Treating Headaches: Understanding Common Causes of Headaches and the Best Solutions

When was the last time you had a really bad headache? You know, the kind of pain that keeps you from focusing on work, that makes you want to cancel plans with friends and stay home all day. Such a pain makes it difficult to drive or even get around the house and accomplish simple tasks, depending on the extremity. Thankfully, there are many ways of treating headaches to keep these kinds of situations to a minimum!

The thing is, there are many different kinds of headaches, and the more you understand each one the better you’ll be able to treat it. To keep things simple, though, try to pay attention to what triggers your headache. No – it’s not just your neighbor’s loud music or the honking of traffic, there’s something going on in your body which causes a headache that you need to become more aware of.

To help you do so, here’s a list of common causes of headaches and possible treatments for them.

What Causes a Headache?

A headache can strike at any time of day if you’re not taking good care of yourself. Like anything else, the first step to treatment is to find the cause. When it comes to treating headaches, some causes may be:

Dehydration or Hunger

Food and water are the body’s fuel. Without proper eating habits, your body starts to shut down and feel weak, while sending you extra signs that it’s time to eat. One of those signs will be a headache. Headaches are common for people who have an eating disorder or who just don’t drink enough water throughout the day, dehydrating themselves with too much caffeine or sugar-filled drinks instead.

The next time you feel a headache coming on, drink a full glass of water or eat something with good sugars and fats for an energy boost. Such foods include a handful of trail mix or fresh fruit.

Sitting or Standing Too Long

Another thing that might be causing your headaches is your job. Does your office environment require you to sit for long periods throughout the day? Are you always on your feet as a waitress, nurse, or teacher?

These conditions take a serious toll on the body. They make you feel tired and sore in certain areas, which can be shown as back pain, tightness in the feet, or, of course, a headache. Try getting a standing desk or an ergonomic desk chair to better support you in the office. Or, pay closer attention to the soles in your shoes if you’re always on your feet.

Misalignment in the Spine

You may not notice the consequences of sitting and standing right away. For example, maybe you’ve had the same job for quite some time, but you’ve only recently started to get frequent headaches. This may be due to a misalignment in your spine – which can happen after years and years of bad posture or from putting too much stress on yourself. A misalignment can also be the cause of one sudden movement that puts a part of the spine out of whack.

People will often feel this in their neck and shoulders as well as with the headaches/migraines they get. But, most people don’t put two and two together to realize how one pain in the body can cause another.


A headache may really be all in your head if you have anxiety. This goes for social anxiety, general anxiety disorder, or some sort of panic disorder. When your anxiety is triggered, there’s a higher chance of you getting a headache. This is caused by the added stress your body is under when your thoughts are racing and your muscles tense up, common symptoms of anxiety.

Drug Use

Last but not least, drug use. This causes a headache in a few different ways. The use of certain drugs can result in a headache as your body “comes down” from the effects. Such is the case when a person has an alcohol hangover. But, the lack of drug use can also cause a headache because the body is going through a withdrawal; it doesn’t know how to function without the drug of choice.

Thankfully, there’s a bright light at the end of the withdrawal tunnel called recovery. A headache and other temporary symptoms are well worth the detoxing results of a withdrawal and the recovery process it begins.

What Are the Best Ways of Treating Headaches?

Some headaches have simpler answers than others. If you’re having trouble sleeping or haven’t eaten recently, for example, it’s understandable that you have a headache. All you have to do is fix your sleep schedule and be more mindful of when it’s time to eat. For those with insomnia or an eating disorder, of course, the answer is not as simple.

If you don’t have either condition, but you’re still having frequent headaches, here are a few things you can do.

Lay Down

Sometimes, napping is the best solution. This is especially true if your headache is more painful than normal, or if it’s been going on for a few hours. Lay down for 15-30 minutes and see how you feel. Get up slowly when you decide to get out of bed and take on the rest of your day.

Rub Your Temples

Can’t fall asleep with a headache you’re experiencing? That’s okay, rub your temples while you’re laying down. This soothes the pressure you feel in the front of your head from a headache and it helps to boost blood circulation back to the brain. For an even better result, rub your temples with a little bit of ice or put peppermint oil on your fingertips. This is a strong essential oil; one drop is all you need for a stimulating, soothing effect.

Try Home Remedies

The ice and essential oil tricks mentioned above are some of the most popular home remedies for headaches out there. But, there are a few more you can try, which include:

  • putting a cool towel on your head
  • taking a hot shower
  • doing a steam facial
  • inversions*

*Inversions should only be practiced by those who are already familiar with these movements and know what they’re doing. You don’t have to be a super advanced yogi, but you should have an understanding of how to do certain inversions for headaches before going upside-down.

Go to a Chiropractor

Instead of going to yoga it might be best to go straight to a chiropractor for a medical solution to your headaches and migraines. The most obvious reason to make chiropractic appointments is if your spine is misaligned. Just one visit can adjust your spine and have you feeling good as new.

But, it can also be a good idea to see a chiropractor if your headaches are caused by anxiety or sitting/standing. Many chiropractic offices offer massage therapy as part of treatment, which can ease the effects of anxiety. Similarly, a little bit of stretching and spinal work can have you feeling good as new if your body is used to sitting/standing all day long.

See a Professional

While there are many things you can do at home to treat headaches or one-time doctor’s appointments you can make, some things aren’t as simple. If your headaches are the result of drug use, an eating disorder, or trouble sleeping, you need to see a specialist. This is someone who can help you target your condition from all angles. They won’t band-aid your headache, they will help you achieve a much better state of overall health.

At the end of the day, whatever the cause of your headaches is, there is treatment. You just have to find the right treatment for your situation. In the case of more complex issues, healing is still available, even if it takes a little longer.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash