Blogging, cooking, studying and the dread of a rapidly approaching exams are starting to have a cumulative effect on me, or rather my head. Lately I've been suffering from acute headache and so I came up with a complete guide on what types of headaches exist, what triggers headache and how to cure headaches.
A headache is the most common complaint known to mankind. But there are several types and many different triggers. How can you tell what sort of headache you've got, what kind of foods trigger headache and what can you do to relieve it?
Types of Headache
There are a number of different types of headache and most of the recurrent ones are either migraine, tension headaches or cluster headaches. Statistics show that women suffer more than men from all types of headache and get three times more migraines.
Migraine: A headache syndrome characterized by throbbing, usually one sided pain, that may be associated with nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances.
Tension Headache: As defined by the International Headache Society, a tension type headache is just the opposite of migraine. That is, the pain is on both sides of the head, is pressing and steady, rather than pulsating, is usually mild and does not cause incapacity and, is not worsened by ordinary daily activities. There is no associated nausea or sensitivity to light and noise.
Cluster Headache: Headache characterized by intense, burning pain in or around one eye and temple. That eye may redden and weep, and the nostril on that side may experience stuffiness and discharge. These types of headaches usually occur daily for a period of weeks to months in a cluster followed by a remission before the next cluster.
Episodic Headache: Episodic headaches cause severe throbbing at the back of the head, and usually appear more than twice a month.
Sinus Headache: Sinus headaches often start the minute you wake up and continue all day. They often improve in the evening. They cause pain in the forehead, temples and eyes or around the cheekbones. They are often due to a cold, allergy, or changes in weather pressure.
Usually, it is not difficult to work out what caused a headache, for example a poor night's sleep, a row at home, or stress at work.
In many cases, your headache may be caused by one or more of several factors. The following lists may help determine the causes of your headache:
Hunger: Low blood sugar can cause discomfort in the head which grows into a headache if no food is eaten. People who don't have breakfast may notice they develop a morning headache that disappears with their first snack. Crash dieters often have headaches because of low blood sugar.
Alcohol: Wine, beer, brandy and whisky contain certain additives called congeners. Research indicates that congeners can trigger headaches in sensitive individuals, even if they haven't drunk very much.
Hangover: Too much alcohol (combined with smoking) results in dehydration and poor quality sleep. It's the dehydration, not just the quantity of alcohol you've had, that causes the hangover headache the next morning.
Caffeine: Drinking less coffee, tea and cola than usual, or occasionally drinking more, for instance over the weekend or on holiday can cause a thumping headache.
Sexual Activity: Orgasm can be an unusual and distressing trigger for an intense headache. Pain at the back of the neck may also develop from arching the spine.
Environmental stress: Flickering fluorescent strip lightning or glare can interfere with natural brain activity and tire the eyes. Also, hot, stuffy, fume-filled or overcrowded rooms or excessive noisce can trigger a raging headache.
Physical Triggers: Simple actions such as wearing a too-tight hat or hairband, as well as conditions such as eye strain or toothache can all prompt a painful headache.
The weather: People who are sensitive to climate may find they develop a headache just before a storm or in close, humid weather. Cold weather, particularly with a biting wind, can cause head muscles to contract and cause pain.
Televisions, Monitors, Mobile Phones, PDAs: Any activity that involves a fixed focus for long periods of time can cause head pain. For instance, many people come out of the cinema with a headache. You may find sitting back from the screen helps.
Smoking: Heavy smoking and passive smoking can trigger a headache. And, if you're giving up smoking, you'll probably find you get headaches for the first couple of days.
Painkillers: It may seem odd that tablets taken to relieve a headache can cause another the next morning. But painkillers are thought to neutralise the body's naturally-occuring opiates (endorphins) which act as our own painkillers. People who take 30 or more aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen a month often suffer from headaches. A week off all drugs usually brings dramatic relief.
Sleep: Both too much and too little sleep at night can cause a headache the following morning.
How to cure headaches
- Most headaches respond to over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. You may find the soluble versions work more quickly to relieve pain and are less harsh on the stomach.
- In addition to a painkiller, tension headaches may require a muscle relaxant as well. These are available on prescription from your doctor.
- People who regularly suffer from headaches often find relief from alternative therapy. Aromatherapy, acupuncture and manipulative techniques such as osteopathy and chiropractic have all been shown to relieve headache.
Sleep helps most headaches, and one of the best ways to cure a headache is to have a nap.
- Learn to relax away tension with yoga or meditation.
- Headaches are often caused by hunger, so make sure you keep your blood sugar levels stable and don't go too long between meals.
- A brisk walk or mild exercise will get oxygen to the brain, relieve stress and release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.
- A head, neck and shoulder massage can ease tight muscles, helping prevent tension headaches.
As the saying goes, Prevention is better than cure. Work on the factors that trigger headaches and you will enjoy life!
Wikipedia - Headache
MedicineNet.com - Headache
Medlineline Plus - Headache
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