IMAGE - Shefford Osteopathic Clinic logo

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 9:00 – 5:30, Saturday: 9:00 – 12:00

Headaches

Do you suffer with headaches?

Did you know that there are 150 types of headaches?

Would you like some tips for managing and preventing your headaches?

What are Headaches?

Headaches are never pleasant, and most of us suffer from them at some point in our lives. There are many different types of headache and various causes, beyond the regretful hangover headache or those we experience when we have a cold. However, it is important to see a medical professional if you are experiencing persistent headaches on a regular basis. Sometimes these can be due to something as simple as needing glasses or even a symptom of food allergies.

In the UK alone, 25 million working and school days are lost due to migraines, with the same number of absences also caused by chronic daily headaches (CDH) and tension-type headaches (TTH). (See headache types below.) That’s 50 million days lost in total.

Behind these rather startling figures is an epidemic of desperately stressful lives, with this stress frequently compounded by psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. Disturbingly, there is a three times higher than average occurrence of depression in the headache population, particularly in chronic headache sufferers, but a lot can be done to alleviate this pain and improve people’s quality of life.

Types

There are 150 different types of headaches. They can be split into PRIMARY and SECONDARY. The most common ones are:

PRIMARY HEADACHES …

… are those when the pain in your head is the condition. In other words, your headache isn’t being triggered by something that your body is dealing with, like illness or allergies.

These headaches can be episodic or chronic:

  • Episodic headaches may occur every so often or even just once in a while. They can last anywhere from half an hour to several hours.
  • Chronic headaches are more consistent. They occur most days out of the month and can last for days at a time. In these cases, a pain management plan is necessary. They are Tension Headaches, Cluster Headaches and Migraines.

Tension headaches and headaches from the neck.

A tension-type headache is the most common type of headache and the one we think of as a normal, everyday headache. It often feels like a constant dull ache that affects both sides of the head and a feeling of pressure behind the eyes. You may have tenderness or sensitivity around your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles.

Anyone can get a tensions headaches and they are the most common type of headache among adults and teens. They are often triggered by stress and cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over time and usually have no other symptoms.

Cluster Headaches

This type of headache is intense and feels like a burning or piercing pain behind or around one eye, either throbbing or constant. It’s the least common but the most severe type of headache. The pain can be so bad that most people with cluster headaches can’t sit still and will often pace during an attack. On the side of the pain, the eyelid droops, the eye reddens, pupil gets smaller or the eye tears.  The nostril on that side runs or stuffs.

They’re called “cluster headaches” because they tend to happen in a series. Each individual headache can last from 15 minutes to 3 hours. After one headaches resolves, another will soon follow. You might get them one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last 2 weeks to 3 months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into “remission”) for months or years, only to come back again. Cluster headaches are three times more common in men than women.

Migraine

Migraine pain is an intense pulsing, pounding , throbbing from deep within your head. They can last from 4 hours to 3 days and significantly limits your ability to carry out your daily routine.They usually happen one to four times per month. Along with the pain, people have other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, noise, or smells; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and upset stomach or belly pain.

Some migraines are preceded by visual disturbances. About one out of five people will experience these symptoms before the headache starts. Known as an aura, it may cause you to see:

  • flashing lights
  • shimmering lights
  • zigzag lines
  • stars
  • blind spots

Auras can also include tingling on one side of your face or in one arm and trouble speaking. However, the symptoms of a stroke can also mimic a migraine, so if any of these symptoms are new to you, you should seek immediate medical attention.

When a child has a migraine, she  or he may look pale, feel dizzy, and have blurry vision, fever, and an upset stomach.

A small percentage of children’s migraines include digestive symptoms, like vomiting, that happen about once a month. 

Migraines might run in your family, or they can be associated with other nervous system conditions. Women are three times more likely to develop migraines than men. People with post-traumatic stress disorder also have an increased risk for migraines.

Certain environmental factors, such as sleep disruption, dehydration, skipped meals, some foods, hormone fluctuations, and exposure to chemicals are common migraine triggers.

If you experience headaches that are:

  • debilitating more than three days a month,
  • are somewhat debilitating four days a month, or
  • occurring at least six days per month,

talk to your doctor about taking a daily medication to prevent your headaches.

