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Male and Female Differences in Headache Triggers

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 15 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Men Women Male Female Headache Pain

While many people assume that all information regarding headaches applies equally to men and women, the reality is that headache triggers differ between men and women. Without taking these differences into account, identifying your triggers can be a lot more challenging and may compromise obtaining effective headache treatment.

With headaches being chronic and debilitating for a large number of people, it is important to learn more about how you - whether male or female - can have your headaches triggered. This will allow you to avoid triggers or alternately, treat headaches before they start if you do experience a trigger.

Different Headache Triggers

An interesting survey that looked at differences in headache triggers between men and women found that women who tend to use over-the-counter drugs for their headaches are more likely than men to suffer from headaches triggered by stress. This may be related to the fact that there are many single, working mothers today who can feel particularly overwhelmed with the challenges of juggling career, home and personal life.

With time of the essence, they may treat regular tension headaches with over-the-counter drugs simply because they want rapid relief and do not have the time and energy to try alternative or other non-drug methods of headache relief.

These same women are also more likely to suffer from headaches triggered by sinus problems related to allergies and they are also predisposed to headaches triggered by strong smells and specific foods and medications.

In addition, women are more likely than men to suffer from headaches related to hormonal fluctuations. This can be quite problematic and difficult to treat given that fluctuations are normal and headaches can be tough to prevent when they occur in relation to a woman's menstrual cycle.

Headache Patterns Vary

Although men and women both do experience headaches, of course, women on average have them far more than men. Women are also three times more likely to experience migraine headaches in comparison with men.

One theory researchers have about this difference is that women might have a faster trigger compared to men with regards to activation of the brain activity that underpins migraines. Another study found that men are more likely to have anxiety and depression underpinning their headaches. Men were also more likely to have a major disability underlying the depression.

Head Pain is Difficult for Both Men and Women

While it's important to be aware of how men and women experience headache pain differently, a similarly important focus is to understand that either way, head pain is difficult and can be debilitating. For those who suffer from chronic headaches, understanding the differences between headache triggers for men and women can help you to better focus in on the areas more likely to be affecting your headaches.

A good place to start is by keeping a headache diary and taking note of the times your headaches occur as well as what you were doing, experiencing, eating or drinking prior to the headache. Women can also chart their cycle to identify those times where headaches are more likely to strike. Ultimately, if you can find your triggers, you can try to avoid or minimise them, which should prevent headache pain and offer significant relief.

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