Everyone experiences headaches at some point in their lives. However, some people experience headaches that are so severe they are not able to do what they want and their quality of life is lowered. There are many different types of headaches, and they can range from mild to severely debilitating pain. Headaches occur when blood vessels in the neck and head constantly dilate and constrict. The most common type of headaches are tension headaches, but headaches can have a range of causes. It is important to be aware of the possible causes of these headaches in order to prevent and manage them.
Headaches can be caused by dehydration, stress, and hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Lifestyle and environmental factors that can cause headaches include bright lights, strong odors, loud noises, insufficient sleep, poor posture, staring at a computer, TV, or phone screen for extended periods of time, and lack of exercise.
Types of Headaches
The classification of headaches vary by where the pain is present and other indicators.
These are the most common type of headache, characterized by a constant, dull pressure and tightness around the head that usually lasts a few hours. Tension headaches are usually felt on the sides of the head. Tension headaches can be chronic and affect people on a regular or daily basis.
It is estimated that around 36 million Americans suffer from migraines. Migraines are much more severe, and are characterized by a recurrent, throbbing pain that starts on one side of the head. Migraines can be accompanied by nausea and blurred vision. If you are experiencing migraines, it will be helpful to consult with a doctor who can give you more specialized advice and prescription medicine.
These headaches cause sharp, severe pain, and are typically concentrated in a specific area, usually around the eye or a spot on the head. Cluster headaches are painful enough where they can wake you up while you are sleeping. Cluster headaches typically affect men more frequently than women, and usually last between 30 and 45 minutes.
These headaches are directly linked to your hormone levels and occur during times when hormones are in flux (i.e., menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause). They can be similar to migraines and cause severe pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Treatments for Headaches
Headaches have different causes and not all treatments will work with the same effectiveness. However, here is some general advice for treating headaches.
Dehydration can cause or worsen headaches, so it is important to drink fluids if you have a headache. Anything from a cool glass of water to a hot cup of herbal tea can help.
Skipping meals causes blood sugar levels to drop, which subsequently can trigger headaches. Eating healthy meals plus small snacks throughout the day helps maintain overall health and prevent headaches.
Stress is another common cause of headaches, especially at work. Meditating or taking a short walk outside and getting fresh air will help clear your head and recharge.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help stop headaches. If your headaches are severe enough, you should see a doctor who may be able to offer you prescription medicine.
Headaches are one of the most common complaints among adults in the United States, affecting millions on a daily basis. Unfortunately, women are far more susceptible to headaches than men, which is mainly due to the flux in hormone levels that women experience every month. Taking care of yourself and responding to your body's needs can help prevent and treat headaches.
- Harvard Health. (n.d.). Headaches: When to worry, what to do. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch/2009/June/Headache-When-to-worry-what-to-do
- National Health Service UK. (2013). Hormone headaches. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/headaches/pages/hormonalheadaches.aspx
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Migraine fact sheet. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/migraine.html#n