Research shows that preventative medications are significantly underused. Only 3 to 13 percent of those with migraines take preventative medication, while up to 38 percent actually need it. Preventing migraine greatly improves quality of life and productivity.

SECONDARY HEADACHES …

…  are a symptom of something else that is going on in your body. If the trigger of your secondary headache is ongoing, it can become chronic. Treating the primary cause generally brings headache relief. Common ones are:

Allergy or Sinus Headaches

With these, you feel a deep and constant pain in your cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of your nose. They happen when cavities in your head, called sinuses, get inflamed. The pain usually comes along with other sinus symptoms, such as a runny nose, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and swelling in your face. A true sinus headache is from a sinus infection so the nasal discharge is yellow or green, unlike the clear discharge in cluster or migraine

Hormone Headaches

Women commonly experience headaches that are linked to hormonal fluctuations. Menstruation, birth control pills, and pregnancy all affect your oestrogen levels, which can cause a headache. Those headaches associated specifically with the menstrual cycle are also known as menstrual migraines. These can occur right before, during, or right after menses, as well as during ovulation.

It’s estimated that about 60 percent of women with migraines also experience menstrual migraines, so alternative remedies may have a role in decreasing overall headaches per month. Relaxation techniques, yoga, acupuncture, and eating a modified diet may help prevent migraine headaches.

Caffeine Headaches

Caffeine affects blood flow to your brain. Having too much can give you a headache, as can quitting caffeine “cold turkey.” People who have frequent migraines are at risk of triggering a headache due to their caffeine use.

When you’re used to exposing your brain to a certain amount of caffeine, a stimulant, each day, you might get a headache if you don’t get your caffeine fix. This may be because caffeine changes your brain chemistry, and withdrawal from it can trigger a headache.

Not everyone who cuts back on caffeine will experience a withdrawal headache. Keeping your caffeine intake at a steady, reasonable level — or quitting it entirely — can prevent these headaches from happening.

Exertion Headaches

Exertion headaches happen quickly after periods of intense physical activity. Weight lifting, running, and sexual intercourse are all common triggers for an exertion headache. It’s thought that these activities cause increased blood flow to your skull, which can lead to a throbbing headache on both sides of your head.

An exertion headache shouldn’t last too long. This type of headache usually resolves within a few minutes or several hours. Analgesics, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), should ease your symptoms.

If you develop exertion headaches, make sure to see your doctor. In some cases, they may be a sign of a serious underlying medication condition.

Hypertension Headaches

High blood pressure can cause you to have a headache, and this kind of headache signals an emergency. This occurs when your blood pressure becomes dangerously high.

A hypertension headache will usually occur on both sides of your head and is typically worse with any activity. It often has a pulsating quality. You may also experience changes in vision, numbness or tingling, nosebleeds, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

If you think you’re experiencing a hypertension headache, you should seek immediate medical attention.

These types of headaches typically go away soon after the blood pressure is under better control. They shouldn’t reoccur as long as high blood pressure continues to be managed.

Medication Overuse Headaches

These are also know as rebound headaches. Ironically, the painkillers we use to treat our headaches may be making them worse, as we can end up dependent on them and overuse them. Overuse is defined as taking medication for headaches on more than 10 days per month, so roughly 2-3 days a week.

They can feel like a dull, tension-type headache, or they may feel more intensely painful, like a migraine. You may be more susceptible to this type of headache if you frequently use over the counter pain relievers (i.e. self prescribed). Overuse of these medications leads to more headaches, rather than fewer.

However, medication overuse headaches only occur when painkillers are used for headache treatment purposes; painkillers do not create headaches in people using them for other types of pain, such as back pain. It is important to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if you think you may be suffering from headaches caused by the overuse of painkillers or other headache medication.

Post Traumatic Headaches

Post-traumatic headaches can develop after any type of head injury. These headaches feel like migraines or tension-type headaches, and usually last up to 6 to 12 months after your injury occurs. They can become chronic.

Headaches and dehydration

Headaches are a common symptom of mild to moderate dehydration. In fact, many types of headaches (such as migraine) can be triggered by dehydration. When you are experiencing a headache, it is important to consider whether dehydration has played a role, and so increasing your fluid intake is an important first step in managing and preventing headaches.

