ZocdocAnswersIs there a root cause for headaches?

Question

Is there a root cause for headaches?

I only get headaches every once in a while, but I still don't understand why I get them at all. Is there anything I can do to prevent them all together? What causes a headache in the first place? What is the root cause?

Answer

There are two main types of headaches that are common. The first is called tension headache. This causes constant, steady pain, usually in the back of the neck and the temples. It is related to muscle strain and fatigue more than to something going on "inside the brain." It typically is relieved with simple over the counter medications, but more persistent cases sometimes require attention to issues of fatigue, posture, and muscle stiffness, all of which are aggravating factors. The second is called migraine headache. This is quite different from a causal perspective, and it is related to transient changes in blood flow within the brain. Although there are many environmental triggers associated with migraine, the condition also has a strong genetic component, unlike tension headache. The pain is more likely to be throbbing, on one side of the head only, and associated with visual changes, light sensitivity, or nausea. Although common painkillers often have some effect on migraine headache pain, many people with migraines require a daily medication to help suppress the attacks and prevent the headaches. Both migraine and tension headaches are commonly managed by primary care doctors, so you should talk to yours for more information.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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