Wellness Health & Well-being 43 Surprising Headache Triggers By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated June 05, 2017 NOGGIN NUISANCE: Caricature of 'The Headache' by George Cruikshank, 1819. (Image: Wikimedia Commons). Share Twitter Pinterest Email Wellness Health & Well-being Clean Beauty Pounding, throbbing, stabbing, aching — welcome to the world of headaches, an ailment that affects more than 45 million Americans each year. Humans have been suffering from the malady for millennia. Recorded depictions date back to at least 4000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, where it was thought that Tiu, the evil spirit of headaches, was to blame. The shenanigans of evil spirits were assumed to be the cause of headaches throughout many cultures, and gave rise to trephination — a procedure in which a small circular portion of the skull was removed, creating egress for the pain-triggering spirits. Given how agonizing a headache can be, rowdy evil spirits wreaking havoc doesn’t seem all that much of a stretch. Fortunately we know better now, and in most cultures no longer rely on holes drilled in the head for relief. But if not evil sprits, what does cause the pain? There are many catalysts that can create the ache, and medical literature has complied a lengthy compendium of causes. Culled from several sources, below is a summary of the most common triggers for migraine, cluster, rebound and tension headaches. Some of them you may be familiar with, but there is no shortage of surprising ones. Overuse of common prescription or over-the-counter pain medication: Half of chronic migraines, and as many as 25 percent of all headaches, are actually “rebound” episodes triggered by the overuse of common pain medications.BeerRed wineAged cheeseSoySmoked fishMeats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats)Processed foodsFermented foodsPickled foodsMarinated foodsChocolateNutsDairy productsAspartameSkipping mealsBright lightsSun glareLoud soundsPleasant scents, such as perfumeUnpleasant odors, such as paint thinner and secondhand smokeSmokingHormonal changes in women before or during their periods, during pregnancy, or menopauseOral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapyJet lagChanges in wake-sleep patternNot enough sleepToo much sleepSleeping in a cold roomSleeping with the neck in an abnormal positionHolding your head and neck in an abnormal position while working (typing, microscope viewing, etc)Intense physical exertionSexual activityChange of weather or barometric pressureHigh altitudes (hiking, air travel)Heat (hot weather, hot baths)Colds, the flu or a sinus infectionJaw clenching or teeth grindingEye strainHead injuryStressDepressionAnxiety Serious causes of headaches are rare, but sometimes headaches warn of a more serious disorder. The National Institutes of Health recommends letting your health care provider know if you have sudden, severe headaches. Get medical help right away if you have a headache after a blow to your head, or if you have a headache along with a stiff neck, fever, confusion, loss of consciousness or pain in the eye or ear. Have you determined something surprising that causes headache for you? Share with us in the comments.