Almost everyone has experienced a headache — a pain in the head or face — at some point in their lives. It’s one of the most common health complaints. Sometimes they can be dull and annoying or so sharp that it puts you out of commission for days.
Headaches can be a result of:
- Hereditary factors.
- Caffeine, alcohol, fermented foods.
- Weather changes.
- Medical issues.
- Lack of sleep.
- Strong odors like household chemicals and perfume.
Types of headaches
There are more than 150 types of headaches, but the two most common types are called primary and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches are caused by the nerves or blood vessels surrounding the skull, the muscles of the head and neck, and/or a chemical imbalance in the brain.
The most common types of primary headaches are tension headaches and migraines.
A tension headache occurs when the neck and scalp muscles get tense, or contract. They cause mild, moderate or intense pain in the head, neck or behind the eyes. This is the most common type of headache people have.
Tension headaches can be caused by eyestrain, stress, insomnia, and head and neck pain.
Managing a tension headache is often a balance between:
- Fostering healthy habits.
- Finding effective non-drug based treatments.
- Using medications appropriately.
- Taking over-the-counter pain relieving medication.
Acupuncture and biofeedback (mind-body therapy) are also highly effective in management of tension headaches.
A migraine is a neurological disease that causes symptoms like unbearable pain, throbbing, nausea and light sensitivity. Migraine symptoms can last for hours or several days which often leads to the inability to work or function normally during episodes.
Medical treatment of migraine include:
- Abortive treatment: Use of prescription medications that work to stop migraines as they are happening.
- Treatment types: pills/tablets, nasal spray, dissolvable powder, injection or skin patches.
- Preventive treatment: Various medications used to stop migraine from occurring; usually necessary when patients have an excessive amount of monthly migraine episodes.
- Treatment types: nutraceutical (herbal and dietary supplements), pharmacologic (prescribed medications) and procedural treatments (Botox injections, nerve blocks and surgery).
Other ways to aid in migraine management include: developing a regular and adequate sleep and nutrition regimen, diet modification, regular exercise, sufficient hydration, relaxation techniques, yoga and meditation.
Secondary headaches are caused by another condition in the body and are not just limited to the brain. They can stem from neurological or non-neurological issues and come on abruptly and can cause excruciating pain.
The most common type of secondary headache is medication overuse headache, also known as rebound headache. Rebound headaches occur when a patient takes excessive doses (more than what is prescribed/recommended) of abortive and over-the-counter medication.
Less serious causes of secondary headache are:
- Sinus infection.
Serious causes of secondary headache include:
- Brain tumor.
- Neck or brain injury.
- Inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
Depending on the cause, treatment can include over-the-counter medication, lifestyle changes, or in the case of rebound headaches, detoxification.
If a secondary headache is caused by a serious medical issue, it’s important to treat the underlying cause because it can sometimes be life threatening.
Specialized diagnosis and treatment
The caregivers at Kaizen Brain Center know that headaches are a pain — literally. We specialize in headache treatment and management. Whether your headache is neurological or related to another issue of the body, we’re here to treat your headache and help you deal with headache pain.