Most of us are familiar with what a headache feels like. Some of us get one occasionally, and some of us get them frequently. They can range from mild to moderate, to being so severe that they are entirely debilitating. Categorically, this type of pain is usually referred to as either migraine, tension, cluster or sinus. There are even so-called 'ice-pick' headaches which come on suddenly in a precise spot. These types usually only last a few seconds and are generally not indicative of anything serious. Their cause is as yet unknown.
In rare cases, headaches can indicate a more serious condition, so they should not be looked at lightly if you experience the following symptoms:
- worsening over the course of a week
- you also experience a neurological disturbance such as loss of balance, weakness, or loss of speech or double vision
- you are also vomiting or are extremely nauseous
- seizures or loss of consciousness
- fever and stiff neck
- sudden onset of the pain that is severe and is not localized to one spot
What causes them?
Headaches can be caused by a variety of factors. Stress, lack of sleep or poor diet are usually the main factors, often indicating what are called tension headaches. These are caused by the muscles in your face, scalp, neck, and/or shoulders contracting and causing pain. Migraines, which tend to be quite severe, are thought to be caused by changes in your nervous system and by imbalances in neurotransmitters (which help send messages inside the brain). Migraines can be triggered by hormonal changes, food sensitivities, and even odors. It is not uncommon for some people to experience tension-migraines as well. Sinus headaches are less common, are caused by bacterial infection, and usually appear after an upper respiratory infection. Cluster headaches, least common of all, tend to appear in 'clusters' over the course of a few days, weeks or months, with long periods of relief that can last for years. Cluster types are sometimes the result of alcohol use, usually last for a short period of time, and often start while you are asleep.
Your doctor will likely treat your tension headaches with pain relievers such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. Sinus types require antibiotics, while cluster headaches often require medications such as lithium, calcium channel blockers, steroids, and even some migraine-relieving medications. Migraines themselves can be treated in a variety of ways: mild migraines can often be subdued with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and more severe migraines may call for something with added codeine. Triptans are a class of drugs that can be very effective in treating existing migraines, and some drugs (such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and anti-depressants) can be taken preventatively for migraines.
How can natural medicine help?
Natural medicine is excellent for treating and preventing headaches of all kinds. Physiotherapy can help you find balance with your musculature and to set up a plan that helps you reduce the frequency and severity of your pain. Chiropractic care and massage therapy are very good at helping reduce stress and muscle tension that can lead to pain. And acupuncture and TCM is great for treating the pain, as well as decreasing or even eliminating the number of headaches from which you might suffer.
Contact us for a FREE consultation on how natural therapy can help you prevent and manage your pain.
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