Headaches: the causes and cures, by Closer’s Dr Christian

We all suffer from headaches but most can be dealt with by making simple changes to your lifestyle, or with remedies from your pharmacist. From migraines to sinus pain, read Dr Christian’s guide to find out what’s causing your headache and how to cure it.


by Closer staff |
Published on

Tension headache

Your basic, everyday headache and the most common – it feels like a dull ache with constant pressure around the head. Stress is a common cause, as is boozing too much, lack of sleep, depression, skipping meals and dehydration.

The cure

Simple painkillers usually relieve tension-type headaches, and try to avoid the triggers listed above. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and stretching can help too.

Headaches can be painful and signify other health issues (stock image)


These can be far more severe and feel like a pounding or throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head.

The cure

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, can help – it’s most effective at the first sign of an attack. Your GP can give you stronger migraine-specific medication on prescription.

Eye strain

Squinting and straining your eyes is a common cause of headaches.

The cure

You may just need glasses or a stronger prescription. Your optician can also check you for glaucoma, an increased pressure within your eyeball that can cause headaches.

Dental pain

Tooth and jaw problems can be another cause.

The cure

If you’ve not been to the dentist for a while, make an appointment.

Colds and flu

These can last up to 10 days, and headaches are a frequent symptom.

The cure

Over-the-counter painkillers are your best bet. But do be careful about knocking them back indiscriminately – too many can actually cause headaches!

Sinus headaches

These are sometimes confused with tension headaches or migraines but are characterized by a throbbing pain or pressure felt in the face, which gets worse when you move your head.

The cure

Try antihistamine tablets and also a decongestant nasal spray – but don’t overdo it or you risk causing rebound congestion.

Colds and flu can cause headaches (stock image)

Cluster headaches

These cause excruciating pain, often around one eye, but are rare. They get their name because they usually happen in clusters for a month or two at a time. They’re thought to be caused by overactivity in the brain.

The cure

Over-the-counter meds won’t help much with these but your GP can refer you to a specialist clinic for stronger drugs and oxygen therapy.

Temporomandibular disorder

A problem affecting the joint between the lower jaw and the base of the skull – up to 30% of the adult population will experience it at some point.

The cure

The usual painkillers will help, but it usually gets better by itself within a few months.

And finally…

Brain tumours are the one cause of headaches that people worry about most. But remember these are extremely rare and very unlikely to be the reason. A headache caused by a tumour tends to be quite bad, may last for a long time and are often worse in the mornings. If in any doubt, go see your GP.

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