Headache is pain in any region of the head. Headaches may occur on one or both sides of the head, be isolated to a certain location, radiate across the head from one point, or have a viselike quality. A headache may appear as a sharp pain, a throbbing sensation or a dull ache.
Headaches can develop gradually or suddenly, and may last from less than an hour to several days.
Your headache symptoms can help your doctor determine its cause and the appropriate treatment. Most headaches aren’t the result of a serious illness, but some may result from a life-threatening condition requiring emergency care.
There are more than 150 types of headache. They fall into two main categories: primary and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches are those that aren’t due to another medical condition. The category includes:
- Cluster headaches.
- New daily persistent headaches (NDPH).
- Tension headaches.
A secondary headache is a symptom of a disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. Any number of conditions — varying greatly in severity — may cause secondary headaches.
Possible causes of secondary headaches include:
- Acute sinusitis (nasal and sinus infection)
- Arterial tears (carotid or vertebral dissections)
- Blood clot (venous thrombosis) within the brain — separate from stroke
- Brain aneurysm (a bulge in an artery in your brain)
- Brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation) (arteriovenous malformation) — an abnormal formation of brain blood vessels
- Brain tumor
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Chiari malformation (structural problem at the base of your skull)
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Dental problems
- Ear infection (middle ear)
- Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
- Giant cell arteritis (inflammation of the lining of the arteries)
- Glaucoma (acute angle closure glaucoma)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Influenza (flu) and other febrile (fever) illnesses
- Intracranial hematoma
- Medications to treat other disorders
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Overuse of pain medication
- Panic attacks and panic disorder
- Persistent post-concussive symptoms (Post-concussion syndrome)
- Pressure from tight headgear, such as a helmet or goggles
- Pseudotumor cerebri
- Trigeminal neuralgia (as well as other neuralgias, all involving irritation of certain nerves connecting the face and brain)
Some types of secondary headaches include:
- External compression headaches (a result of pressure-causing headgear)
- Ice cream headaches (commonly called brain freeze)
- Medication overuse headaches (caused by overuse of pain medication)
- Sinus headaches (caused by inflammation and congestion in sinus cavities)
- Spinal headaches (caused by low pressure or volume of cerebrospinal fluid, possibly the result of spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak, spinal tap or spinal anesthesia)
- Thunderclap headaches (a group of disorders that involves sudden, severe headaches with multiple causes)
What causes headaches?
Headache pain results from signals interacting among the brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerves. During a headache, an unknown mechanism activates specific nerves that affect muscles and blood vessels. These nerves send pain signals to the brain.
What causes migraines?
Migraines aren’t fully understood. But researchers think migraines result when unstable nerve cells overreact to various factors (triggers). The nerve cells send out impulses to blood vessels and cause chemical changes in the brain. The result is disabling pain.
What triggers headaches and migraines?
Common triggers of tension headaches or migraines include:
- Alcohol use.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
- Emotional stress related to family and friends, work or school.
- Excessive medication use.
- Eye, neck or back strain caused by poor posture.
- Weather changes.
What do headaches feel like?
Headache symptoms vary, depending on the type of headache you have.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Tension headache pain tends to be:
- Consistent without throbbing.
- Mild to moderate.
- On both sides of the head (bilateral).
- Responsive to over-the-counter treatment.
- Worse during routine activities (such as bending over or walking upstairs).
Migraines are the second most common type of primary headaches. Symptoms of migraines include:
- Moderate to severe pain.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Pounding or throbbing pain.
- Pain that lasts four hours to three days.
- Sensitivity to light, noise or odors.
- Stomach upset or abdominal pain.
Cluster headaches are the most severe type of primary headache. Cluster headaches come in a group or cluster, usually in the spring or fall. They occur one to eight times per day during a cluster period, which may last two weeks to three months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into remission) for months or years, only to recur later. The pain of a cluster headache is:
- Intense with a burning or stabbing sensation.
- Located behind one of your eyes or in the eye region, without changing sides.
- Throbbing or constant.
New daily persistent headaches
New daily persistent headaches (NDPH) come on suddenly and last for more than three months. They typically occur in people who weren’t having frequent headaches before. The pain of NDPH is:
- Constant and persistent without easing up.
- Located on both sides of the head.
- Not responsive to medications.
Sinus headaches are the result of a sinus infection, which causes congestion and inflammation in the sinuses (open passageways behind the cheeks and forehead). People, and even healthcare providers, often mistake migraines for sinus headaches. Symptoms of sinus headaches include:
- Bad taste in mouth.
- Deep, constant pain in your cheekbones and forehead.
- Facial swelling.
- Feeling of fullness in ears.
- Pain that gets worse with sudden head movement or straining.
- Mucus discharge (snot).
Medication overuse headaches
Medication overuse headaches (MOH) or rebound headaches affect up to 5% of people. They happen when you frequently take pain relievers for headaches. Eventually, this practice can actually increase your number of headaches. Signs of MOH include:
- Headaches becoming more frequent.
