Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on April 14, 2021

Pain Trigger: Flip-Flops

1 / 25

Often, the blame for our pain rests on the simple choices we make every day. The Cleveland Clinic Florida's David Westerdahl, MD, shares a few examples -- starting with flip-flops and foam-soled sandals. They provide poor arch support, leading to pain in the feet, ankles, and knees.

Solution: Wear shoes with arch support. When you know you'll be walking a lot, opt for sneakers.

Pain Trigger: Smart Phones

2 / 25

Do you have a phone that lets you text, surf the web, and play games? That's a lot of mileage for your thumbs. Doctors have begun reporting cases of arthritis at the base of the thumb in younger people, possibly related to texting.

Solution: When your thumbs begin to ache, give the texting a rest. If pain continues, use your phone to make an actual call -- to a doctor. There are effective treatments for arthritis.

Pain Trigger: Your Wallet

3 / 25

Your wallet can be a real pain in the back and the buttocks, and it can even lead to shooting pains down one leg. Tucked in a back pocket, it may lead to compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve day after day. A fat wallet may also put the spine slightly out of alignment, causing muscle tension.

Solution: Remove your wallet before sitting, especially in the car.

Pain Trigger: Driving

4 / 25

Many people set their car seats at the wrong angle. If the seat is reclined, you may slouch forward to grip the steering wheel. This pulls your head away from the headrest and can cause neck pain.

Solution: Put your car seat in an upright position that supports your head and lower back. The steering wheel should be within easy reach, so your arms are slightly flexed and relaxed.

Pain Trigger: Active Video Games

5 / 25

Video games that simulate the motions of popular sports can result in real sports injuries. Doctors say overzealous gaming can cause everything from sprains to torn ligaments and broken bones.

Solution: Do some stretching before starting an active video game. Make sure you have plenty of space around you, so you won't trip or crash into anything. And don't play for longer than you would a real sport.

Pain Trigger: Cheese

6 / 25

Cheese lovers, take note -- your favorite food may be the reason for all those headaches. Aged cheese, such as blue cheese, cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss contain high amounts of a substance called tyramine.This notorious headache trigger is also found in some processed meats and beverages, particularly draft beer as well as other alcohol.

Solution: Keep a food diary to help spot links between foods and headaches, so you'll know what to avoid.

Pain Trigger: Couch Potato Syndrome

7 / 25

Even down time can be a source of aches and pains. Do you often lie across the couch with your head turned toward the television? You're setting yourself up for a sore neck -- especially if you fall asleep in that position.

Solution: Maintain good posture even when you're relaxing. Sit up straight on your couch and make sure your TV is not positioned too high.

Pain Trigger: Your Baby

8 / 25

The simple act of lifting your baby out of the crib each day can lead to de Quervain's tenosynovitis. This is a repetitive stress injury that causes pain and swelling in the wrist and thumb.

Solution: Learn to lift your baby without straining the wrists. Place your hands under the back and buttocks, and lift with the bigger muscles of your arms.

Pain Trigger: Laptop Case

9 / 25

If you carry your laptop around like an extra limb, you're likely to strain some part of the body. Handheld laptop cases put stress on the forearm and can actually give you tennis elbow, says Westerdahl. Bags that you wear over one shoulder can contribute to back and shoulder pain.

Solution: Try a rolling laptop case or consider switching to a lighter model.

Pain Trigger: Your Hairdo

10 / 25

A tight ponytail may trigger -- or worsen -- a headache. Some migraine sufferers are more sensitive to sensations that wouldn't bother others, such as a tight hat, headband, bun, or braids.

Solution: Wear your hair down and skip the hat.

Pain Trigger: Strong Smells

11 / 25

Doctors aren't sure why, but strong smells are another common migraine trigger. This can include obnoxious odors, such as paint and smoke. But pleasant scents, including perfume and fresh flowers, can also be a problem.

Solution: Identify which smells spark your headaches and try to avoid them.

Pain Trigger: Sleep Habits

12 / 25

If you wake up sore most mornings, take a good look at your sleep posture. Stomach sleepers may twist their necks to the point of hyperextension. Other people sleep on their sides with one arm overhead. After many hours, this position can strain the shoulder.

Solution: Better ways to sleep are on your back or on your side with your arms below shoulder level. Side sleepers can place a pillow between the knees to support the lower back. Back sleepers can put a pillow under the neck and beneath their knees.

Pain Trigger: Beverages

13 / 25

When it comes to beverages, alcohol is the king of pain. Red wine, whiskey, beer, and champagne are the drinks blamed most often for a throbbing head.

Solution: Limit your intake of alcohol.

Pain Trigger: Skipping Meals

14 / 25

Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to dip. In some people, this can trigger a massive headache before you even realize you're hungry.

Solution: Eat nutritious foods regularly throughout the day. Opt for snacks that combine protein and whole grains, such as peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers. Veggies like celery or carrots are another good choice, especially with nuts.

Pain Trigger: Lifting With the Back

15 / 25

A top source of back pain is lifting the wrong way. A common mistake is curving the back forward to grab an object, then straightening the back as you lift. This forces your back muscles to take the brunt of the burden. Twisting while you lift is another problem.

Solution: To lift properly, bend the knees and hips until you are squatting. Keep the back upright. Grab the object and lift with your leg muscles by straightening your knees and hips.

