Headache Causes

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, September 15, 1913:  For one thing I’ve had a splitting headache this afternoon and it still continues.

rainy day

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Ouch. . . headaches are no fun!  I wonder what caused Grandma’s headache.

Here is what a hundred-year-old book said about headaches causes:

Headache is a symptom rather than a disease, but there is no symptom which requires more careful investigation of its cause than that of headache. It occurs at all ages, but is most common from ten to twenty-five years and from thirty-five to forty-five years. Women suffer from headache more than men, in the proportion of about three to one. Headaches are most common in the spring and fall of the year and in the temperate climates.

Causes of headache—These may be classified into those in which the blood is at fault; reflex causes; various nervous disorders; and organic diseases.

The blood may be impoverished, as in the case of anemia, where there is a deficiency in hemoglobin; but by far the most frequent cause of headache is where the blood is disordered, as in gout, rheumatism, kidney diseases, diabetes, and the infectious fevers and malaria.

Among the more common reflex causes are eye-strain, especially errors of refraction; disorders of digestion, particularly constipation; and pelvic disorders, as in inflammation of the pelvic viscera.

Functional diseases of the nervous system causing headache are overwork, neurasthenia, hysteria, epilepsy, and neuritis.

Among the most common of the organic diseases is arteriosclerosis; other diseases are meningitis and brain tumors.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna M. Galbraith

You also enjoy reading a previous post on Old-Time Headache Remedies.

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Old-time Headache Remedies

15-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, February 16, 1911:  I blackened my shoes this morning. I don’t know what was the matter with the polish, but it did have a most peculiar smell. Some of the girls at school declared, “they smelt medicines.” I have a most awful headache tonight. My head just feels as if it would like to jump into space.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later: 

Whew, that must have been some shoe polish. It’s hard to imagine how it could have had such a strong odor. Could the noxious fumes have caused Grandma’s headache?

I wonder if Grandma tried any of the headache treatments recommended in the Compendium of Every Day Wants: General Information and a Thousand and One Facts (1908):

  • There are remedies for headaches by the dozen, but probably none simpler or more effective than the following: After nearly filling a breakfast cup with black coffee, squeeze into it the juice of one lemon and in a very short time after this has been taken relief will be experienced.
  • Drink some hot herb tea, and at the same time soak the feet in hot water for about twenty-five minutes. Get into bed then and cover up warm, sweating for an hour or more. Relief will soon follow.
  • Take a cup of tea in the evening with a small slice of bread and try to get to sleep.
  • Here is a simple remedy which has been tried many times and proved a cure in cases of sick headache. Powder finely two teaspoonfuls of charcoal, drink it in half a tumblerful of water. I have learned of this great remedy, though simple, from many persons who have used it in cases of sick headache.
  • Take ¾ of a quart of water, 1 tablespoon of salt and one ounce each of heartshorn and spirits of camphor. Mix well, wet a rag in it and apply to the forehead.
  • Crumble a piece of dry bread into a cup, put in a little butter, pepper and salt to suit the taste, pour boiling water over it and drink it.
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