A headache happens when pain-sensitive nerve fibers (called nociceptors) are triggered in the network of nerves that extends over the scalp, face, and along the surface and the base of the brain. Ninety percent of all headaches are triggered by stress or tension. These muscle contraction headaches usually resolve on their own or with the help of over-the-counter painkillers. Other types of headache have different triggers and are not as easily treated.
Treatment depends on the type of headache. Muscular contraction headaches, such as tension headaches, are relieved using over-the-counter painkillers, muscle relaxants, or stress reduction techniques. Migraine headaches are treated with drugs that can either prevent attacks or relieve symptoms when attacks occur. Some people try to prevent migraines by eliminating foods that appear to trigger the attacks. Traction headaches caused by brain tumors may require surgery to remove the source of pressure. Inflammatory headaches, such as those caused by arteritis and meningitis, are treated with corticosteroids to reduce tissue swelling.
During the past year, nearly 90% of men and 95% of women have had at least one headache.
Stress may be a trigger, but certain foods, odors, menstrual periods, and changes in weather are among many factors that may also trigger headache.
Emotional factors such as depression, anxiety, frustration, letdown, and even pleasant excitement may be associated with developing a headache.
Keeping a headache diary will help you determine whether factors such as food, change in weather, and/or mood have any relationship to your headache pattern.