Chronic headaches can range from mild discomfort to severe throbbing pain that affects the quality of life. Millions of people experience regular daily or even constant headaches, sometimes with other symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, and muscle pain. However, in many cases, headaches are caused by bad habits and could be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes.
The way you stand, sit, and lie down can put a great deal of pressure on your neck and shoulders. Poor posture can cause tension, tightness, and stiffness around the neck, shoulders, and even in your jaw. Bad habits, such as hunching your shoulders while working at your desk, can even cause long-term changes to the length and shape of your muscles.
Adjusting your posture can help to relieve chronic headaches, but you may need to consult a physiotherapist or chiropractor for long-standing problems.
Muscle tension is one of the most common causes of headaches and migraines. Tension in the forehead, jaw, scalp, neck, shoulders, back, and even the chest can all be responsible for headaches. Stress, poor posture, and activities that cause repeated movements, such as working out in the gym, lifting and carrying heavy objects, or typing for long periods of time, are the most likely causes of muscle tension.
Learning to relax the muscles is the best way to combat headaches caused by muscle tension. Massage, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can all be helpful.
Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw (bruxism) puts a great deal of strain on the tissue and muscles in and around your jaw. Bruxism can lead to pain and tension in other areas, including the neck, shoulders, ears, and around the eyes. Bruxism is usually caused by stress, although it can also be caused by some medical conditions, dental problems, and nutritional deficiencies.
Learning to relax the jaw is essential for preventing bruxism. However, if your bruxism is severe or you’re grinding your teeth while you’re asleep, you may need to use a dental guard, muscle relaxant, or other medication to prevent further problems.
Junk food, processed food, and fizzy drinks all contain additives that can cause headaches. Artificial sweeteners, such as those found in sugar-free drinks, candy, and chewing gum, can cause severe headaches and migraines in some people. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other additives used to enhance the taste of some processed foods can cause headaches and other unpleasant symptoms in many people.
Caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate are also common headache triggers, although any food or drink has the potential to cause a negative reaction. Keeping a food diary can help you to identify headache triggers.
Regular use of over-the-counter or prescription painkillers can lead to rebound headaches. Rebound headaches tend to get worse over time, leading many people to increase the number of painkillers they take. This can cause severe headaches, migraine, and other symptoms that get worse when you stop taking painkillers. If you suspect you’re having rebound headaches, it’s important to talk to your doctor, as they will be able to offer advice and alternative medication.
Chronic headaches are often the result of bad habits, including poor posture, tense muscles, teeth grinding, eating junk food, and regular use of painkillers. However, chronic headaches can also be a sign of an undiagnosed health condition, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if the headaches persist.