Headache is an ailment suffered by most people at some time in their life. Headaches are usually harmless but can create concern about their origin. Very occasionally headaches are a pointer to a serious disease such as brain tumour or stroke. There are two categories of headaches. Firstly, primary headaches are split in to the following types:
- Tension headache
- Sinus headache
- Cluster headache
Secondary headaches are triggered by an underlying disorder - such as infection, injury or tumour - and can be considered as a side effect of the main illness.
Signs & Symptoms:
- Tension headache - a dull and persistent pain that may vary in intensity (mild to moderate) - a constant, tight, heavy or pressing sensation on or around the head
- Sinus headache - pain felt over the sinus area around the eye or over the forehead. Usually only one side is affected. The affected sinus often feels tender and the pain is worse when bending forward or lying down
- Migraine - is a sever recurring headache that may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Often the pain is only felt on one side of the head. They are usually triggered by certain foods or emotions, with some people having warning signs (aura symptoms) up to an hour before the headache starts, eg. flashing lights, tingling or numbness ('pins and needles') on one side of the body. Often bright lights become very uncomfortable, and any noise causes the headache to become worse.
- Cluster headache - occur in bouts. The attacks can last for 10 minutes to two hours and may occur again several times in 24 hours. This can happen for weeks or months followed by pain-free periods of months or years. Severe pain occurs behind one eye or one one half of the head, with redness and watering of the ye and blockage of the nostril on that side.
Headache treatment depends upon the frequency, severity, and symptoms of an individual's headache. Other factors include the person's response to medication, medication side effects, and the presence of other medical conditions.
- Abortive treatment (also called acute or symptomatic treatment) refers to the use of medications to end or lessen the severity of a headache. This may be all that is required for people who hve infrequent headaches. Treatment may include:
- Mild analgaesics such as aspririn, paracetamol, etc. However, they should not be used regularly
- Antiemetic medications — If nausea and vomiting occur with a migraine, an antiemetic medication can be given by injection or rectal suppository
- Triptans - if a mild analgesic does not effectively control migraines, most healthcare providers will recommend a treatment that is migraine-specific. This includes a class of medications called triptans
- Preventive treatment (also called prophylactic treatment) refers to the regular (usually daily) use of medication to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches Beta blockers — These reduce the frequency of headaches
Tricyclics — Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and certain other antidepressant medications are often recommended for migraine prevention
- Lifestyle changes — Some simple lifestyle adjustments may reduce the frequency of headache attacks. These include stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, limiting or eliminating caffeine, eating and sleeping on a regular schedule, and exercising several times per week. While there are no clinical trials proving the benefit of these measures, many headache specialists have found them helpful for some patients.
- Physical therapy — People with frequent tension headaches (more than 10 days of headache per month), frequent mixed migraine and tension headaches, and chronic daily headaches (more than 15 headache days per month) may benefit from a physical therapist with special interest in headache and cervical spine dysfunction. These techniques should be used in people who do not respond or who only partially or temporarily respond to medication, or in those who cannot use medications (eg, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding).
- Behavioral therapy — Headaches can be triggered or worsened by stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological factors. Furthermore, living with pain can cause difficulties in interpersonal relationships, at work or school, and with general day to day living
- Natural Therapy - offera a natural solution to management:
- Acupuncture - Stimulating acupoints may ease pain by encouraging production of endorphins (natural painkillers)
- Alexander technique - can help prevent tension headaches by relieving poor posture and pressure that results from it
- Aromatherapy - Combines various scented oils and promotes relaxation and eases tension
- Hydrotherapy - splashing your face with cold water before lying down for an hour can ease headache. Alternating hot and cold showers dilates then constricts the blood vessels, stimulating circulation. Ice pack on head is another option
- Hypnotherapy Can help sufferer deal with headache by altering the way the body interprets messages of pain
- Massage Can reduce muscle tension throughout the body, thereby reducing headache
- Meditation A recent study on migraine prevention through meditation has had very promising results, all participants reported less severe migraines
- Naturopathy Uses only natural substances in small amounts and aims to provide a healthier balance of bodily processes
- Osteopathy Manipulation of the neck or cranial, osteopathy may be used to correct misalignments of the vertebrae that can cause migraines
- Physiotherapy Treating muscle tension can release pressure that may lead to headache
- Relaxation Techniques Geared towards reducing pressure in the body and the level of stress chemicals that may worsen headache
- Shiatsu Combination of massage and pressure can restore the “energy balance” and induce relaxation
- Yoga Can relieve muscle tension in the back of the neck and correct posture.