Headache: main causes and what to do

Headache is a common complaint in everyday conversations and in doctors’ offices, and there are many types of pain . It interferes with productivity at work, social relationships and, of course, the quality of life.

Most headache causes are benign, meaning they are not related to a disease. In other situations, they occur because of a pre-existing condition such as high blood pressure and sinusitis.

A headache occurs when the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels in the head and neck region send out signals of inflammation, which create pain. There are several triggers that can activate these painful signals, such as strong smells, stress, fatty foods, hormonal changes and even some genes, which may be present in the family.

It can be difficult to identify the causes behind your pain, so it’s important to pay attention to what happens throughout your day to discover the triggers and avoid them.

To help you with this challenge, we’ll introduce you to the main causes of headaches and what you can do to get rid of this discomfort.


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Stress makes the body go into a fight-or-flight state, which serves to make you react quickly to danger. The heart speeds up, breathing becomes shorter, pressure increases, and adrenaline levels are high in the blood.

But when this response is continuous and without real danger, stress can cause or worsen the headache. The muscles in the back, shoulders and neck become tense , causing the sensation of pain.

What to do

  • Stretching, yoga or meditation;
  • Taking a warm bath as it helps to relax your muscles;
  • Practicing a pleasurable physical activity;
  • Correct posture, to reduce pressure on the muscles of the neck and head, chiropractic care can help with this correction;
  • Massage the temples and shoulders in a rotating motion, with light pressure;
  • Apply cold or warm compresses to the pain site for 20 minutes.

2-heat and dehydration

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As the temperature increases, it is common to experience headaches more often. Greater exposure to the sun, stuffy environments and excessive sweating are the perfect combination for dehydration.

Loss of water through sweating without proper replacement by ingesting fluids causes dehydration headaches.

What to do

  • Drinking water: use as a reference the volume of 35 mL of water for each kilogram of body weight. If you are physically active, calculate 50 mL for every kilogram.
  • Wear clothes with light fabrics and lighter colors;
  • Decrease sun exposure, with the use of caps and hats;
  • Cool your head with cold water compresses.

3-PMS and menopause

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Many women experience headaches during PMS, usually in the two days before menstruation. Sometimes this pain lasts until the first three days of the menstrual period.

During menopause, women also face this problem, which occurs because the regular cycle is interrupted.

This type of headache is known as “menstrual migraine” and is related to a drop in levels of estrogen, a female hormone.

What to do

  • Eat smaller portions and more often. Very long periods of fasting trigger the headache;
  • Avoid foods rich in salt, fat and sugar , as they retain water in the body, increasing swelling;
  • Consume diuretic fruits : watermelon, pineapple, melon and pear;
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol, as they can cause dehydration.
  • Consult a gynecologist to consider the use of birth control pills, migraine drug treatment, and hormone replacement therapy.


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In addition to the eating habits discussed above, there are others that can cause or worsen headaches.

Abstinence or excessive consumption of caffeine, from sources such as coffee or tea, causes headaches.

Another common food cause is additives present in processed foods, such as monosodium glutamate, and preservatives present in packaged and canned foods.

What to do

  • Increase or decrease the amount of caffeine. This will depend on the cause of your pain, whether it is abstinence or excessive consumption .
  • Drinking a cup of coffee right at the beginning of the headache can bring quick relief, so much so that caffeine is present in some pain relievers;
  • Avoid processed foods , such as instant noodles, sausage and other embedded and canned meats;
  • Drink teas that alleviate headaches .


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Sleeping little (less than 7 hours) or sleeping poorly at night, with many interruptions, can cause a headache. This pain usually comes with a feeling of pressure or heaviness in the forehead and eye area.

Having a sleepless night’s routine impairs the restoration of the body and brain function.

What to do

  • Establish a sleep routine, with a time to sleep and wake up;
  • Do not consume stimulant drinks and foods before bed, such as coffee, sodas and sweets. No alcoholic beverages or cigarettes, at least 4 hours before bedtime;
  • Make a sleep hygiene . Leave the environment silent and with low light. To do this, turn off the television, computer, cell phone and choose to read a book.

6-Strong smell, noise and bright or pulsating light

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Some people are more sensitive to smells, strong or pulsating lights, and very loud sounds when they are about to have a headache. Sometimes headaches caused by these factors are accompanied by nausea.

What to do

  • Try to discover the odors that cause your pain, for example: car exhaust, perfumes, cigarettes, cleaning products, fuel;
  • Get out of the room, open the windows and breathe fresh air;
  • Look for quiet places or wear ear protection;
  • Rest in a dark environment.

7-Analgesic Abuse

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Medication overuse headaches are caused by regular and prolonged use of pain relievers.

Pain relievers are great for relieving occasional headaches . But if you take them for more than 15 days during the month and keep taking them for three or more months, you may suffer from painkiller abuse headaches.

What to do

  • Take your headache medicine as prescribed;
  • Contact your doctor if you need headache medication more than twice a week.

If your headaches are persistent, seek medical advice. And don’t forget to comment with him about the possible causes that you identified in your daily life.

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