Here's What Could Be Causing Your Head Pain

Mixed race woman rubbing her forehead in pain

Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Now and then most people get a pain in their head that comes and goes. These head pains are typically nothing to worry about and can usually be treated with an over the counter painkiller or some quick home remedies.

When we experience head pain, we never give a lot of thought to what might be causing it, focusing only on ways to relieve the pain.

Discovering what could be causing your head pain, however, is the first step in preventing head pain to reoccur.

8 Reasons Why You Have a Headache

There are several reasons why you may be experiencing a headache. Here is a list of eight things that may be responsible for your head pain and what you can do about them. 

You Are Stressed

One of the leading causes of head pain is stress. When you are very stressed you are most likely to experience something called a tension headache.

You might feel the pain gradually build up, typically in the middle of the day. It might sometimes feel like you have a band around your neck or dull aches at either side of your head.

Identifying and eliminating the stressors in your life is the first step to getting rid of this kind of head pain. 

You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep 

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is very essential to physical and mental health. To lead a full and healthy life the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you get at least seven hours of sleep every night.

If you find yourself constantly waking up with head pains, a lack of sleep might be the culprit.

Your Medication 

A potential side effect of some medications like birth control, hormonal therapy, and some blood pressure medications might be a headache.

If you experience recurring and severe headaches while using certain medications, talk to your doctor about it. They might either lower your dosage or discontinue your use of the particular medication.

Head pains could also be a sign that you are overusing certain over the counter medications.

Medications like aspirin and acetaminophen, which are meant to help relieve head pain, could cause head pain when they are overused.

If you suspect this to be the cause of your head pain, speak to your doctor and stop taking the medication till further notice. 

Your Environment 

Many environmental factors, such as loud noises, could account for your head pain. For example, if you live in a busy town, the resulting noise pollution has been found to be one of the biggest culprits of head pain.

Cold weather, bright lights, and smoke have also been associated with migraines which are a type of head pain.

Your Hormones

Many women report experiencing headaches at certain stages of their cycle—sometimes during ovulation or menstruation. If this is familiar to you, your hormones might be the culprit.

You are especially more susceptible to headaches just before your period starts when your estrogen levels are low.

These headaches tend to pass as your cycle progresses, but if you find them unbearable, you may use a mild painkiller like acetaminophen to help with the pain. 

You Are Drinking Too Much Coffee 

Consuming too much caffeine may cause a headache by restricting the blood flow to your brain.

If you have a habit of drinking several cups of coffee a day and find that you’ve been getting headaches more frequently, cutting down on your caffeine consumption might just be the answer.

Head pains might also be a withdrawal symptom from quitting caffeine suddenly after a long period of dependency. You might consider easing out of the habit by just gradually reducing the amount of coffee you consume daily. 

You Have a Sinus Infection

If your sinus is infected you are most likely to experience a dull, throbbing pain on and off until the infection clears up.

Treating the sinus infection is the best remedy to help you get rid of the head pain. However, if it’s unbearable and hindering your daily functioning, you could take some mild over-the-counter pain medication.

If your sinus is infected, you might also experience some of the following symptoms: 

  • Fever 
  • Nausea 
  • A blocked nose 
  • Green or yellow discharge from your nose 

You Bumped Your Head 

Have you ever lightly bumped your head against a door frame or a cabinet door, thought you were fine and woke up the next day with a throbbing head pain? It’s fairly common to bump your head against things throughout the day and we often don’t think twice about it until our heads start to hurt.

Head pain may not always develop immediately after you bump your head. It can occur a day or two after and you might even have forgotten that you bumped your head.

In most cases these bumps are mild and the head pain will resolve on its own. However, if you experience persistent head pain or it continues to increase in severity then you should go see a doctor about it. 

How to Prevent Head Pain 

Preventing head pain from occurring is certainly easier than treating it after it happens. Here are some tips that can help you prevent your head pain from occurring or reoccurring.

  • Get adequate sleep 
  • Exercise more often 
  • Eat a balanced diet 
  • Maintain a work-life balance to eliminate stressors 
  • Drink more water 
  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption 
  • Don’t overmedicate on over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, and Imitrex

When to See a Doctor 

If you have frequent head pains, it’s important to closely monitor your condition and keep an eye out for any other symptoms that might be indicative of an underlying condition.

You should see a doctor if you can't seem to identify a cause for your head pain and it is accompanied by the following symptoms: 

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Seizures 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Paralysis 
  • Confusion
  • Numbness in any part of your body 
  • Fevers

The above list isn’t extensive and there are many other scenarios in which you should probably see a doctor for your head pain.

If you are experiencing any unbearable or recurring pain that feels abnormal to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor about it. 

A Word From Verywell

Typically, a head pain is nothing to worry about and it will resolve on its own or after you take a mild over the counter pain killer. However, if you find that your head pains are increasing in severity and frequency, you might want to speak to your doctor about it. Frequent head pains could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Michigan. Michigan Medicine. Tension Headaches. Updated November 19, 2019.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Much Sleep Do I Need?.Updated March 2, 2017.

  3. Cleveland Clinic.Headaches: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment. Published June 3, 2020.

  4. Harvard Health Publishing. Top 7 reasons you have a headache. Published April 2020

  5. Columbia University Department of Neurology. Headache. 2015.