Twenty million Americans see their doctors each year because of a headache. Although headaches can be very uncomfortable and temporarily disabling, most are not associated with serious illness.
When a person has a headache, several areas of the head can hurt, including a network of nerves that extends over the scalp and certain nerves in the face, mouth and throat.
Rarely, headache is a symptom of a dangerous condition such cerebral aneurysm, brain tumor, stroke, TIA, meningitis, or encephalitis. Very high blood pressure can cause headaches and this situation is a medical emergency. However, high blood pressure usually causes no symptoms at all, despite the damage that years of high blood pressure can do to blood vessels, heart, brain, and kidneys.
The most common type of headache is “tension headache.” Tension headaches generally develop gradually, often involve the entire head as well as the neck and shoulders. They probably are not actually caused by increased muscle tension, although muscle relaxation techniques can be very useful in treatment. Most people get tension headaches occasionally and these can usually be treated simply. Some people get them often, but there are usually some useful interventions to help decrease the number of sick days.
Migraine headaches are “bad headaches.” With classic migraine, the headache is proceeded by a feeling that a headache will develop (prodrome) followed by visual phenomena such as dark or bright spots, streaks of light, or tunnel vision (aura). The headache then develops, usually on one side. It is throbbing in nature, accompanied by nausea and increased sensitivity to light and noise.
Most people with migraine headaches do not experience prodrome or aura. Common migraine headache, like classic migraine headache is treatable and often preventable.
Migraineurs, those who develop migraine headaches often have a family history of migraine headache and they have headache triggers. People who get headaches when they don’t have enough of their daily caffeine are migraineurs. They would have fewer migraines if they completely eliminated caffeine. Chocolate, red wines, nuts and cheeses are common food triggers. Migraines before or during menstrual periods are common. Not all migraineurs get terrible headaches, but some certainly do. Migraine is an important cause of lost days of school, work and enjoyment.
Women who smoke and who experience migraine headaches with aura have more than twice the risk of stroke if they take estrogen-containing birth control pills than those who use nonestrogen-based contraception. Changing to a nonestrogen or very low-estrogen contraceptive not only can reduce the risk of stroke but can dramatically decrease the number of headaches.
Cluster headaches are headaches lasting minutes to hours that occur day after day at a similar time over a period of weeks. They are sharp. People with cluster headaches often describe the pain as similar to an ice pick.
They are more common in men, and are more difficult to treat than most headaches. Interestingly, oxygen therapy will often stop a daily cluster headache. Many of the medications used to prevent or treat migraine headaches are used to treat cluster headaches.
Sinus headaches are those frontal headaches that some people experience with sinus infection and with changes in the weather. Allergies can also provoke them.
HEADACHE AS A WARNING SIGN
See a health care professional on an urgent basis if any of the following occur:
1. Severe, sudden headaches that seem to come on like “a bolt out of the blue.”
2. Headaches that are accompanied by a loss of consciousness, alertness or sensation, confusion, or other neurological and/or personality changes.
3. Headaches that recur in one particular area such as an eye, temple etc.
4. Headaches that recur and are of high intensity or frequency.
5. Headaches that are accompanied by neck stiffness and fever.
6. Headaches that are associated with head injury.
7. There is a change in the nature or frequency of headaches.
8. The worst headache in one’s life.
9. Temporary change in vision or visual acuity may simply be a sign of migraine headache but deserves special attention if new.
To avoid headaches, employ good health habits. These include adequate sleep, healthy diet, regular exercise and good stress management. Quitting smoking is essential in reducing the risks for all headaches.
Relaxation and related stress reduction therapies can diminish the frequency and intensity of headaches.
It’s true you can always take a pain pill for a headache but will that really treat the cause? If you have regular headaches it’s important to understand their cause. A recent study of headaches determined chiropractic care was the most effective treatment for headaches on the planet.
This indicates that spinal subluxations (misalignments) are at the roots of most headaches. Pain pills might short-circuit the pain signal but it won’t correct the misalignment. The nerve pressure, the misalignment is causing, will produce other health problems if not corrected. So using pain pills for headaches are both shortsighted and potentially dangerous for your health. Dangerous not only because you’re allowing a condition time to develop but also because pain pills can cause devastating effects to the stomach, kidneys and liver, to name a few.
Headaches can also be coming from other causes like being toxic, hormonal imbalances, allergies, electrolyte and other nutritional deficiencies. Problems with your body handling stress can be another source of headaches. Simply taking a pain pill does not address any of these issues. As a Chiropractic Physician my job is to search for the cause of your condition. Once we understand why you headaches are there then the proper course of correction is usually evident.
Over the years I’ve seen thousands of patients become permanently free of their chronic reoccurring headaches through natural health care. Chiropractic can help you also. Always seek to find a permanent solution to your health problems. Enjoy life.