A headache is a common ailment that everyone faces at some time or another. They often come on without warning and they can make you pretty miserable. Some people can get more headaches than others.
Before you reach into your medicine cabinet, you should determine what type of headache is causing your pain. Knowing the type of headache based on your symptoms will determine how you want to treat it. Once you have determined the headache type that you are dealing with, you can reach for the right medication or treatment option based on the symptoms.
Head pain can be frightening since people often think that this is a sign of something serious. A headache usually doesn’t warrant a trip to urgent care or the emergency room, unless treatment options aren’t working and the pain is unbearable. However, you should keep a diary of your headaches so that you can bring it up to your doctor.
Tension headaches are some of the most common types of pain. This feels like a constant ache or pressure around the head. It is especially felt at the temples or the back of the head and neck. A tension headache usually does not cause nausea or vomiting, which is a typical symptom of a migraine. In addition, this headache will rarely cause you to stop your daily activity.
Over-the-counter treatments are effective, aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen (Tylenol), are usually enough to treat this headache. Experts believe that these tension headaches are typically caused by the contraction of neck and scalp muscles, as well as, possible changes in brain chemicals.
If you don’t like popping medication, we suggest that you do what you can to reduce your stress. Here are some alternative ways to get rid of a tension headache:
- hot bath
- massage neck, shoulders, and temples
- apply a heating pad to your neck
- get regular exercise to help
- reduce your stress
Cluster headaches commonly affect more men than women. These are recurring headaches that occur in groups or cycles. Typically, a cluster headache tends to start at the same time each day. They appear quite suddenly and are characterized by severe pain on one side of the head. The symptoms come on suddenly (aka thunderclap headaches) and the pain tends to increase within 5 to 10 minutes once symptoms begin. Additionally, it is also accompanied by a watery eye and nasal congestion on that same side of the head.
During an attack, people may often feel restless and uncomfortable. The cause of cluster headaches are usually unknown. However, some experts are linking this to genetic components. There is no cure for this problem, but using medication can cut frequency and duration. It is best to take medication as soon as symptoms begin and not wait until you have a horrible headache.
Here are a few ways to treat cluster headaches without medication:
- Take slow, deep breaths as soon as symptoms begin
- use an oxygen machine
- treat depression symptoms
- find new ways to cope with stress
- find a low-stress job if your workplace causes additional stress
- limit alcohol
- stay away from nitrates
- prevent and treat your allergy problems
If you started noticing cluster headaches, start keeping a diary that notes the time of day, symptoms, and potential trigger so that you have a diary to share with your doctor. Your doctor may order tests and an MRI to rule out other health conditions.
When the sinus cavities become inflamed when exposed to allergens or you have an infection brewing, it can lead to headache pain. A sinus headache doesn’t equate to having a sinus infection. However, you will likely notice pressure around your eyes, cheeks, and forehead. Don’t be surprised if you notice a stuffy nose, additional pain when you bend forward or lie down, fatigue, and pain in your upper teeth.
A sinus headache can be treated with antihistamines, decongestants, steroid nose sprays, and anti-inflammatories. Also, try these alternative sinus headache treatment options too.
- use Netipot or flush sinuses with a saline mixture
- prevent allergies
- use an air purifier in your home to help reduce allergens
- replace carpet with tile, laminate, or wood flooring
- stay hydrated to help keep your sinuses moist
- use a humidifier during the winter or when the air is dry
- diffuse or use essential oils such as peppermint or eucalyptus
- take a hot bath or shower when you notice sinus congestion
- apply ice to over your sinus cavities to help reduce inflammation
Overuse of pain relievers to take care of headaches can lead, ironically, result in rebound headaches. Culprits include over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (including Advil, Motrin), as well as, prescription drugs.
Although completely unexplained, one theory is that too much medication can cause the brain to shift into an excited state which can trigger even more headaches. Another theory is that rebound headaches are part of withdrawal symptoms when the amount of medicine in the bloodstream drops.
A migraine is another common problem that can run in families and are typically diagnosed using certain criteria.
- At least five previous episodes of headaches
- Pain that is lasting between 4 – 72 hours
- At least two out of these four symptoms:
- One-sided pain
- Throbbing pain
- Moderate-to-severe pain
- Pain that interferes, gets worsen, or prohibits your routine activities
- At least one associated feature:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- A migraine may be foreshadowed by aura including visual distortions or hand numbness.
Migraine headaches can be quite debilitating and the symptoms can become overwhelming. It is important to take your medication as soon as symptoms begin. Try these alternative migraine treatment options when you begin to notice symptoms.
- stay away from known triggers
- take low-dose estrogen (women only)
- avoid alcohol
- don’t skip meals
- get plenty of sleep
- use ice pack on your most painful spots on your head
- add b2 or CoQ10 supplements
- treat depression symptoms
- keep caffeine intake fairly consistent
- get plenty of sunshine or take vitamin d supplements
- try aromatherapy
- avoid food triggers such as hot dogs, deli meat, bacon, chocolate, cheeses that contain tyramine, MSG
- yoga can help relieve stress and helps you relax
- up your magnesium intake
- get a massage
Headaches are a common ailment that everyone faces at one time or another. Often times a headache comes on without warning but they usually aren’t an ailment that needs immediate medical treatment. However, frequent headaches should be mentioned to your doctor.