So far we have discussed about getting used to proper body postures while performing the 4 routine activities. Early in the series we mention that the problem most people face regarding headaches is that most will resort to painkillers. The next objective to be accomplished other than minimizing headaches is to reduce the pain when there is an onset of headache.
Different types of headaches will cause pain at different parts of the head and the neck, with different intensity of pain. There are 2 broad categories of headaches namely primary and secondary. Our concern is on primary headaches as these are the headaches that occur because you may have a headache problem. Secondary headaches are problems due to headaches occurring as a symptom or side effects from illnesses and diseases such as cancer.
There are mainly 3 kinds of primary headaches which follow:
- Tension headaches
- Migraine headaches
- Cluster headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. Tension headaches usually arise due to stress. In the context of headaches, the stress is defined to be physiological changes in the human body which lead to abnormal muscle tensing and spasms.
Some of the factors that may lead to such stress include:
– Emotional and mental disturbances due to work and relationships
– Sleep deprivation
– Irregular meal time
– Poor body postures
As the name suggests, a rapid rise in anxiety or tension will cause a greater influx of adrenaline and muscle tension. More adrenaline and muscle tension will cause muscle spasms around the temples and the neck leading to tension headaches. The pain arises from tension headaches ranges from mild to heavy moderate. That is why an abnormal increase in stress will lead to tension headaches.
Migraine headaches are considered to be a more advanced level of headaches. They too have similar causes as tension headaches, such as increase in stress and irregular meal times.
However, unlike tension headaches, migraine headaches also have a neurological origin which includes:
– The dilation of blood vessels at the head due to physical exertion
– The release of certain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin
That is why during exercises, you may experience headache as the blood vessels dilate in order to emit heat from the body. But after the exercise you probably feel relaxed and comfortable as the release of dopamine and serotonin actually constricts the blood vessels. Thus actually conditioning to regular exercises will actually help to reduce headaches. The symptoms of migraines are similar to tension headaches, which includes episodic or chronic pain. However as a more advanced level of headaches, some migraine sufferers may experience auras. Auras are visual disturbances that precede the headache phase. Their vision may be slightly blurred and they may be sensitive to bright light and flashes, which may worsen their headache pain.
Finally cluster headaches are the worst amongst the 3 types of headaches. Unlike the other 2 headaches, cluster headaches are considered to be a neurological disease. The most prominent feature of cluster headaches is the immense sharp pain that supposedly is even more painful than childbirth. Cluster headaches are episodic in nature with active periods interrupted by spontaneous remissions. Abnormalities at the hypothalamus play a major role in the onset of cluster headaches. Thus patients may experience severe bouts of aura and at serious degree of cluster headaches, the patient may faint.
The different forms of headaches will require different treatment. In the following articles, we will explore the different ways to treat the different forms of headaches.
Additional Reading on Headache Management