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5 Headache Triggers That May Surprise You

By |2023-05-01T11:58:25-04:00May 1st, 2023|Categories: Health A-Z|

The vice grip. The temple throb. The pounding hammer. Not all headaches and migraines feel the same, but when one hits, it can be debilitating. Most people are familiar with common triggers like stress, but the following not-so-common triggers could also be culprits, according to CentraState family medicine physician Maria Ciminelli, MD. “If you have headaches that happen more often than usual or are severe, talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Ciminelli. “A physician can pinpoint the type of headache and help you with prevention and management strategies.”


Yes, being “hangry” can cause a headache. When your blood sugar declines and your brain isn’t getting the energy it needs from food, your body releases a substance (histamine) that causes muscles to tense up, which can lead to a headache.

What to do:
Don’t forget to eat! Schedule an alarm if you tend to get busy and bypass your mealtime. You can also keep healthy snacks like almonds or a protein bar on hand so your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low.


One of the most common causes of tension headaches is poor posture. Using hand-held tech devices can put your neck in an unnatural forward position, which puts pressure on the joints and nerves in your neck, causing neck and head pain.

What to do:
Rather than looking down at your cell phone, raise it to eye level and look forward. Avoid using a tablet on your lap, and instead prop it up with a pillow. When sitting at a desk, make sure your spine, neck and head are aligned.


Strong scents like perfume, cleaning products, cigarette smoke and even gasoline can lead to a pounding headache.

What to do:
If you’re sensitive to certain scents, use fragrance-free products when possible and avoid fragrance triggers.


Pickled, aged, smoked or marinated foods contain tyramine, a natural compound that can cause headaches and trigger migraines. Tyramine-rich foods include aged cheeses, cured or processed meats, pickled or fermented vegetables, alcoholic beverages like beer and red wine, and tropical fruits.

What to do:
Enjoy foods that have lower levels of tyramine, like pasteurized cheese, vegetables and non-cured protein. Also, stay away from overripe fruits like bananas, pineapples and avocados. The riper the fruit, the higher the level of tyramine.


That sleek, pulled-back bun may look good, but it can also lead to a bad headache. High ponytails, braids and tight updos can create tension and irritate certain nerves on the scalp.

What to do:
If you feel a headache coming on, let your hair down and massage your scalp.

To find a family medicine physician at CentraState, visit our Physician Finder or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).

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