Knowing what causes your headaches can help you nip them in the bud, says clinician Dr Sheena Aurora.
So keep take note of possible triggers – like the five that follow – and write them down to keep track, says Aurora.
For immediate relief, popping an OTC painkiller should do the trick in most cases, but if you notice the pattern of your typical headache has drastically changed or you begin to lose vision or limb function, get to a doctor right away.
YOU HIT THE GYM TOO HARD
Exerting yourself, especially in the heat, can cause an exercise-induced headache. They generally start when there’s a spike in your heart rate, but the threshold is different for everyone.
“These can be alarming,” says Aurora. “They come on explosively in seconds.”
Although they usually pass once your heart rate falls, exertion headaches can last up to two days in some cases.
If you’re prone to exercise-induced headaches, Aurora recommends buying a heart-rate monitor to track the point at which the pain sets in. Then be sure to keep your heart rate below that threshold to avoid overdoing it.
YOU’RE STRAINING YOUR NECK
This type of headache, known as occipital neuralagia, typically starts at the back of your skull and radiates through your scalp, and it can be triggered by a neck strain.
If you’re not thrilled about taking OTC painkillers, magnesium and vitamin B2 can help in the heat of a headache and in some cases even help prevent them, says Aurora.
YOUR FREQUENTLY CLENCH YOUR JAW
Commonly referred to as TMJ, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder can cause serious headaches.
“People tend to clench their jaw when they’re under stress,” says Aurora, leading to pain and tenderness in your face, jaw and neck.
The quick fix is to relax, but if the problem persists, see your dentist – a night guard may help alleviate teeth grinding, which can worsen TMJ.
YOU’VE BEEN SPENDING TIME IN A HIGH-ALTITUDE AREA
Big altitude changes can cause headaches.
These headaches tend to trigger nausea and can get worse at night and right when you wake up in the morning.
If you know you’re headed for a big altitude change, avoid stress and caffeine and try to gradually expose yourself to altitude changes to prep your head for the climb.
YOU TAKE TOO MANY PAINKILLERS TO DULL YOUR HEADACHES
With all the different triggers of headaches out there, it might seem like keeping an arsenal of aspirin at the ready is a smart move.
But popping those OTC pain meds like sweets comes at a price: rebound headaches, characterised by dull aching pain. They happen because the painkillers rewire the pain pathways in your brain.
Pain relievers that combine pain meds with caffeine or more than one type of pain med can be common culprits of the rebound headache when used frequently.
If you’re regularly taking these, the risk of rebound headaches is lower with ibuprofen.