Although painful and troublesome, most headaches are minor health concerns and can be easily treated with analgesics. However if they are recurring, or severe and associated with other symptoms, seek medical advice.
Headache following head injury, especially when associated with drowsiness or dizziness, requires medical supervision.
There are many different types of headache - these are some of the symptoms associated with some common types:
- Tension headache - a dull, steady pain that feels like a band tightening around the back of the head and neck
- Migraine headache - severe throbbing pain usually located on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, tingling and numbness of the limbs
- Sinus headache - steady pain accompanied by congestion in the area behind the face, worse for bending forward
Tension headaches are triggered by stress or physical irritants such as persistent noise, eyestrain, poor posture, too much caffeine, or the grinding or clenching of teeth.
Migraines involve excessive constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain. They can be triggered by any number of things including food allergy, stress, premenstrual syndrome, flashing lights or bright glare, too little or too much exercise or sleep, even changes in barometric pressure (humidity).
Sinus headaches typically result from hay fever and other seasonal allergies, or from a cold or the flu, and are caused by pressure and inflammation in the sinus cavity.
Other causes of headache include:
- Low blood sugar
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Blow to the head
- A medical condition
Fever few has been clinically proven to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines and reduce the amount of associated vomiting
- Relaxant herbs such as Passionflower, Valerian and Hops can help to relieve the stress and nervous tension which sometimes leads to tension headache
- Magnesium is antispasmodic to the muscles and can be used to treat and prevent headaches caused by muscular stress
- Horseradish and garlic dry mucus secretions that contribute to sinus headaches
Life Style Factors
Regular exercise releases natural pain killing agents called endorphins, and helps to relieve muscle tension.
Massage therapy can be a very effective and enjoyable treatment for many types of headache. Regularly treating yourself to a massage will help to avoid accumulated muscle tension.
At the first sign of a migraine headache, drink three glasses of very cold water, then go to bed with a cold compress placed over the area that is most affected (make sure the room is dark and quiet - without a pillow).
If you suffer from frequent migraines, a food diary will help to identify triggers in your diet. Common culprits include caffeine, chocolate, aged cheeses, citrus fruits, processed meats, the food additive MSG, and red wine. (Hint - a migraine may take as long as 48 hours to develop after the food has been eaten).
Taking Blackmores Feverfew daily helps to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine.
- Magnesium relaxes constricted blood vessels and muscles. A course of magnesium tablets may reduce the incidence of migraine and tension headache.
- Take regular stretch breaks when you are working or driving for long periods of time. This will help to improve blood flow and prevent muscles going into spasm.
- Wear good quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare, particularly when you are out in the snow or near water.
- Schedule regular activities such as meditation and Tai chi to help reduce stress.
- Your chiropractor or osteopath can help to relieve and prevent headaches caused by musculo-skeletal imbalance or misalignment of the spine or jaw.
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