March 13


Anatomy of a Headache – Types and Triggers

By Sue Ingebretson

March 13, 2018

ache, anxiety, chemicals, chocolate, chronic illness, cluster, environment, fibromyalgia, food sensitivities, head, headache, hormone, migraine, pain, sinus, smell, Stress, triggers, types

Do headaches arrive at your house more often than Amazon packages? If so, it may be time to figure out what’s behind your fibromyalgia and chronic illness head pain. What types and triggers affect you most?

Determining YOUR Type of Headache

It’s time to determine what type of headache plagues you the most. You likely already know. But, what if there are causes and types of headaches you haven’t considered?

Read on to see if you’re right.

First, a quick recap. In Part 1 of this 3 Part series, we discussed three very important topics of discovery: location, frequency, and circumstances. Here’s a handy link.

Anatomy of a Headache and Head Pain 

If you haven’t already, check it out, make some notes, and then hop back here lickety split.

In that post, I gave you a head’s up on what types of headaches you may wish to consider. Here’s that list again.

What type of the following headaches affect you most?

  • Migraine
  • Sinus/Allergy
  • Hormone
  • Tension
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Caffeine
  • Food Sensitivity
  • Cluster
  • Hypertension
  • Exertion
  • Dehydration

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes the headache types that commonly impact the chronic illness community.

Now that you apply the location, frequency, and circumstances that you learned from that first post, which ones do you think apply to you?

Do these types of #Fibromyalgia #Headaches bother you? Share on X

Brief Overview on Types of Headaches

Stress, Anxiety, and Tension Headaches

Stress, anxiety, and tension headache descriptions all appear to be self-explanatory. But, there are a few key differences. Stress may be more circumstantial, whereas anxiety may be something that’s continuous and has built up over time. Tension headaches can be either stress or anxiety based, and they’re usually defined by the specific location of head pain. They can begin in the neck and shoulders and move up the head or may feel like pressure on the top of the head.

Caffeine, Food Sensitivity, and Dehydration Headaches

Caffeine, food sensitivity, and dehydration headaches are all related to what you’re eating, drinking, and/or not drinking. I’m still surprised at how many fibromyalgia clients I work with who are dehydrated. This can lead to headaches, increased body pain, cognitive dysfunction and so much more.

That’s why I wrote this guide on how much water to drink and when to drink – just as important! Check out this free Downloadable Water Hydration Tip Sheet and knock out this headache trigger today. Be sure to pass this along to your friends and love ones, too.

By paying even just a bit of attention, it’s likely that you already know if caffeine is a problem for you. Caffeine can spur a headache with lightning speed. For me, I get a pain near my heart that radiates up and through my left shoulder. It then leads to a headache. I simply can’t tolerate caffeine.

Don’t forget that caffeine isn’t only in coffee and teas. You may be surprised to find it in your flavored waters, protein bars, cola AND non-cola sodas, chocolate treats and chocolate drinks, and even in “energized” oatmeal.[1],[2]

Food sensitivities can be a bit more subversive. It may take time and trial to determine if food sensitivities are behind your headaches. It’s important to note that food sensitivities and chronic illness go hand in hand. It’s not uncommon in the fibromyalgia world to drop foods known to trigger symptoms and then find that headaches (including migraines) diminish or go away, too.

The basic culprits to test include – wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, artificial sugars, food additives (including MSG, thickeners, emulsifiers, dyes, flavorings, etc.), corn, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and caffeine.

Sinus, Hormone, Hypertension, and Exertion Headaches

Sinus, hormone, and hypertension headaches occur from circumstances and body function sources. Allergies can trigger frequent sinus headaches with pressure building up in the sinus area surrounding they eyes.

Hormone headaches may occur on a cyclical basis (especially for women) around times of shifting hormones. Hypertension headaches may occur from issues with high blood pressure.[3]

Exertion headaches can occur from a specific physical activity. For example, I had them for several days in a row this past summer when we moved. It was no surprise that the combination of lifting heavy boxes ad infinitum plus soaring 100+ degree temps did me in.

Migraine and Cluster Headaches

Migraine headaches are set apart from the common definition of a headache in that they include sensitivity to lights, sounds, smells, and nausea. They can also last for longer durations that other types of headaches. The causes and triggers for migraines are many.

The most commonly researched and documented causes include foods and environmental circumstances including lights, sounds, and environmental chemicals. Other common triggers include, chocolate, caffeine, wine, cheese, nitrates, stress, sleep disturbances, medications, chemical food additives, chemical fragrances, weather changes, hormonal shifts, and physical activities.[4]

(As a side note, my article on barometric changes related to fibromyalgia is one of my most popular articles. Check out this article, Weather or Not to read more.)

Cluster headaches differ in that they’re focused on the face and are often located behind one eye or the other. They can be intense, contribute to red, watery eyes, and occur in a burst of frequency (a cluster) and then disappear for a time.[5]  

Causes of cluster headaches are idiopathic and seem to be more related to bodily hormonal functions. Some define a connection between cluster headaches and the hypothalamus.[6]

Surprising Headache Triggers You May Have Missed

With all the above-listed triggers and causes of head pain in mind, I can hear you nod. If you suffer from frequent headaches, you’re probably more familiar with these triggers than I am.

But there may be some “off the beaten path” triggers that you haven’t considered. Take a look at these lesser known triggers to see if they may have an impact on the causes and frequency of your headaches.

  • Jaw pain / chewing pain
  • Medication reactions (both prescribed and OTC)
  • Posture
  • Sedentary lifestyle (too much sitting and/or lying down)
  • Hair accessories
  • Talking on your phone
  • Too much sleep
  • Hunger and nutrient deficiencies
  • A heavy purse or bag over your shoulder
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Olfactory overload (strong and overpowering smells)

While the last item on this list has already been discussed above, I added it here too for a different reason. You may be surprised to know how many products in this world have artificial added scents.

Our bodies are super sensitive. That we already know. So, chemical additives like fragrances are common triggers for chronic illness symptoms.

You may be surprised to learn about artificial (and damaging) scents used in laundry products, kitchen products, fragrance sprays and deodorizers, and more.

So, now that we’ve tackled the topics of detection, triggers, and determining the types of headaches that pain you most, what’s next?

What to do!

In Part 3 of 3 of this series, we’ll discuss headache treatment options and protocols to try. There’s always something new to discover so be sure to check out Part 3 – Remedies and Treatments of this series.







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"True Healing requires a combination of healthy nutrition, healthy body movements, and emotional wellness. This is what I call the Restoration Trio" ~ Sue Ingebretson