Headaches .. What A Pain In The Neck!
Have you ever opened your eyes first thing before getting out of bed, and thought, “Oh no, not again!” You are most certainly not alone. Thousands of headache sufferers rise in the morning afraid to open their eyes or move, in North America alone, every day. There are several potential causes. I am not going to tell you what medication to take, or what exercises work the best, because that is between you and your doctor. I am not a doctor, but I do know that not everyone can take certain medications, nor is it wise to begin any type of exercise unless you know 100% you can handle it, or your doctor gives you the green light. It’s a matter of moderation and common sense.
There are four main types of headaches I will cover here. These are the types and a brief description. I will talk more about each one below the list. They are as follows:
1) Tension – This type is primarily occurs in the forehead, temples, or the back of your head and neck. Some people describe the pain as ‘a band around their heads’ that feels like it is squeezing their heads.
2) Sinus – Pain and pressure in the face are asymptomatic of sinus headache. If it is accompanied with a stuffy or runny nose, it could be sinusitis. Bending or leaning forward will often increase pain and pressure.
3) Cluster – Severe headaches on one side of your head that happen in groups, or ‘clusters’. Usually occurring over weeks or months at a stretch. They appear suddenly and are characterized by severe, debilitating pain on one side of the head, and are often accompanied by a watery eye and nasal congestion or a runny nose on the same side of the face.
4) Migraine – Each sufferer will experience this type in a slightly different way, but all usually begin as a dull ache, then develop into a constant throbbing and pulsing pain. Commonly felt at the temples, as well as one side of the head, radiating from the front to back of the head. Sensitivity to light and sound, and likely nausea and vomiting will accompany the pain. Migraine is the most severe headache. Pain matching that of migraine that is not migraine is a signal that there is something seriously wrong and you need to seek medical attention. (I will get to ‘signs you should see your doctor’ in this Post)
Tension, we all have that today, don’t we? Our careers, home life, medical issues, and finances can all have impact on our daily routines. There are so many things today that can have impact on our stress level, and there are many ways we react to it. Headaches are just one symptom stress can cause. Stiff shoulders, nail-biting, phantom aches and mysterious pains are only the tip of the iceberg. Most common denominator for those whose stress has affected them is the cursed headache .. as if you need that on top of all the stress!
Tension headaches are felt by all of us at one point or another, from the very young child, to the elderly. Varying from very mild to severe, they can be annoying or just plain painful. They can last hours or even days, depending how you and your body is coping with the cause or causes. The best cure for the tension headache is to eliminate or reduce the amount of stress you are experiencing.
There are many remedies for the typical headache, from herbal to prescription to relaxation techniques. Although they are not life threatening, if the headaches persist or you are harbouring any depression, I cannot impress enough on you that you need to seek medical attention immediately.
The headaches are not dangerous, but the underlying causes just might be. If this is you, the one thing you need to know is that you are not alone, and do not need to suffer alone. There is always help, you need only ask. Don’t put it off, figuring it will resolve itself, because when it doesn’t, you will only feel worse. If you notice any changes in your usual activities or have no interest in the things you used to enjoy, seek help.
There are people out there who care about you, and are willing to help. Do not put yourself on the back burner. Life is too short to suffer through it in silence. If you don’t tell someone, they cannot help. Speak up for yourself. If you don’t, who will? Remember, you are worth it, and life was meant to be a glorious thing. We are all entitled to health and happiness .. all of us!
Sinus headaches can be mild to severe, but all have underlying conditions. Allergies, colds, sinus infection or more serious, tumours in the sinus cavity, can be attributed to your pain. Now don’t go jumping to conclusions here – it is simply a fact, and I am not saying that the cause of your sinus irritation is serious. Facts are, less than one percent of sufferers will find tumours to be the cause. For first time sufferers, that number decreases significantly.
Hay-fever season is here, and with it comes the infamous runny nose and sniffles. Find a sale on tissue, if you have allergies, you will need plenty. Annoying, though certainly not dangerous. Some people choose to use allergy medication, and that is fine, but do not overuse it for a couple reasons; the effectiveness lessens if you use it frequently, leaving you to suffer more when you really need it. The other thing is the possibility of a ‘rebound’ headache. This is caused when too much pain medication, often found in these remedies, gets into your system, and rather than helping, can actually give you a headache. Don’t want that.
Colds. Those are fun, aren’t they? Okay, so they’re not, but they won’t hurt you in the long run. however, if you have muscle aches or fever, it is time to see your doctor. Flu and pneumonia are complications of the common cold. Another possibility with a fever is an infection of the mucous membranes, or soft tissue, in the sinus cavity. Your doctor is the only person who can confirm this, and it is something that should not go untreated. Other symptoms of infection are yellow or green discharge, and sometimes dark circles beneath your eyes. Dark circles can also be a sign you are not getting enough sleep, sunlight, or are low in iron, so dark circles are not always indicative of infection. Again, I stress the importance of visiting your doctor, especially if it persists. Even allergies should not go unchecked.
