Everyone gets headaches from time to time, whether from dehydration, caffeine withdrawals, migraines, or some unknown cause. (I usually get one once a month, right before my period starts.) They're an extremely common phenomenon, which probably explains why there are so many weird old wives' tales about headaches.
Of course, there are longstanding myths around a myriad of health conditions, especially pregnancy. I'd guess there are so many old wives' tale about that topic in particular because there was so little known about the science of pregnancy for most of human history — ultrasounds weren't even invented until 1956, according to Live Science. The mystery surrounding childbirth has led to legends about everything from what it means to be carrying twins to the best position to have sex in if you want a boy, and although few of these old wives' tales have a basis in fact, they remain popular. You probably started hearing them as soon as you announced you were pregnant.
There are even old wives' tales about pregnancy and headaches, as you'll read below. But legends about headaches don't center solely on pregnancy, with a surprisingly wide range of beliefs about them circulating. Read on to find out about the weirder old wives' tales about headaches.
1. Headaches during pregnancy mean you're having a boy
Many old wives' tales about pregnancy focus on guessing a baby's gender, headache myths included. As CafeMom pointed out, people believe having frequent headaches during pregnancy indicate the baby will be a boy. Huggies reiterated that women carrying boys report having more head pain than those carrying girls, but again, there's no definitive proof. Headaches are more common during the second trimester of pregnancy, according to WebMD, but the gender of the baby doesn't play a role in the frequency.
2. Headaches indicate burgeoning psychic abilities
You've probably seen movies where someone with psychic powers grabs their head in pain before having a vision. These images transcend cinema, though, as believers have viewed head pain as an indication of psychic powers reaching their full potential for years. As Intuitive Souls Blog, a psychic resource, reports, those who have just started having visions of the future may experience headaches as their bodies grow accustomed to their powers.
3. Drilling holes in your head cures migraines
As The Independent explained, many believed "Trepanation, or the technique of removing bone from the skull by scraping, sawing, drilling or chiseling" was used to cure migraines centuries ago, but this technique actually has no basis in truth. Although trepanation was used to help those with epilepsy or paralysis, there's no record of it aiding migraine sufferers, despite old wives' tales that say the contrary. Holes in your head will probably just make the pain worse.
4. Wet hair causes headaches
Did your mom ever tell you not to go to bed with wet hair for fear you'd wake up with a headache? It's another common myth, derivative of the idea that going out in the cold will make you more likely to catch a cold. As Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Time, "You cannot catch a cold from being cold," and the same is true of sleeping with wet hair. Although sleeping on wet hair can damage the hair, according to Marie Claire, it won't give you a headache, so you can hop into bed after rinsing off without worrying about waking up with a migraine.
5. Sulfites cause headaches
Many people (myself included) tend to get a headache after a few too many glasses of wine, and people commonly pointed to sulfites, compounds that contain sulfite ions, as the cause. But researchers have uncovered sulfites won't actually give most people headaches, with the National Headache Foundation reporting that less than 1 percent of Americans actually have a sulfite sensitivity. Vine Pair, a popular wine resource, explains that tannins, sugar, or histamines are likely the actual causes of that wine headache, none of which are unique to wine. The more ya know.
6. MSG causes headaches
Those with frequent headaches may point to MSG, the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid found in many foods, as a headache trigger, but the FDA has found no definitive proof that it causes headaches despite common beliefs. It's possible some people may be triggered by MSG, but it's likely a very small percentage of the population as Very Well Health explains. Migraine sufferers should avoid foods they believe increase their chance of developing a migraine, as everyone has different triggers.
7. Emotional hysteria causes women's migraines
One of the more sexist myths regarding headaches is the permeating belief that women get migraines because of an inability to handle their emotions. As The New York Times explains, women's migraine symptoms were brushed off by doctors for centuries as a sign of emotional distress, but dismissive attitudes towards women's symptoms has its roots in sexism rather than scientific fact. Modern medical professionals know migraines are very real, with the Migraine Research Foundation reporting that 39 million Americans suffer from migraines every year.
Although headaches are common, frequent and intense pain is nothing to scoff at, so definitely talk to a doctor if you're having issues, especially if you notice an increase in the number of headaches you get. Over the counter meds can't always cut it.