December 29


Triggers for Tension Headaches

By Dr. Joseph Tanti

December 29, 2022

Tension headaches

If you are tired of suffering from tension headaches, you need to know what your triggers are. 

You may know that tension headaches are primary headaches. For more detail on tension headaches look here. Today I am going to share with you what can oftentimes trigger the headache.

What is being triggered?

Triggers elicit a  neurological change in your brain. This causes a ‘switch to flip’ which leads to the headache occurring.

There are several different triggers for different people. Triggers are gonna be variable depending on the person. Also each trigger by itself doesn't always cause the headache to happen! But it is the accumulative effect of these triggers which do.

To make things more complex

Sometimes these triggers do cause the headache, while other times they do not. Why does this happen you ask?

Well as described before, tension headaches are a neurological condition that you HAVE. And so lot of it depends on your current situation. Your stress levels. Your level of anxiety. The time of day or state of mind. All these things can alter your brain chemistry. 

So when you are very stressed, sleep-deprived, and anxious... your brain may be more sensitive to these triggers. This will make you more susceptible to these headaches starting.

So what are these triggers?

While not a completely inclusive list, common triggers include:

  • Different triggers include things such as poor posture,
  • poor exercise habits
  • poor dietary habits
  • poor sleeping routine
  • not exercising enough.
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Neck pain
  • Neck injury
  • Joint, muscle or disc dysfunction
  • Certain foods
  • Caffeine
  • The weather

The more of these triggers you have to, the closer to the ‘threshold’ of having a tension headache becomes.


For example, 

let us pretend that you have tension headaches once a month or every couple of months. They are mild in the background. If you take Advil or Tylenol or some type of medication, they go away…they aren’t really a big deal.

Neck Injury and Tension Headaches

Now let's pretend that you injure your neck. Either a slip and fall, you head-butted someone, or were in a car accident. You are now dealing with a whiplash injury.

Due to this whiplash injury, you are now closer to that threshold. Said another way, this neck injury makes it much more likely for these other triggers to cause the headaches.

Now rather than the mild once-in-a-while headache... you are having constant, daily headaches that are moderate to severe in intensity. Now they are affecting your day, your job, and your relationships.


Now they ARE a problem.

This is why it is very important to address these different triggers. This will help reduce your brain's sensitivity levels. In essence, addressing these triggers will reduce the likelihood of experiencing these headaches.

Another example. 

You may get tension headache  if you’re an office worker sitting all day for eight hours sitting in a chair. Frequent ‘sitting breaks’, walking around the office, and stretching your neck may be helpful.

 If you do take that ‘break’ every half an hour, you may not experience the headache. But if you sit for longer than  60 minutes at a time, the headache starts.

Now looking at our above example of person with the neck injury. Now you may only be able to sit for 15 minutes before that headache comes. This is because both triggers together bring your brain closer to the threshold.

If you would like help managing your tension headaches -have less frequent, less intense headaches and stop relying on medication like its candy - give my office a call at 587-801-0305 or email at [email protected] and we’ll take it from there.

About Dr. Joseph Tanti

A husband, father of 2 boys, 2 dogs and a cat, and full time chiropractor.

He loves helping make an impact in people's lives, reducing their pain and helping them achieve their optimal health and well being. All in a safe, natural, and drug free way. 

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