A term we don’t hear often is cluster headaches. What are they? They are a mystery to the scientific world, they are. they are as painful and debilitating as migraine
headaches, though far less common, and occur less often than a migraine. Typically, these headaches come in cycles. Most people who get cluster headaches have one or two cluster periods each year. A cluster period might last one month or longer. After a cluster period ends, you may not get another headache for months or even years. They are more common among the young, and as you get older, they may disappear entirely. Cluster headaches, like migraine, can be frightening, but will cause no long-tern harm.
Some may be able to reduce the intensity, (with the help of your doctor) as well as the frequency. As they come and go throughout the ‘episode’, there is usually a way to alleviate the pain somewhat. It is unclear what causes these headaches, and there is no evident triggers, as there are with most other headaches. It is evident however that they run in families, but is not clear why some people get them and some don’t, even within the same family. Pain spreads out from your temple and eye. Your eye may become red, watery, or puffy. The eyelid may droop, and you may have a runny or stuffy nose on that side of your head.
Cluster headaches usually happen at the same time of day within each episode, but they can happen at any time, and the sufferer may have as many as eight a day. Unlike a migraine, lying down usually makes it worse. Walking often helps ease some of the pain, as does breathing deeply. Like any severe pain, always see your doctor, and do not self-diagnose.
This next segment was written with someone specific in mind .. and that is why it is my main focus in this Post. Information is your best defence in knowing how to cope with headaches of any kind, but especially migraine.
Most commonly, we hear about migraine. Why is that? Because it is the most painful and blinding headache of them all. The secondary underlying complication is stress. Again, we all know what stress is all about, don’t we? Imagine that on top of an excruciating migraine. That is an real possibility. Imagine not knowing when the next head-pounding, pulse-bearing, and debilitating headache will hit you. This in itself is stressful.
Sufferers of migraine headaches, before diagnosis, can be in enough pain that they may think it is something far more serious. Possibilities of all kinds will run through your mind. Everything from tumours to fears that you may be dying can plague your thoughts. Your best bet if you suffer that kind of head pain is to see your doctor so he can rule out the possibility of tumours or other serious medical conditions.
This will alleviate the stress factor for you and your doctor will offer you some advice on relief, and possibly prescribe medication, if he feels it will help. Typically, a migraine will affect one side, but can sometimes affect both. The location, duration, and intensity of pain vary from person to person as well as from one episode to another. Other symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, visual disturbances, and hypersensitivity to light, noise, and smells may also occur. Stomach upset or abdominal pain may also accompany.
Any given attack can last from hours to days, with most averaging 12 to 18 hours each episode. For many sufferers, their migraines can be so severe and incapacitating that are unable to carry out normal daily activities. There are two categories of migraine, with aura or without. Some people experience a pre-headache stage known as an aura, which can last from a few minutes to a half an hour. An aura typically involves visual disturbances such as blind spots, zigzag patterns or flashes, tunnel vision, and light sparks. The aura normally clears as the headache starts, but there can be some overlap. Sometimes the aura will occur without a headache but more often no aura occurs before the headache.
Some of the most common factors for migraine include genetic predisposition, excess physical activity or sun may be a trigger specifically of migraine. Some other triggers may be environmental factors, which include weather changes, emotional factors, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, foods and beverages, caffeine or food additives, change in sleep or routine pattern and loud noises. Missing meals can also trigger migraine headaches. Alcohol and smoking, or exposure to cigarette smoke may also instigate a migraine. Some types of medication you may take might also play a role. Medications that are meant to reduce excessive blood flow, such as medications used to control blood pressure, cause the flow of blood, and increase the risk of migraine.
There are usually signs that a migraine episode is coming. Feelings of uneasiness or anxiety, sensitivity to light and loud noises, temporary blind spots, or blurred vision or eye pain may be a signal that a migraine will strike, usually within 24 hours. At this point, if you are prone to migraine, it is probably best to remain as relaxed as possible, maybe lying down in a quiet, darkened room can help lessen the intensity or possibly divert it altogether.
If you suffer migraine headaches, this video can explain what happens during an episode, and help you understand what is going on inside your body when a migraine assails you.
No headache is a picnic, and some should never be ignored. If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately, as these are universal warning signs that something more serious is going on:
1) Headaches with severe nausea and vomiting.
2) Sudden or severe onset of a headache of any type.
3) A headache that is associated with neurological symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, sudden loss of balance or falling, numbness or tingling, partial or whole paralysis, speech difficulties, mental confusion, seizures, personality changes or inappropriate behaviour, and vision changes.
4) Headache with a fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or rash – warning signs of meningitis.
5) Headaches that occur after a head injury or accident.
6) Have headaches that are triggered by exertion, coughing, bending, or strenuous activity are also cause for concern, but also common for migraine sufferers. In which case, these are atypical, but should still be attended as soon as possible.
7) Headache with convulsions or seizures.
I hope this Post has enlightened and helped with some questions about headaches, their causes and types. My gratitude to one person in particular, whose migraine headaches prompted me to research the subject in the first place. (So, I’m a worrier – sue me!) Although I cannot know what a migraine feels like, I sympathise with anyone who suffers from them. My last word, “Get plenty of rest, and don’t skip meals“. Proper rest and nutrition plays an important role in your health.