Headaches are common pain that can be treated with over-the-counter medications, rest, or a cold compress. Headaches vary based on how long and intense the pain lasts. Doctors aren’t certain about how headaches work because the skull and brain don’t have nerve endings that register pain. But blood vessels in the head signal pain. Head pain can also result from the scalp, eyes, sinuses, teeth, muscles, and joints in the neck.
Types of headaches
The main types of primary headaches are:
- Episodic: They don’t happen more than every fortnight. They can last from thirty minutes to a few hours.
- Chronic: They occur more than once every fortnight. They last longer and may require medical treatment.
They are also classified by where they occur.
1. Tension headaches
This is a dull, aching sensation around your head. You may feel tenderness around your neck, forehead, scalp, and shoulders. They’re triggered by stress or fatigue. They’re also the most common headaches. Intense tension headaches feel like your head is being squeezed. They can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a hot shower, naps, or a heating pad.
If you get tension headaches frequently, try relaxation techniques like yoga to eliminate them. You may also need to see a doctor if they are frequent and painful.
Migraines are rare but more severe than tension headaches. Studies show that they increase the risk of heart attacks in men. Migraines change blood flow in the brain and nerve function. They can also be triggered by weather changes, fatigue, depression, stress, underlying conditions, brain trauma, and sensory triggers.
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They cause sluggishness and irritability. People with migraines often complain about seeing an aura or halo of light. In more difficult situations, you can lose or get blurred vision. They start around the eye or temple and then spread to the back of the head. Additionally, to know if you have a migraine instead of a sinus or tension headache, a migraine will have pulsating pain, a day of pain if left untreated, one-sided pain, nausea and vomiting, and disabling intensity.
Migraines can be treated with NSAIDs and caffeine. A doctor can also give prescription painkillers, but if you’re also on antidepressants, your physician may advise otherwise.
3. Cluster headaches
They are common in smokers or people who used to smoke. They come in clusters, like one to eight headaches a day. The pain is one-sided, with the attack lasting 30-60 minutes. High-flow oxygen can help treat the pain. Other medications that can also treat them are lithium and lidocaine nose drops.
4. Hemicrania Continua
This is a moderate one-sided headache that lasts at least three months. The intensity increases a few times during the days when they occur. Studies show that about 1% of head pain is hemicrania continua. It is symptomised by red eyes, tearing, stuffy nose, droopy eyelids, sweating on the forehead, agitation, and excessive pupil shrinking.
5. Stabbing Headaches
They’re also known as ice-pick headaches. They occur as short, intense pains that last a few seconds. The pain happens a few times a day without any warning. Usually, the pain is in different parts of the head. You should seek medical attention if it happens in the same place multiple times over a few days.
These headaches come on suddenly and reach peak intensity in a short time. They can be a sign of stroke or brain injury.
Secondary headaches are symptoms that something else is affecting your body. If the trigger is left unchecked, it can make the headaches chronic. They include the following:
1. Sinus headache
This head pain occurs because of allergies. It concentrates on the forehead and sinus areas. People with seasonal allergies or sinusitis are the most susceptible to this type of head pain. 5 Home Remedies For Dealing With Sinusitis
2. Hormone headaches
These are headaches frequently experienced by women experiencing hormonal fluctuations. This happens during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, or when taking birth control. Menstrual migraines are also classified as hormone headaches. In addition, they can happen during ovulation. 10 Natural Ways To Balance Your Hormones
3. Caffeine headache
Caffeine is a stimulant in tea and coffee that affects brain blood flow. Quitting or delaying your daily caffeine intake can lead to head pain. Also, quitting other drugs like nicotine that are highly addictive can lead to head pain. These drugs change your brain chemistry, and no longer taking the drug leads to head pain.
4. Exertion headache
This is head pain that is caused by intense physical activity. Increased blood flow to the brain can lead to throbbing pain in the head.
5. Hypertension headaches
If you have high blood pressure, a hypertension headache indicates an emergency. It makes your head pulse on both sides and worsens after any exertion. What You Need To Know About Hypertension And High Blood Pressure
6. Rebound headache
These occur because of overusing medication. It’s a dull, pulsing headache that manifests like a migraine. It’s common among people who excessively use over-the-counter painkillers. Rebound headaches happen if you use painkillers more than 15 days a month.
7. Post-trauma headache
These happen after a head injury. They can also last at least six months after the injury and become chronic headaches.
8. Spinal headache
This is caused by low cerebrospinal fluid pressure. The pain occurs in the forehead, temples, upper neck, and back of the head.
Which headaches should you worry about?
Severe ones come on fast and become intense in less than a minute. This could also be a symptom of an underlying condition such as:
- blood vessel tears
- brain injury
- narrowing of the blood vessels in the head
- inflammation of blood vessels
- blood loss from an organ
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You should also see a doctor as soon as possible in the following circumstances:
- New headaches after age 50
- Head pain that comes with coughing
- Worsening head pain even after taking painkillers
- Stiff neck, confusion, personality changes, memory loss, slurred speech, seizures, changes in vision
- Painful red eye
- After an injury to the head
- Pain and tenderness in the temples
- Headaches for people who are immunocompromised.
Can you prevent head pain?
If you frequently suffer from headaches, you can prevent or reduce them based on the headaches you’re experiencing. They are diagnosed by checking your medical history, CT scans, brain wave scans, blood tests, or a spinal tap. This is done if your doctor suspects you have a neurological condition. Sometimes keeping a headache journal is enough for the doctor to figure out where the problem is.
Lifestyle changes such as sleeping regularly, having a balanced diet, drinking enough water, exercising, and managing stress can help reduce headaches. In addition, specific treatments like gene-related peptide medication can prevent migraines and cluster headaches. It blocks a protein that causes inflammation in the nervous system.
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