Causes (and Effects) of the Common Headache

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More time is lost to business and industry from headaches than from heart disease, stroke, and cancer combined. If you suffer from headaches, consider this …

You are not alone.

In the United States more than forty million people annually consult physicians for relief of headache pain. A research organization called the International Headache Registry estimates that 20 percent of the world’s population suffers chronic and disabling headaches. 

Take two Kolbes and call me in the morning.

Adolf Kolbe was a great nineteenth-century chemist whose work has made life bearable for uncounted billions of people. Kolbe, who was the first scientist to synthesize organic compounds from inorganic materials, also found a cheap way to produce salicylic acid, the key ingredient in acetylsalicylic acid—better known as aspirin.

It’s not all in your head.

Psychological factors play a role in producing headaches by causing actual changes in tissue and blood. Some experts believe there is a headache-prone personality, often described as perfectionist, hard working, inflexible, and likely to set unrealistic standards for himself and others. Evidence to support this theory is disputed, however.

My head feels better, but now my nail polish is melting.

In experiments with biofeedback, test subjects have reported relief from headache pain by concentrating on making their hands feel warm. Scientists believe such concentration can increase blood flow to the hands, thus relieving headache-producing pressure on blood vessels in the head.

Because it feels so bad when I stop.

Cluster headaches, so known because they seem to occur in clusters around one eye or the other, are among the most painful of all headaches, described by some sufferers as feeling like “a knife in the eye.” They are twenty times more common among men than women, especially among heavy smokers. Most remedies are ineffective, and patients with cluster headaches have been know to beat their heads against walls because of the agonizing pain.

Not tonight dear, I’ll get a headache.

Headaches may be caused by the sudden contraction of head and neck muscles just before orgasm, excessive pressure on the spine, or a sudden increase in blood pressure during sexual activity.

An hour later, your head hurts.

Food prepared with MSG, common in Chinese food in America, can trigger headaches in persons susceptible to migraines.

Ready for some more remedies? Here are the different headache types and treatments.

About The Author

Judson D. Hale Sr.

Jud Hale is the Editor Emeritus of The Old Farmer’s Almanac; Jud was the 12th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (since 1792!) and joined the parent company Yankee Publishing in 1958 as an Assistant Editor. Read More from Judson D. Hale Sr.

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