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Headache: 11 main causes (and what to do)


Headaches can be caused by poor posture, stress or anxiety, vision problems, bruxism or hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy.

However, in some cases, it may indicate health problems, such as migraines, sinusitis, dehydration or meningitis, and be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or fever, for example.

Generally, the headache subsides after resting or increasing water intake. However, if it worsens, takes more than 2 days to improve or is accompanied by other symptoms, you should consult your general practitioner to begin appropriate treatment.

What could be your headache:

To find out the possible cause of your headache, please answer the following questions:

This is just a tool to try to identify the possible cause of your headache and, therefore, should not replace a consultation with a doctor, who is the most appropriate professional to confirm the diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.

11 main causes of headache

The main causes of headache are:

1. Bad posture

Headache and neck pain are usually a sign of back problems caused by poor posture throughout the day, for example, and are not considered serious.

What to do: In cases where the headache is due to poor posture, it is only recommended that the person rest and place a warm compress on the neck until the pain subsides.

However, if the pain persists for more than 1 day or is accompanied by other symptoms, you should immediately consult a general practitioner so that tests can be carried out so that the cause can be identified and appropriate treatment initiated.

Don't ignore your symptoms!

2. Bruxism

Bruxism is the act of clenching or grinding your teeth unconsciously, constantly and excessively, which causes pressure on the teeth and tension in the muscles responsible for chewing, leading to symptoms such as a headache upon waking up or pain in the back. jaw joints.

What to do: You should consult your dentist to confirm the diagnosis and begin the most appropriate treatment, which normally includes the use of a bruxism plate at bedtime. See other treatment options for bruxism.

3. Vision problems

When a headache is also accompanied by pain in the eyes, it is usually a sign of vision problems, such as myopia or hyperopia, for example.

What to do: You should consult an ophthalmologist to correct your vision and reduce discomfort. See what to do to combat tired eyes.

4. TPM

During premenstrual tension (PMS), which occurs 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation, headache, migraine, abdominal swelling or breast tenderness may occur.

This may occur due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, which are normal during the menstrual cycle, and may also influence the amount of serotonin in the brain, a hormone responsible for controlling mood and the feeling of well-being.

What to do: Some ways to relieve PMS headaches are to rest, drink plenty of water and increase your consumption of foods rich in tryptophan, such as bananas or avocados, for example. Check out the complete list of foods rich in tryptophan.

In addition, you should consult a gynecologist who may recommend the use of analgesics or triptans to alleviate symptoms, especially if they are frequent.

5. Pregnancy

A headache during pregnancy is a normal symptom in the first trimester due to hormonal changes or even tiredness, stress, dehydration or hypoglycemia.

However, headaches during pregnancy can be dangerous when they appear after 24 weeks, associated with abdominal pain and nausea, as they may indicate high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia. See other causes of headaches during pregnancy.

What to do: you should rest and increase your water intake, eat light meals every 3 hours and in small quantities or a head massage.

However, if you experience symptoms of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia, you should go to the emergency room immediately, as it is a medical emergency that must be treated appropriately and quickly. Find out how pre-eclampsia is treated.

6. Dehydration

Dehydration can arise from not drinking enough water during the day, being in environments with very high temperatures or diarrhea, for example, leading to an intense headache.

Other symptoms of dehydration are dizziness, excessive thirst, dry mouth and tiredness, for example. Know how to identify all the symptoms of dehydration.

What to do: wear loose clothing to alleviate the discomfort caused by excessive heat and reduce sweat production, and stay hydrated by drinking around 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, as this will help you avoid dehydration. In more serious cases of dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary to receive intravenous serum and other medications.

7. Migraine

A migraine can cause a constant headache, which can be throbbing or pulsating and can last for several days, and is usually difficult to relieve or stop the pain, and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light or noise. Learn about other causes of constant headaches.

What to do: It is recommended to relax and rest in a dark place and take an analgesic medication or triptans, recommended by the neurologist. It is also important to identify some habits that may be related to increased pain intensity, as this way treatment can be more targeted.

On the other hand, if the pain is very intense and lasts more than a week, it is important to consult a neurologist so that tests can be carried out so that the cause can be identified and the most appropriate treatment can be indicated.

8. Sinusitis

Headache in the forehead is a common symptom of sinusitis or flu and arises due to inflammation of the nasal sinuses present in this region.

What to do: In these cases, it is recommended to wash the nose with saline solution, nebulize 3 times a day and take medication for sinusitis, as recommended by the otorhinolaryngologist. This way, it is possible to reduce the inflammation of the nasal sinuses. See how sinusitis is treated.

9. Meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, and can cause a severe headache.

In addition to the headache, other symptoms include a high and sudden fever, pain and difficulty moving the neck and touching the chin to the chest area or even convulsions, for example.

What to do: The treatment of meningitis must be carried out in the hospital as it is a medical emergency, and involves the use of antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics or antifungals, which varies according to its cause. See how meningitis is treated.

10. Stress or anxiety

Excessive stress or anxiety can cause tension in the muscles of the head, shoulders, neck and back, resulting in muscle spasms and tension headaches, which typically start in the front of the head and eyes and spread to the entire head and neck.

This type of headache usually appears at the end of the day or after stressful situations.

What to do: Taking measures to reduce stress and anxiety is the most effective way to avoid muscle pain. Therefore, it is important to adopt a balanced diet, practice regular exercise, manage time well and get enough rest to replenish energy.

Additionally, you can have a relaxing massage and, in some cases, it may be necessary to undergo therapy with the help of a psychologist or even use medication recommended by the psychiatrist. Learn how to relieve stress and anxiety.

11. COVID-19

Headache is one of the symptoms that may arise due to COVID-19, and is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as generalized muscle pain, sore throat, fever, dry and persistent cough and excessive tiredness.

What to do: You must follow the general practitioner's instructions, who may recommend the use of medications that help alleviate symptoms, such as analgesics and antipyretics.

It is also important that the person remains in isolation after confirming the diagnosis, as this will prevent the infection of other people. See more about the symptoms of COVID-19.

When to go to the doctor

It is recommended to go to the doctor when the headache appears after blows or accidents, takes more than 2 days to disappear or worsens over time.

Furthermore, it is important to go to the emergency room if the headache is accompanied by symptoms, such as:

  • Fever greater than 38ºC;
  • Neck pain or difficulty lowering your head;
  • Vomiting;
  • Dizziness;
  • Difficulty seeing or walking;
  • Seizures.

In these cases, the doctor may order tests, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, to diagnose the problem and begin appropriate treatment. Check out which remedies are best suited to treat headaches.