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Smart Strategies For Taming Headache Triggers

First Posted: 05/27/2011 8:05 am   Updated: 07/26/2011 5:12 am

Sometimes you know exactly what’s causing that pounding in your skull -- like a too-loud TV or that jackhammer outside your office. Other times, you’re blindsided. Was it something you ate? Too little sleep? A change in the weather? The answer could be any of the above. Headaches -- whether debilitating migraines or less-painful-but-still-annoying tension headaches -- are often set off or made worse by a key trigger, says Brian Grosberg, M.D., director of the Inpatient Headache Program at Montefiore Headache Center in New York City. Here, the seven most common pain provokers, and how to head off the hurt. (See your doctor if these DIY fixes don’t do the trick; for those plagued by headaches, prescription meds may help.)

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Stress accounts for 80 percent of all migraines, according to a study in the journal Cephalalgia. That's because it causes fluctuations in cortisol and adrenaline -- the fight-or-flight hormones -- which can lead to pain and nausea, says Sheena K. Aurora, M.D., medical director of Seattle's Headache Center at the Swedish Medical Center. Stress can also make you clench your jaw and neck muscles, causing neck pain that, in turn, can set off tension headaches.

Trigger Tamer: Meditation, deep breathing, yoga and massage can help. Or consider a mind-body technique called biofeedback. Get more information from the Association for Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.

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Filed by Laura Schocker  |