Understanding Your Headaches 

A young mom is holding her head because she has a headache. A child and the child's father are reading a book on the couch in the background.

Headaches can make life quite uncomfortable. If you experience headaches or migraines regularly, you may experience challenges with school, work, or family responsibilities. That's why getting to the root of the issue is so important. When you know what is causing your headaches, you can take effective steps to manage them.

Causes of Your Headaches

The first step in getting relief for your headaches or migraines is identifying the cause. If you suffer from regular headaches, it's possible something in your day-to-day routine is causing them. Here are some common causes of headaches or migraines.

Neck or shoulder tension

If your neck or shoulders are tense or sore, the sensation of pressure in your head may be related. This type of headache, known as a tension headache, occurs when the muscles in your neck or shoulders are tense, especially for long periods of time. This tension may develop as a result of anxiety, depression, poor posture, head injury, or stress.

Blue Light

If you spend time looking at your phone screen, working on your computer, or relaxing with your family in front of a movie, you are inundated with an abundance of blue light. If you experience migraine headaches, exposure to blue light can be associated with a common and possibly debilitating symptom known as photophobia. When you have photophobia, you are sensitive to light, especially blue light. You may also experience photophobia as a result of conditions including dry eyes, meningitis or pituitary tumors.

 If you are experiencing photophobia, your health care provider may recommend blue-blocking tinted lenses or glasses to decrease headaches and improve your sensitivity to light. You do not need a prescription for these tinted lenses or glasses, which have a reddish FL-41 tint.  

Other common causes of headaches

Headaches may also happen in response to other factors, including:

  • alcohol intake
  • caffeine withdrawal 
  • cold, flu or sinus infection
  • dental complications, like teeth grinding 
  • fatigue
  • weather changes
  • smoking
  • strong odors including perfume or cleaning products
  • food triggers
  • lack of sleep

When to See Your Health Care Provider

Because headaches are fairly common, it is tempting to shrug them off and suffer through the pain. However, chronic headaches can disturb your quality of life, resulting in depression, fatigue and stress. They may also be a sign of something serious. Signs that you need to call your health care provider include:

  • chronic headaches 
  • frequent headaches 
  • headache accompanied by symptoms such as confusion, diarrhea, dizziness, fever, numbness, shortness of breath, trouble speaking, vomiting, or weakness
  • headaches that are not responsive to medication 
  • headaches with changing characteristics
  • severe headaches 

If you have a severe headache or migraine, you may need emergency medical care. In this case, contact your health care provider immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. Emergency attention is also necessary if your headache is accompanied by:

  • loss of consciousness 
  • loss of vision 
  • pain that lasts for longer than 72 hours 
  • consistent vomiting

Find a provider to help you handle your headaches.  Need immediate care today?  See an urgent care clinician in under 30 minutes without the need to schedule a visit through our On Demand Care.

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