Sometimes it seems like headaches can appear out of nowhere and other times it might feel like there’s something causing your head to experience pain.
And although there may not always be a reason you’re experiencing continuous head pain, the general categories of headaches — cluster, tension-type, and migraine — can all be caused by both internal and external factors, said Dr. Lawrence Newman, a professor in New York University’s Langone Health Department of Neurology and the director of the school’s headache division.
Keep in mind that although knowing these potential causes of chronic head pain can be useful, if you are experiencing frequent headaches you may want to visit a doctor or healthcare professional.
Here are 11 things that could be triggering or causing your frequent headaches.
If you’ve recently cut back on your caffeine intake, your headaches might be a result of caffeine withdrawal
When you trim back the amount of caffeine you consume on a daily basis or you consume caffeine at different times each day, you may experience headaches as a result.
“Caffeine withdrawal is a classic trigger of headaches,” Dr. Newman told INSIDER. He said this can happen often for people who drink caffeine on weekday mornings but sleep in on the weekends. “When you sleep in, you are delaying the coffee you usually have in the mornings and you wake up with a headache because of the caffeine withdrawal.”
According to Dr. Newman, stress could also be triggering your headaches even though it doesn’t necessarily cause them
“Stress is often listed as a common trigger of migraines,” he said. “You can be the most stressed-out person on earth but if you don’t have the gene that triggers migraines then stress isn’t going to give you a migraine.”
He said that stress is sometimes a cause of tension-type headaches, too.
“The most common headache disorder worldwide is called a tension-type headache. The fact that it’s triggered by stress doesn’t mean that it’s a stress-induced headache,” he explained. “A tension headache exhibits pain on both sides of the head simultaneously. It shouldn’t throb or pound — it’s more of a steady ache that is mild to moderate in pain.”
Your age could have something to do with how frequently you are experiencing different types of headaches
He said that most people who suffer from migraines or tension-type headaches begin to experience them when they are teenagers. He said that the frequency of these headaches will typically peak in their 20s and 50s before it begins to dip again.
Dr. Newman said that if you are over the age of 55 and you are suddenly experiencing frequent headaches even though you don’t have a history of them, you may want to see your doctor as it can be a symptom of a more serious health issue, like a tumor or a vascular disease.
If you’ve recently experienced trauma to your head, you could be experiencing post-concussive headaches
Head injuries can bring about different kinds of frequent headaches, said Dr. Newman.
“Post-concussive headaches can do a couple of things. It can cause headaches in and of itself,” he said. “It can unmask someone’s vulnerability toward tension headaches or migraine headaches.”
He said many people who have a post-concussive headache experience what resembles a migraine.
“In people with pre-existing headaches, having a head trauma could make those headaches worse and also for months and years to come afterward,” Dr. Newman added.
Straining your eyes a lot throughout the day can cause you to experience frequent headaches
Straining your eyes more than normal because you have poor vision, read a lot, or stare at computer screens throughout the day could potentially be a cause of your frequent headaches.
“It’s true that having bad vision can cause you to strain your eyes and bring on a headache,” he told INSIDER. “It’s not a common cause of it but the classic features of headaches from eye strain include prolonged use of glasses.”
He also noted that headaches caused by eye strain oftentimes go away with a bit of rest. “If you try closing your eyes, the pain usually goes away,” he added.
Certain changes in the weather can trigger a migraine
“A change in weather is a classic trigger for people who have migraines,” said Dr. Newman. “These kinds of headaches don’t usually happen while it’s raining, they come about as the barometric pressure starts to dip right before a storm.
If you clench your jaw a lot, you could trigger frequent headaches
Dr. Newman said that people who are stressed oftentimes clench their jaw or clench their teeth in their sleep and this can trigger headaches.
Fortunately, he said that certain forms of therapy or dental treatments, like a bite plate (a small appliance that slides onto your top teeth), may help someone manage these headache-triggering behaviors.
Not drinking enough water could be what’s causing your headaches
Dr. Newman said a headache caused by a lack of fluids can have the features of a tension headache but more often than not it can have the characteristics of a migraine.
“Many people who have migraines list dehydration as a trigger of their headaches. A migraine has the characteristics exactly opposite of tension-type headaches,” he said.
“For the criteria of a migraine, [the headache] has to be one-sided, although not everybody has it on one side. It can be throbbing or pounding and moderate to severe in pain — enough that it interferes with routine activities.”
He also said that other symptoms of a migraine can include nausea, vomiting, and a sensitivity to both light and sound.
Frequent headaches can sometimes be a symptom of a sinus infection
Dr. Newman said that if your sinuses are causing your frequent headaches, you might experience other symptoms, too.
“With a true sinus headache, you have an infection in one of the sinuses — you typically have a fever [and] colored discharge coming out of your nostrils,” he said. He also noted that it’s quite common for those experiencing migraines to be misdiagnosed with a sinus headache.
Sleep deprivation can be a trigger for both migraines and tension headaches
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should aim to get seven or more hours of sleep per night. But this isn’t always possible — and not getting enough sleep could be causing you to experience frequent headaches.
“Lack of sleep is a trigger for migraine and tension headaches,” he told INSIDER.
You can sometimes induce headaches by physically exerting yourself
Dr. Newman said that exertion-induced headaches can result from coughing, lifting heavy objects, working out, having sex, and participating in other forms of physical activity.
He said that exertional headaches are considered secondary headaches until proven otherwise, meaning they likely have some underlying causes. He said those who are experiencing these types of headaches may want to see a doctor as these can be a sign of something more serious, such as a brain tumor or a deformity in the lower part of one’s brain.