Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Headaches and Concussions

Headaches may be caused by:

  • Anxiety: Stress may bring on headaches
  • Glare: Does the brightness from your computer screen, sunlight or overhead lights make your head hurt?
  • Noise: Sound, from loud and repetitive to continuous low-level noise, can cause headache pain
  • Eating and sleeping patterns: Being hungry can cause headaches, as can lack of sleep
  • Medication: Certain prescriptions can trigger headaches
  • Physical activity: Sometimes over-exertion can give you a headache from the swelling of blood vessels in your head, neck and scalp
  • Lack of physical activity: Staying sedentary can also give you a headache.
  • Posture: Sitting up straight keeps blood flowing
  • Hormones: If estrogen levels drop, women may be more likely to get headaches
  • Food sensitivities: Food and drink release neurotransmitters that can lead to headaches. Common triggers include aspartame, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and cheese

Diagnoses

To make a diagnosis, your physician may ask you the following questions:

  • When do headaches occur?
  • Where is the pain?
  • What do the headaches feel like?
  • How long do the headaches last?
  • Have you experienced changes in behavior or personality?
  • Do changes in position or sitting up cause the headache?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Do you have a history of stress?
  • Have you had a head injury?

Concussions

Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Sometimes, the signs of injury are not immediately obvious. 

To properly diagnose a concussion or traumatic brain injury, your physician will begin with a thorough physical and neurological office exam, which will likely be followed by one or more of these tests:

Diagnostic Tests

Learn more about the following tests your physician may use to properly diagnose a headache or concussion.