- More days with headaches than without.
- Pain that’s worse in the morning.
The Causes of Headaches ?
- Illness. This can include infections, colds, and fevers. Headaches are also common with conditions like sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), a throat infection, or an ear infection. In some cases, headaches can result from a blow to the head or, rarely, a sign of a more serious medical problem.
- Stress. Emotional stress and depression as well as alcohol use, skipping meals, changes in sleep patterns, and taking too much medication. Other causes include neck or back strain due to poor posture.
- Your environment, including secondhand tobacco smoke, strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, allergens, and certain foods. Stress, pollution, noise, lighting, and weather changes are other possible triggers.
- Genetics. Headaches, especially migraine headaches, tend to run in families. Most children and teens (90%) who have migraines have other family members who get them. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70% chance their child will also have them. If only one parent has a history of these headaches, the risk drops to 25%-50%.
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes migraines. One theory suggest that a problem with the electric charge through nerve cells causes a sequence of changes that cause migraines.
Too much physical activity can also trigger a migraine in adults.
How Are Headaches Treated?
Your doctor may recommend different types of treatment to try. They also might suggest more testing or refer you to a headache specialist.
The type of headache treatment you need will depend on a lot of things, including the type of headache you get, how often, and its cause. Some people don’t need medical help at all. But those who do might get medications, electronic medical devices, counseling, stress management, and biofeedback. Your doctor will make a treatment plan to meet your specific needs.
We can only list the treatment of migraine. and you will know roughly how to treat other kinds of headahces.
The International Headache Society devised a classification for migraine headaches in 1988 which distinguishes between headaches with aura (vision affected) and those without aura.Migraine headaches are intermittent and may vary in frequency from year to year, and therefore are difficult to measure.
The causes of migraines are unknown, but there may be a disturbance of intracranial and extracranial circulation. The disturbance in blood flow is believed to accompany the migraine attack and possibly cause it.
“A migraine is like a tornado; it attacks fast without any warning and wreaks havoc. ”
Migraines usually start during the teenage years or early in adult life, affecting more women than men with a ratio of three to one. Migraines are caused from constricted (tightening) arteries that supply blood flow to the brain. When the arteries constrict, blood flow to the brain is reduced as well as the brains oxygen supply. The brain reacts by dilating (enlarging) arteries to meet the brain’s need for energy. The dilation spreads to the arteries in the neck and scalp and is the culprit of the pain in migraines.
If you live with migraines, make sure to have your Doctor rule out an underlying illness or other medical conditions that mimic migraines with the appropriate tests: for example , x-rays determining sinus infection, EEG for seizure activity or a CAT scan to detect blood clots or a brain tumor. Your Dr . may determine a drug to help ease your pain.
Eight Migraine Triggers
1 . Cerviogentic Headache:
Some people who have a tender neck and suffer from sore bone and joint problems are diagnosed with this type
2 . Temporomandibular Migraine:
Triggered by teeth grinding
3. Sinus Migraine:
Triggered by allergies and caused by excessive mucous and often accompanied by a fever. If you have this type of migraine, you may experience pain around both eyes and also may feel nauseated and sensitive to light.
4. Genetic Migraines:
Studies have lined a gene to people affected with migraines. Often when the gene for migraines is passed on to the next generation, the recipient will also experience headaches around the same age as the person who passed on the migraine.
5. Stress Migraine:
Stress can be a major contributing factor to the onset of a migraine. Type A personalities are more likely to experience migraines. Type A is ambitious, bright, perfectionist, emotionally repressed, cautious and has a decreased ability to manage stress. However , this is the easiest type of migraine to treat because a type A personality can acquire the skills necessary to manage stress.
6. Hormonal Migraine:
Fluctuating hormones in women are often the cause of migraines and can happen during menstrual cycles.
7. Cigarette Migraine
An equal opportunity source of migraines is because the nicotine alters blood vessels. High carbon monoxide levels in a person who smokes or even inhales second hand smoke can lead to a migraine.
8. Food Migraines
Food allergies are another factor that leads to migraines. However , migraine sufferers are able to eat chocolate without falling prey to a migraine. Some patients actually report relief from eating chocolate.
Foods that Can Cause Migraines
1 . Aged cheese such as Roquefort, Stilton and Sharp Cheddar
2 . Fermented Dairy such as Sour Cream, Buttermilk and Yogurt
3. Citrus: Oranges or Grapefruit, including juice
4. Nuts: Peanuts, Walnuts or Pecans
5. Legumes: Peas, Beans and Soy product 6. Onions and Garlic
8. Pickled or Salty foods: picked herring is the most common instigator
9. MSG found in Chinese food
11. Artificial sweeteners
12. Caffeine (getting too much or withdrawal)
14. Cured meats
15. Dried fish
16. Dried fruits
17. Food additives (nitrites, nitrates, MSG)
18. Lunch meats (cured with nitrites or MSG)
21. Skipped meals
Now that you know the common triggers, also note that skipping meals also causes migraines. Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to drop, which in turn causes a migraine.
