism of pain.  Why do some have tight muscles and not get headaches.  And to further this point you may have had a tension around the neck and not always developed a tension headache.

So if the causes have not been pinpointed to a single mechanism, what is going on?  It seems that research is pointing in the direction of predisposed pain sensitivity in our genetics.  Nerve abnormalities in the brain and spine increase certain peoples’ sensitivity to pain.

According to the New York Times,  Neurotransmitters have been identified as playing an important role in the pain pathway affecting how we respond to pain.  Serotonin and nitric oxide, the article explains, are named specifically as chemical messengers that may excite the pain pathways in the brain, muscles and other tissue and increase pain. I would speculate that through our actions and therapeutic interventions we are then able to change the chemical environment preventing the amount of neurotransmitters or changing the way the body reacts to them.

Although not the cause of your tension headache, they usually present with muscle contractions in the head and neck regions.  Tension-type headache occurs randomly and is usually triggered by stress, anxiety, fatigue or anger. They are what most of us call a stress headaches.

Headaches may occur due to the activation of a trigger point.   Trigger points are tender knots in a muscle tissue that can produce  tightness, weakness, and intense pain in various areas of the body.  It is thought they develop from weakness and overuse.  When a trigger point is active it refers pain to other parts of the body.  There have been many people who seek out their dentists believe that the pain in their mouth is from a cavity only to be informed that their pain is caused by the activation of a trigger point in the muscles used chew food. An example of a trigger point in a muscle that mimics a tension headache is the Sternocleidomastoid muscle.  One branch of the muscle generally refers pain behind the eyes while the other usually refers pain to the temples that sometimes presents as severe.  Sometimes the intense pain is described by the sufferer as a migraine.  Migraines are believed to be vascular in origin, but their cause is also elusive to the medical industry.

Just like a migraine there are a variety of foods, activities, and stressors can trigger a tension headache. Some people develop tension headaches after staring at a computer screen for a long time.  The main culprit usually being eyestrain. Headaches can occur after driving for long periods.  A poor posture, fatigue and tension in the neck and shoulders are contributing factors.  Eye strain may also pay a part here too. Cold temperatures may also be a trigger.  Headache occur more readily when you are tired.  Not eating on time makes us susceptible.  A combination of low blood sugar and fatigue.  Jaw clenching, nighttime teeth grinding may contribute to temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ.  This issue contributes to trigger points in the jaw causing pain along with the feeling of pressure in the ear. Tension headaches may result as a secondary condition due to trauma after a whiplash or head and neck injury.  Hormonal changes such as those that occur during pregnancy or menstrual cycle can trigger headache.  The over consumption of caffeine or insufficient fluid consumption also puts you at a greater risk.  Exercise is a trigger of migraines. You can get a sinus headache with an acute sinus infection.  Many migraine headaches are misdiagnosed as sinus infections in part because eye tearing and nasal stiffness can be symptoms of a migraine episode. Cluster headaches are rare affecting 0.5% of the population.


Approximately one third of chronic headaches are caused by medication overuse producing a rebound effect. People suffering from Chronic daily headaches have usually been given a diagnosis of migraine in the past although there are many causes.  Most overuse medications which cause the headaches to become chronic.

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