For some, headaches come and go. For others, they are a more persistent, painful feature. Sometimes there are triggers, sometimes an underlying cause, and other times seemingly no rhyme or reason why they occur.
I get headaches quite often so I empathise with those who struggle with them. I’m fortunate in the sense that I usually only get migraines once or twice a month now, the kind that cripple and make you throw up and unable to open your eyes. I can’t imagine dealing with them on a more regular basis than that.
In treating headaches, it’s important to understand what they are first.
There are a few different types of headache, many of which have some overlap in symptoms. Different medical websites will list different categories, but generally speaking they can include :
- Tension Headaches – The most common form. Tension headaches can feel like a squeezing or tightening band across your forehead.
- Sinus Headache – This can result in a dull but insistent ache around the nose, eyes and forehead.
- Cluster Headache – A painful one that can feel like an intense pressure type pain in and around one eye.
- Anxiety / Stress Headache – Like with tension headaches, anxiety / stress headaches can result in the pressure and squeezing across the forehead, often with pain from the neck to the top of the skull.
- Chronic Daily Headache – These are diagnosed when you suffer a headache for over 4 hours on 15+ days per month, and it can carry on for 6 months or longer. They are often associated with stressful life events or other trauma, including the overuse of pain meds and head injuries.
- Migraine – These are typically experienced in stages, including a warning phase (which I often overlook, stupidly). They are intense attacks, often with a combination of a throbbing headache, pain to one side of the head and in one eye, vision and hearing disturbances, nausea and vomiting.
Everyone will get the odd headache every now and again, and some types of headache (tension, stress, etc) can be handled when they arise.
Headaches can be caused by various things and result often from muscles, narrowed blood vessels, overactivity, chemical imbalances etc.
However, any sudden onset headache that persists and recurs should be taken seriously. Our bodies are usually pretty good at indicating to us when something’s not quite right so such signs should be listened to.
- Are there any contributing factors or potential triggers? Medication you may be on, dehydration, stress & anxiety, and shoulder/neck pain are all common ones.
- How long have you had it, and how often are they? If you’re getting them regularly and can’t attribute a clear cause then you should seek help.
- When did you last have an eye-check? If it’s been a little while, get yourself booked in. Opticians check not only your eyesight but your eye-health, so let them know about your headaches.
- Do not ignore ‘floaters’. These are as they sound – floating ‘things’ in your vision – and if they randomly occur without being part of a migraine you should call 101 or speak to your optician/GP as soon as is possible.
- GP – They will likely want to know things like severity, what medication you’re on, whether there are any routine remedies that could help or triggers you’ve overlooked. If you can, keep a note of how often/when the headaches are occurring. It’s a good idea to cover the basics to prevent them sending you away simply telling you to try them in the first instance – get some fresh air, don’t stare at a computer screen all day (uh-oh!), drink plenty of water, work on de-stressing.