Nutrition and migraines

There is fair evidence for the effectiveness of certain nutritional supplements in preventing migraines. These can usually be found in the vitamin aisle in supermarkets or in health food shops. The following have been found to be promising:

  • Magnesium is important for bone health as it appears to facilitate calcium absorption, but it may also help to prevent migraines. Spices, nuts, cereals, coffee, cocoa, tea, and vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. Leafy vegetables, as well as grains and nuts, generally have higher magnesium content than meat and dairy products. Studies have shown that migraine sufferers have low levels of magnesium in the brain during migraine attacks and may also suffer from magnesium deficiency. This is especially important for migraines triggered by the menstrual cycle, where magnesium deficiency may be a contributing factor.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is used in a number of biological processes, including muscle contraction and the production of protein. It also works as an antioxidant. Some food sources, such as meat and fish, contain CoQ10 but the amounts in food are naturally less than can be obtained from supplements. Primary dietary sources of CoQ10 include oily fish (such as salmon and tuna), organ meats (such as liver), and whole grains. Most individuals obtain sufficient amounts of CoQ10 through a balanced diet, but supplementation may be useful for individuals with particular health conditions, including headaches. It may also help with some muscle pains.
  • Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is found in small amounts in many foods, and is needed for converting food to energy. Lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and milk are all sources of Riboflavin. Some breads and cereals are also often fortified with this essential nutrient, and increasing our intake, if we are deficient, has been shown to help prevent migraines.

Want to learn more about Headaches? We look in more details below at the symptomscauses and how osteopathy can help.

Symptoms

Many of us are familiar with some form of the throbbing, uncomfortable, and distracting pain of a headache. The World Health Organization points out that nearly everyone experiences a headache once in a while.

Although headaches can be defined as pain “in any region of the head,” the cause, duration, and intensity of this pain can vary according to the type of headache.

In some cases, a headache may require immediate medical attention. Seek immediate medical care if you’re experiencing any of the following alongside your headache:

  • stiff neck
  • rash
  • the worst headache you’ve ever had
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • slurred speech
  • any fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • paralysis in any part of your body or visual loss

Causes

The pain you feel during a headache comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Specific nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to your brain. But it’s not clear why these signals turn on in the first place.

The most common reasons are:

  • having a cold or the flu
  • infection – sinusitis, throat or ear
  • stress
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • bad posture
  • eyesight problems
  • not eating regular meals
  • not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  • taking too many painkillers
  • women having their period or menopause
  • environmental – strong smells, chemicals, pollution, noise, lighting and weather changes

How we can help…

Here at Shefford Osteopathic Clinic we have lots of experience in treating headaches. We will assess what may be causing your headache. If there is muscle tension in the upper back and neck and poor posture we will be able to help you. With a combination of hands-on treatment, stretching, massage and advice on posture, nutrition, exercise and stress management we offer bespoke treatment to suit your individual needs.

If we don’t believe we can help, we will refer you to you GP.

It might be worth noting:

  • In most cases, episodic headaches will go away within 48 hours. If you have a headache that lasts more than two days or that increases in intensity, you should see your doctor for assistance.
  • If you’re getting headaches more than 15 days out of the month over a period of three months, you might have a chronic headache condition. You should see your doctor to find out what’s wrong, even if you’re able to manage the pain with aspirin or ibuprofen.

Headaches can be a symptom of more serious health conditions, and some do require treatment beyond over the counter medications and home remedies.

Start to live your life again …

Call us now on 01462 811006 or Book Online Now

to make an appointment

What to do now ……

If you’ve come to this website looking for help, then don’t in silence suffer any longer.

Contact us immediately on 01462 811006 for a consultation and let’s assess your condition.

At the assessment, we’ll take some details from you and build your case history. We’ll discuss why you’ve come to see us and where you have any aches and pains. Then we’ll examine you with the aim of giving you the appropriate treatment.

This will take a little while to complete, but it’s a necessary part of the ethical guidelines we work to. The guidelines are there to make sure everything is done professionally and to a high standard of patient care. I’m sure you agree that’s a good thing!

If you have any questions about what we do and how we do it, call us on 01462 811006 or use the contact form below – and we’ll be happy to help.