Headaches | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes tension headaches?

 Tension headaches may be caused by the following:

  • Stress
  • Certain foods and beverages
  • Sleep problems
  • Sinus and allergy problems
  • Muscle tension, which can be caused by jaw clenching and poor posture
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Certain medicines

What causes cluster headaches?

Cluster headaches do not appear to be related to other illnesses or to diseases of the brain.

Some of the triggers of cluster headaches include:

  • Taking certain medications (such as nitroglycerin)
  • Heavy smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • An interruption in your normal sleep pattern
  • Abnormal levels of certain hormones
  • Problems with the hypothalamus, which controls your body's "biological clock"

What causes rebound headache?

Prescription and over-the-counter medicine for migraines (such as aspirin and acetaminophen) can cause rebound headaches if you take them too often. If you get rebound headaches, these medicines should not be taken more than 2 days per week. Sedatives, tranquilizers and ergotamine medicines also can cause rebound headaches. Talk with your doctor to find out if you should stop taking these medicines or should take less of them.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 01/93