Tension headaches are probably caused by tight muscles in the shoulders, neck, scalp, and jaw.v Often, they are related to stress, irregular meals, poor posture, inadequate sleep, or anxiety.

Migraine headaches are thought to result from abnormal function of the brain's blood vessels or vascular system.vi They are often provoked by certain activities, foods, or behaviors, referred to as 'triggers' in susceptible individuals. The most common triggers are alterations in sleep patterns, stressors in everyday life, menstrual periods in women, irregular meals, changes in weather, and travel.vii

Some foods and additives may contribute to the development of a migraine headache.x These include:

  • Caffeine-containing products such as chocolate or coffee. Headaches may also occur when people who regularly use caffeine try to cut back.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer
  • Alcohol, red wine in particular
  • Artificial sweeteners, a low calorie sugar substitute
  • Tyramine, a naturally-occurring chemical sometimes found in aged cheeses
  • Nitrates and nitrites, preservatives sometimes found in cured meats
  • Other causes of headaches include:

  • Common viral illnesses such as the flu
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Excessive physical exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Holding your head in one position for a long time
  • Poor body position during sleep
  • Medications such as nitrates for chest pain or high blood pressure, anti-viral drugs, and medications used to erectile dysfunction are just a few
  • Overuse of headache medications can lead to "rebound headaches"when they are stopped

Sourced from:
vTension-type headache
Loder E, Rizzoli P
BMJ 2008; 336:88-92

viMigraine and cardiovascular disease
Bigal ME, Kurth T, Hu H, Santello N, Lipton RB
Neurology 2009; 72: 1864-1871

viiThe triggers or precipitants of the acute migraine attack.
Kelman L
Cephalalgia. 2007;27(5):394.

xDiagnosing and Managing Migraine Headache
Mueller LL
JAOA 2007; 107(11) ES10-16