Other Migraine Triggers
3. Exercise (too much)
4. Eyestrain or other visual triggers
5. Fatigue (extreme)
6. Lights (bright or flickering; sunlight, particularly glare)
7. Menstrual periods
9. Noise (too much)
11. Sleep (too much, too little, other changes)
13. Watching TV or movies
14. Weather (changing conditions)
Six Ways to Kiss Your Migraine Goodbye
1. Natural products that improve your immune system
Magnesium supplements (600 mg) decreased migraine attacks. Fish oils may decrease migraine attacks through their effects. Coquinone 30 can also decrease the attack of migraine.
USANA Essentials and Coquinone 30 are your sure way to kick migraine !
Riboflavin is sometimes used as a migraine preventative treatment (prophylaxis).
It is further thought that taking a riboflavin supplement has the potential to increase the mitochondrial energy efficiency in an individual who has migraine.
In short riboflavin would be taken with the aim of improving the way oxygen is metabolized (Distribution) in the brain improving Migraine conditions!
2. OTC and Prescriptoin Medicine
Medicines have been used for centuries to treat migraines. Today Dr’s prescribe Beta Blockers to treat migraines by maintaining adequate dilation of blood vessels. Antidepressants: The brain chemical ‘serotonin’ plays a role in migraine attacks because the levels of serotonin may cause or relieve migraine and that’s why Drs sometimes prescribe antidepressants for migraines. Antidepressants reduce migraine frequency by regulating serotonin levels in the brain. Other drugs are triptans available as an injection or nasal spray. This type of drug shuts down the inflammation and transmission of migraine pain.
Fioricet contains a combination of acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. Butalbital is in a group of drugs called barbiturates. It relaxes muscle contractions involved in a tension headache. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It relaxes muscle contractions in blood vessels to improve blood flow.
Fioricet is used to treat tension headaches that are caused by muscle contractions.
Gabapentin is a very good prescription for migraine prevention
3 . Surgical Treatment
Nerve stimulators have been used to control back and muscle pain and in 2003 a nerve stimulator was successfully used to treat chronic headaches. With nerve stimulation, one end of a wire is connected to a nerve that controls pain and the other is connected to a small battery powered generator. The patient controls the generator via a remote device. Once turned on, it disconnects the pain signal.
Not only do chronic migraine suffers face agonizing physical disabilities, they also have the psychological fear of not being able to earn a living or manage their home life because daily activities can suddenly become unbearable with the onset of a migraine.
4. Holistic Intervention
Rarely are people offered a non drug approach to treating migraines. Treating a migraine holistically not only can treat the migraine at onset but can also act as prevention.
Create a headache diary listing the 5 W’s.
A. Who were you with?
B. Where? Did someone irritate you? At work with glaring lights?
C. What? What medications were you on?
D. When? When did the headache start?
E. Why? Did some particular food or drink aggravate the situation? Did you get enough sleep?
5. Review your diary after 30 days and see if you can isolate the trigger.
6. Use heat to help dilate the blood vessels in the body.
This must be done at direct onset of your migraine. Soak your hands in hot water for 20-30 minutes. As the migraine progresses and the blood vessels enlarge, apply ice to the back of the neck and forehead to help constrict capillaries that are pressing against the nerves.
7. Relaxation techniques
You can use relaxation techniques to manage stress. Research has found that people who consciously practice yoga daily for 30 – 45 minutes can learn to positively manipulate involuntary bodily responses like migraine pain. Studies have shown that relaxation practiced on a regular basis achieves a 45 to 80% reduction or elimination in both migraine severity and frequency. Yoga triggers a boost in the brain chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is involved with your body’s anger, pain, sleep and migraine and can be a cure for headaches.
Frequent headaches are a sign that you are stressed out and it’s your body’s way of saying slow down and take care of me. Especially if you are a type A personality. My type A patients often say they can’t sit still and have a difficult time with the relaxation/mediation part of yoga. My reply? What’s more difficult to live with. Meditating daily or living with a migraine, a stroke or a heart attack? These are very real situations that afflict people with constricted arteries and that’s why it’s vital that you make time for your health.
Unfortunately for my patients, I often meet them after they’ve suffered from a condition of vascular abnormality. They are very motivated to participate because they have experienced what happens when blood flow to the heart or brain is compromised. Consequently they practice my techniques daily to reduce a recurrence.
Why not make time now? There are 1440 minutes in a day. 45 minutes a day practicing yoga is a wise investment in your health that offers a positive life style with increased energy without the use of toxic drugs polluting your liver and fewer Doctor visits which equals fewer co-payments. Yoga Chi for Energy DVD includes medically engineered relaxation techniques with an 11 minute meditation by a crackling fireplace.