Better health: Trucking lifestyle can lead to headaches

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Updated Jun 13, 2018
Many headaches can start without warning and be debilitating for professional drivers. Headaches often can be treated with common pain relievers.Many headaches can start without warning and be debilitating for professional drivers. Headaches often can be treated with common pain relievers.

Trucking can be a high-stress job that leads to poor eating and sleeping habits. These factors – as well as alcohol, smoking, poor posture and more – can lead to headaches of varying length and severity.

Headaches are fairly common and normally can be treated with over-the-counter medications or lifestyle changes. Rarely are they a sign of a serious underlying condition.

Cluster headaches

If you get headaches that come with intense pain in or around one eye on one side of your head, you may be experiencing cluster headaches. These commonly wake you up in the middle of the night.

These headaches can last for weeks or months, known as cluster periods, followed by headache-free periods that last for months or even years. During a cluster period, these intense headaches usually occur once or more every day, lasting from 15 minutes to three hours.

Men between the ages of 20 and 50 are most likely to get cluster headaches. Smoking, alcohol and a family history of cluster headaches are risk factors.

While these headaches are fairly common, experts advise medical care if they are accompanied by a fever, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, confusion, seizures, numbness or speaking difficulties, as these can be signs of a stroke.

There is no known way to treat cluster headaches,but sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding alcohol could help prevent an attack during a cluster cycle. According to the Mayo Clinic, quitting smoking isn’t known to help cluster headaches dissipate.


Migraine headaches cause severe throbbing or pulsing pain, typically on one side of the head. Warning signs that can accompany migraines include constipation, mood changes, flashes of light and tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg.

Migraines often are accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. They also can cause blurred vision and lightheadedness that can lead to fainting. Due to the severity of these symptoms, a migraine attack can be disabling for a trucker.

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Symptoms typically last from four to 72 hours if untreated. For about 24 hours after a migraine, light and sound sensitivity can persist, along with confusion, weakness, moodiness and dizziness.

Causes of migraines are largely unknown. Some trigger factors include foods such as aged cheeses, salty foods and processed foods, as well as alcohol, highly-caffeinated drinks, stress, changes in sleep patterns and more. Medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen and others can help relieve the pain.

Tension headaches

These most common headaches often are described as feeling like a tight band around your head. Symptoms include dull, aching head pain; a sensation of tightness or pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head; and tenderness on your scalp, neck and shoulder muscles.

They can be difficult to differentiate from migraines, but tension headaches typically aren’t accompanied by visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting. Stress is the most common trigger.

Getting enough sleep, exercising, not smoking and limiting alcohol, caffeine and sugar are some ways to prevent tension headaches. As with migraines, over-the-counter pain medications can help. Managing stress and having good posture also can help reduce headache pain.