Fatigue and headaches are two conditions that have various causes. You may have a temporary sickness, long-term health condition, or surroundings change that results in fatigue or headaches. As medicine and science are advancing, researchers have discovered a closer relationship between headaches and fatigue.
Whether you experience these symptoms often or only occasionally, they can be tough to deal with and may prevent you from being able to work and spend time with your family. Both of these conditions can also be a challenge to understand as various illnesses can cause headaches or fatigue.
This guide breaks down the relationship between headache and fatigue, and conditions that may be causing both and what you can do to find some relief.
Relation Between Headaches and Fatigue
Headaches and fatigue have various causes that can range from medical conditions to other factors like not drinking enough water. While they are two separate conditions, there has been an increasing link between the two as many conditions present symptoms of both headache and fatigue.
It’s important to understand the basics of headaches and fatigue before we examine conditions that might cause both.
Headaches are characterized by an intense pain that targets a part of the head or face. They occur when neurotransmitters wake up the nerves around the brain to send pain signals to the brain. This pain may feel different depending on what’s causing it, but they are a common pain, affecting nearly 75% of people in the world.
There are two important kinds of headaches: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches are those that are not caused by a medical condition. In other words, they may be caused by lack of sleep, eye strain, or skipping a meal. Secondary headaches are headaches that are caused by a medical condition such as a concussion, sinus infection, high blood pressure, or a tumor.
Fatigue is a condition where your mind and body are constantly tired. This may be due to lifestyle changes, physical conditions, mental conditions, or issues with prioritizing health.
Here are some common symptoms of fatigue:
- Chronic sleepiness, even if you’ve gotten over eight hours of sleep
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of appetite
- Vision impairment
- Lack of focus or brain fog
- Reduced motivation and productivity
- Slowed reflexes
- Difficulty with short-term memory
Fatigue can be caused by a realm of conditions and lifestyle-related causes, but the connection between these causes is that they often also cause headaches.
Factors That May Cause Both
Below are some of the factors that may be causing both headaches and fatigue.
Migraines are intense headaches characterized by throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head. Migraines can be recurring and last for days. There are two important stages of migraines, the prodrome stage and the attack stage.
The prodrome stage occurs before you feel the actual pain of a migraine. Sometimes there are symptoms during this stage, and other times you may not notice anything different. If you do have symptoms however, you likely experience fatigue.
You may yawn excessively during this stage, feel tired throughout the day, and lack enough energy to do your normal daily tasks. During this stage you can also experience mood swings, food cravings, constipation, thirst, and neck stiffness.
The attack stage is when the actual headache appears the migraine pain begins. This stage can last as long as three days without medication or treatment. While migraines feel different for everyone, there are common symptoms associated with the attack stage of a migraine. You may feel pain on one or both sides of your head, be sensitive to light and sound, feel nauseous, and have a pulsing or throbbing sensation in your head.
It’s recommended to drink anywhere from 8 to 10 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated, but this number increases with level of physical activity and heat. If we don’t drink as much water as our bodies let out, we become dehydrated, which can not only cause headaches and fatigue but also result in serious health effects.
A headache due to dehydration is also known as a water deprivation headache. Fatigue follows closely behind these headaches and these two symptoms often won’t subside until we’ve rehydrated our bodies.
Some medications may be causing headache and fatigue as a side-effect. Especially if a medication causes you to pass water or controls the amount of water in your body such as a diuretic or blood pressure medication, you may experience headaches due to dehydration.
4. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), occurs when you get sleep that doesn’t provide rest, experience brain fog and inability to concentrate, and feel dizzy when standing or sitting. This condition is unique in its timeline as it lasts for at least six months at a time.
Scientists are unsure as to what causes this condition, but it is likely related to a combination of stressors and illnesses that result in fatigue. This condition is closely associated with headaches as those who have chronic fatigue syndrome often experience intense headaches.
Drinking caffeine is an effective way to wake up and start your day, but if you consume too much caffeine, your sleep may suffer. You may go to bed later than usual and get less sleep. You may also be unable to get deep sleep, which can have serious effects on your health and has been linked to headaches and fatigue.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that occurs when your brain accentuates physical sensations and increases painful ones by altering how the brain and spine relieve these signals. It is characterized by fatigue, pain in the muscles, mood issues, and headaches.
The causes of this condition are unknown, but it’s evident that fibromyalgia causes both headaches and fatigue, so if you experience both of these symptoms it’s important to reach out to a doctor.
7. Lack of Sleep
Sleep is necessary for all of our body’s functions, so lack of it can cause serious health issues. Two common symptoms of inadequate sleep are headaches and fatigue. Inadequate sleep can also cause stress hormones to increase which can cause irritability and mood changes and amplify headaches and fatigue.
Whether you experience sleep issues from sleep apnea, insomnia, or bruxism, it can lead to intense migraines, headaches, and fatigue.
8. Head Injuries
Head injuries are a common cause of headaches and can result in fatigue as well. If you have a concussion or hit your head during an activity, you may experience headaches, fatigue, memory problems, confusion, impaired vision, nausea, unconsciousness, and altered behavior.
Head injuries require immediate medical attention, so if you experience these symptoms or an injury to your head, contact emergency services right away.
9. Cold and Flu Viruses
Viruses such as the cold or flu often cause headaches and fatigue as our immune systems are fighting foreign bodies to stay healthy. You may also experience other symptoms characteristic of the virus, too, such as runny nose, cough, sore throat, and a fever.
If you find yourself getting the cold and flu every year and suffering from headaches and fatigue because of them, consider taking a multivitamin. Multivitamins have been shown to promote health by providing a variety of essential nutrients to the body. Vitamins such as zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C can support the immune system and protect your body from getting sick.
Probiotics have also been shown to increase our body’s immune response against respiratory infections and viruses that can cause headaches and fatigue. Consider finding a probiotic that contains both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains of bacteria. While probiotics are typically taken as a way to balance pH levels and protect against UTIs, recent research has shown that they can strengthen the immune system and protect against sickness.
Tips for Managing Headaches and Fatigue
If you experience intense headaches and fatigue often, contact your doctor. It’s important to make sure these symptoms aren’t signs of a larger health problem. While talking to your doctor, you can also incorporate these tips into your life for preventing and managing headaches and fatigue.
Get enough sleep. It’s recommended to get anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of sleep, but certain people may need more than this.
Exercise daily. By exercising, you can improve the quality of your sleep and reduce the number of headaches and feelings of fatigue you experience. If you aren’t sure where to start, try beginning with a simple, low-impact exercise like yoga or aerobic exercise. You can also practice exercises that focus on building muscle mass and strength training.
- Avoid consuming too much caffeine.
- Talk to your doctor about what medicines may be causing headaches or fatigue and if there are alternative medications you can take instead.
Here are some tips for relieving a headache when you do experience them:
- Take headache medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Talk to your local acupuncture therapist about treatments for headaches and fatigue
- Get a massage
- Use an ice pack or hot pack to soothe headaches
- Use a soothing hemp salve or tincture to help temporarily ease some of the tension
- Talk to your doctor about prescription medications to treat chronic headaches and fatigue
While headaches and fatigue are common symptoms of various health conditions and lifestyle choices, there are ways to manage and prevent them from occurring. The first step in this management is understanding what’s causing your headaches and fatigue! If you’re unsure of the cause, speak to your doctor about your symptoms while incorporating our tips to avoiding headaches and fatigue daily.