Headache Triggers

Find out what may be causing your headaches. From lack of sleep to poor posture, Dr. Gregg Rubinstein discusses various headache triggers.

Many people can’t figure out what is causing the headaches they experience. Can feeling stressed and anxious actually cause headaches?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. Anything or anyone that boosts your stress level can make a person more vulnerable to tension-type headaches and migraines as well. Many things can be involved. Especially certain nerves in the brain that relay pain messages can become extra-sensitive when we’re more stressed out because stress generally is going to make your nerve system more hyper-excitable. They are more on edge; so, someone who is stressed out is a lot easier to get to anger and things like that as well because their whole nerve system is really cranked up.

Anything that will help you tame stress … Obviously, you can’t control anything but you can control how you respond to certain things that concern you. There are tons of classes on stress management. There are books out on it, meditation, massage. Anything healthy that will help you relax, problem-solve and recharge is always worth a try. I also think exercise is also a powerful stress reliever which can kind of bring the nerve system down to a lower resting tension and make you less likely to experience those tension types of headaches.

Could the foods we eat or what we are drinking trigger headaches?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. It’s not only the things that we eat but sometimes it’s even the things that we don’t take in. One of the big causes of headaches is dehydration. Dehydration can be a major cause of headaches and things like that; so, sometimes not drinking enough water can actually be a problem with that.

There’s also something for a lot of headache sufferers – there is an amino acid called ‘tyramine’ which is found in red wine and alcoholic drinks. Some people have sensitivity to alcohol which can contribute to headaches. Then, even in aged cheeses and cold cuts (anything that’s aged for a while) will build up this amino acid called ‘tyramine’ which is a trigger for headaches and migraines in a lot of different people as well. If you think that these things could be a trigger for you, you need to look at your diet and take some of those things out in order to prevent these headache patterns from really starting to develop.

Does lack of adequate sleep cause headaches?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Yeah. Lack of sleep can trigger these different migraine proteins. I’ve been reading some research lately and people who are really affected are people who are overworked, stressed out, and not getting enough sleep. That can trigger migraines or occasional migraines and can cause them to become more frequent. There’s some research now coming out that really helps explain the biological links between sleep and headache pain or in particularly lack thereof.

Can poor posture, slouching, and sitting at a desk all day trigger headaches?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Yeah. Posture is another thing that contributes to it. Slouching builds up pressure in the head and the neck muscles; so, if you’re hunching your shoulders over or you’re using a chair without good back support … People spend hours and hours staring at monitors that’s too low or too high. Those things can absolutely cause frequent tension headaches and even trigger migraines for people who sit in front of those computer screens for long periods of time.

There’s a lot of simple lifestyle changes that people can make to help those situations: certainly, setting up your desk properly, ergonomically … They have those standing desks … sitting on fit balls; and all these other things that you can do to make your sitting-at-your-desk experience a lot better and a lot safer and just more healthy.

Lastly, as a chiropractor, what other less obvious big triggers are you aware of?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: There are so many triggers. As you start to read up on headaches, and I’ve done a fair amount of reading, there are things like: temperature changes can make migraines more likely. Whether it’s a heat wave or a cold snap, the change can cause triggers in headaches because changing weather often accompanies changes in barometric pressure. That’s why some people say, when it’s going to rain or something, they get nervous because it’s going to make their headaches worse. You can’t really change the weather but you can wear sunglasses on a bright day. You can stay hydrated. You can avoid the midday sun. Those are all little things that can definitely be helpful.

There’s even studies out there that talk about people’s weight. They did some research and they found that obese women with a body mass index of 30 or greater had a 35% greater risk of headaches than those with a lower BMI. So, severe obesity, BMI of 40, up the chances to 80% that they might be a headache sufferer.

There are myriads of different things but it’s really about looking at your lifestyle and trying to break it down and see what’s causing your particular headaches and also seeking help from medical or chiropractic professionals.

Learn More

To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call 917-534-6484 to schedule an appointment

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