Pain Trigger: Your Workstation

16 / 25

If you spend many hours a day at your desk or workstation, give some thought to the setup. A poorly positioned chair can cause you to slouch forward, straining the back and neck. A monitor that's too low or too high will also strain the neck.

Solution: Place your monitor with the top of the screen at eye level. Position your chair so that you are sitting straight with your feet on the floor. Use a cushion to support the lower back if needed.

Pain Trigger: Eyestrain

17 / 25

Headaches that are centered behind the eyebrows may be due to eyestrain. Eyestrain may occur when you have uncorrected vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. It can also come from staring at a computer screen without taking breaks.

Solution: Schedule an eye exam to see whether you need corrective lenses. If you already wear glasses, it may be time for a new prescription.

Pain Trigger: Weather Changes

18 / 25

People have long claimed that changes in the weather can trigger headaches. In particular, when the temperature rises, some people may be more likely to get migraines and other severe headaches.

Solution: Since you can't control the weather, just be aware of which changes bring on your headaches. That way, you can be ready for it.

Pain Trigger: Weekend Warrior Syndrome

19 / 25

You're a weekend warrior if you're sedentary all week but dive into sports and exercise on Saturday and Sunday. The sudden burst of activity catches the muscles unprepared, making them vulnerable to strains.

Solution: Start with 5-10 minutes of walking or another gentle exercise and stretch after your workout, when muscles are warm. During the week, take a few minutes to train the muscles you'll be using during your weekend activities.

Pain Trigger: Shoulder Rides

20 / 25

It's classic family fun: A parent walking along with a delighted child enjoying a shoulder ride. But lifting kids overhead is a common source of neck and shoulder pain.

Solution: Instead of lifting your child from the ground, sit on a couch or bench. Encourage your child to climb carefully onto your shoulders.

Pain Trigger: Grinding Your Teeth

21 / 25

A sore jaw combined with a dull headache could mean you're grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep. If you're a chronic grinder, pain isn't the only concern. You could end up damaging your teeth, your jaw, and even your hearing.

Solution: See your dentist. They can provide a mouth guard that will protect your teeth during sleep.

Pain Trigger: Sex

22 / 25

The sex headache is no old wives' tale. Sex can increase blood pressure and muscle tension in the head and neck, causing a dull or pounding headache. Men get them more often than women do.  

Solution: These headaches usually respond well to pain relievers. But check with your doctor to make sure your headaches aren't a sign of a more serious condition. And if you have a sudden onset of the "worst headache you ever had," get to the emergency room because it could be a stroke.

Pain Trigger: Stress

23 / 25

Stress contributes to a vast array of aches and pains. Many people tighten the back muscles when anxious, leading to chronic back pain. Most tension headaches stem from stress. And stress may play a role in teeth grinding, leading to jaw pain.

Solution: Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

When to See the Doctor About Pain

24 / 25

Seek immediate medical attention if you have:

  • Chest pain
  • A severe headache and/or stiff neck
  • Pain related to an injury
  • Pain accompanied by weakness or numbness
  • Abdominal pain with fever or vomiting

Any chronic pain should also be evaluated by a doctor, especially if it interferes with work, hobbies or sleep.

1 / 25

Show Sources


1)            Jan Greune/LOOK
2)            Ron Levine/Photographer's Choice
3)            Corbis
4)            Istock
4)            Echo/Cultura
6)            Rita Maas/The Image Bank
7)            Robert Glenn/DK Stock
8)            Jose Luiz Pelaez Inc/Blend Images
9)            Steve Pomberg/WebMD
10)          Tara Moore/Stone+
11)          Cecile Lavabre/Photographer's Choice
12)          B2M/Photodisc
13)          Andrew Unangst/Photographer's Choice
14)          Bernard Proust/Stock Food Creative
15)          UpperCut Images
16)          Klaus Tiedge/Fancy
17)          B2M/Photodisc
18)          Radius Images
19)          Ultra. F/Photodisc
20)          Sian Kennedy/Stone
21)          Marcy Maloy/Photodisc
22)          Bilderlounge
23)          Altrendo Images
24)          Jim Arbogast/Digital Vision
25)          Biggie Productions/Stone


David Westerdahl, MD, family and sports medicine specialist, Cleveland Clinic Florida.
American College of Rheumatology: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome."
Thomsen, J. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 2008; vol 9: pg 134.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Arthritis of the Thumb."
Ming, Z. Pathophysiology, December 2006; vol 13(4): pp 269-70.
Lutz, E. JAMA, August 1978; vol 240(8):pg 738.
Blau, J. Headache, May 2004; vol 44(5):pp 411-13.
Stankewitz, A. Neurology, July 20, 2011; epub.
UCLA Ergonomics: "Sleeping Posture."
National Headache Foundation: "Hypoglycemia," “Headaches Hurt Employees and Employers."
Mukamal, K. Neurology, March 10, 2009; vol 72(10): pp 922–927.
American Dental Association: "Bruxism."
Frese, A. Neurology, 2003; vol 61(6): pg 796.
Frese, A. Cephalalgia, 2007; vol 27(11): pg 1265.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Back Pain."
Vanderbilt University: "Meal Ideas and Menus: Avoiding High Tyramine Foods Made Easy."