Although it’s easy to think of a headache as ‘just a headache’, there are over 100 types of headache! The most common are tension headaches, migraine and cluster headaches.
Typically produce a steady ache (usually felt equally on both sides of the head) rather than a throbbing pain and often feel like a severe, continuous pressure or a tight, constricting band over the top of the skull, over the back of the head or above both eyes. Tension-type headaches can occur at any age and are often linked to:
- Physical tension in the upper back and neck areas
- Poor posture
- Grinding of teeth, clenching your jaw or regular chewing of gum.
I uses a combination of techniques to provide effective solutions to both treat and prevent migraines (and headaches).
A migraine is worse than a headache, and is often described as a ‘full-blown attack’. Symptoms often begin at puberty and cause recurrent attacks until middle age, when they often disappear. Unlike a tension headache, which is, migraine is generally much worse on one side. Migraine pain is generally much worse on one side of your head, and often centres around one eye. Other associated symptoms are
- Loss of appetite
- Dislike of food
- Constipation or diarrhoea.
- You may feel extra-sensitive to light (this is called photophobia)
- You may be extra-sensitive to sounds (this is called phonophobia).
- See flashing lights or have blind spots (areas that you can’t see)
- Have ringing in your ears
- Develop numbness in parts of your body, such as your hand, or have pins and needles
- Have trouble speaking. For example, you may not be able to find the right words.
Did you know that the pain-killers you use to treat your headache could now be the cause of them? If you’ve taken the same tablets twice a week for more than 3 months you could be at risk of rebound headaches.
Between ten and thirty per cent of people with migraine experience a warning ‘aura’ up to an hour before an attack.
- Visual problems such as shimmering or flashing lights, strange zigzag shapes or blind spots
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the face
- Occasionally speech difficulties.
The exact cause of migraine is not fully understood, but symptoms are believed to be linked to the lack of a chemical called serotonin in the brain, causing blood vessels to widen and congesting nerve tissues.
Common Migraine Causes (Triggers)
- Lack of sleep
- Bright lights or loud noises
- Certain foods, such as chocolate and some types of cheese
- Some food additives, such as nitrites and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Coffee and some alcoholic beverages, such as red wine
- Hormonal changes in women (for example, some women get migraine attacks when their period starts, when they are on the contraceptive pill, or when they are midway through their monthly cycle
- Changes in the weather, such as a change in barometric pressure
- Some prescribed medications.
Migraine is three times more common in women than men, and symptoms often start at puberty, suggesting that sex hormones such as oestrogen are involved.
Is Your Sleep Being Affected By Migraine?
- Start by giving yourself a better chance for rest: Turn off the lights, the TV and the computer when you’re getting ready for bed.
- Eliminate caffeine from your diet.
- Try exercising regularly in the morning or afternoon (but not near bedtime; it can actually wake you up).
- Eat dinner at least three hours before you get in bed. Some experts recommend a snack high in carbohydrates such as cereal and milk or toast which may induce sleep by boosting levels of serotonin.
If you think you may be suffering from migraines, try to work out what factors trigger your attacks and, where possible, avoid them.
Cluster headaches (form of migraine)
Are the most severe type of pain. The pain mainly occurs at night and comes on regularly for one to three weeks before disappearing. Attacks occur in series lasting for weeks or months separated by remissions lasting for months or years.
One eye becomes congested and watery, and the nostril on the same side is usually blocked as well. Although sufferers are usually in good health between attacks, the pain is so severe that many live in fear of the next one occurring.
If you suffer from frequent or severe headaches, it is important to seek medical advice as, occasionally; recurrent headaches need to be investigated, in case there is an underlying cause.
For those with frequent recurrent migraines, prescription-only treatments are available. These include rescue therapies for when symptoms have struck, as well as preventive treatments to help keep attacks at bay is also helpful. Several herbal remedies are effective for treating migraine. These include Feverfew and Butterbur.
If you have any of the symptoms in this list, see your GP urgently.
- You have a very painful headache for the first time which started suddenly (within one or two minutes), or if you feel it is the worst headache you have ever
- Your symptoms suddenly change. (e.g.) There is a change in how often you have them and the headaches get stronger, or (e.g.) your arm feels numb for the first time.
- You have your first severe headache and you are over the age of 50.
- You have a severe headache with a stiff neck, fever, sickness, and possibly a rash. You should seek immediate medical assistance.