A Canadian government website estimates that 59 percent of adults in the country experience headaches. Some of these are simple tension headaches, but other headaches may have a variety of causes. Proper diagnosis of your type of help can help your doctor find the right treatment to provide relief.
Tension headaches are responsible for as much as 37 percent of headaches. These conditions generally occur from minor daily tension and sometimes from more dramatic personal events. The pain is generally caused by built-up tension in face, neck, shoulders and jaws. This muscle tension can also cause changes in brain chemicals that can lead to pain. The pain may come and go and last from a few minutes to several hours. Over-the-counter pain medications usually do a good job of relieving pain. Rest, relaxation and stress relieving techniques such as meditation or biofeedback can also help to relieve pain.
Migraine is a particular kind of headache that is characterized by vascular changes in the brain. There is believed to be a strong genetic component to migraine problems because they tend to run in families. Migraines affect more women than men. Common symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound, throbbing pain, nausea and vomiting. Migraines can occur frequently throughout the month and or seasonally, at specific times of the year. The pain can last from 12 to 24 hours and can be disabling enough to prevent engaging in normal activities. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications that are commonly sold over the counter can help the pain of some migraines. Triptan medications relieve migraines by constricting blood vessels and blocking pain pathways. Ergot medications are also helpful for migraine pain. If pain is severe, opioid medications may be prescribed. Anti-nausea medications can help reduce the nausea that often accompanies migraines.
Cluster headaches get their name from their clustering habit. They are generally shorter in duration than migraines, but recur for several days at a time. They can be disabling in severity. Cluster headaches occur in men more than women. Pain may be on one side of the head, around the eye or cheek. Symptoms of watery eyes, change in pupil size, drooping eyelid or pain severe enough to wake the person from sleep may also occur. Medications for migraine may also be effective for cluster headaches. For severe cases, nerve block or surgery may be necessary.
Many people experience sinus headaches because of nasal polyps, structural insufficiency or infection after colds. The condition can cause pressure, pain, stuffiness and general fatigue. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help relieve head pain. If the sinus problem is caused by infection, the physician may prescribe an antibiotic. Decongestants can ease breathing. Moist heat from a vaporizer can help to relieve stuffiness and congestion.
Women may occasionally experience head pain from hormone fluctuations in the body during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. Generally, pain can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medications. If necessary, your physician can prescribe a stronger pain medication or determine if hormone regulation is necessary.
Paul Chai is a health & wellness enthusiast writer with interests around headache relief and treatments for adults.