Headache is a common symptom encountered by each and every person at some point of their life. Headaches can be categorized into many depending upon their location, intensity, frequency and cause. Broadly speaking, headaches are of two types-Primary Headache, where headache is the symptom and the condition itself without any underlying cause or illness like Migraine and Tension headaches. Other is Secondary Headache, where headache is the symptom of some underlying condition like, aneurysm or brain tumours. Here we are going to discuss the commonly encountered primary headaches only.
Trigger factors for Primary Headaches
- Certain medications.
- Environmental triggers like bright light, intense odours and temperature changes.
- Hormone fluctuations.
- Too much of stress.
- Sleep deprivation/disruption.
- Certain foods like aged cheese, chocolates, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, caffeine and alcohol.
- Dehydration or hunger.
- Genetics, especially migraine tend to run in the family.
Types of Primary Headaches
- Migraine-Severe throbbing kind of pain, usually felt on one side of the head, lasting for several days at times. Migraine headache is often associated with nausea and vomiting. People with migraine are found to be sensitive to light, smell and sound. Recognizing patterns and triggering factors is important. Taking rest helps along with hot compresses and gentle massage. But if migraine is happening very frequently and affecting your quality of your life, you should see a Doctor immediately.
- Tension Headaches– It is the most common type of primary headache. Pain is dull, bilateral and is usually felt on forehead, temples and back of the head. It is generally caused by stress and is felt like tightness. Some specific neck and shoulder stretches help with this type of headache. (Read the post on “8 tips for Tension Headaches”)
- Cluster Headaches– Cluster headache is a burning type of headache and is usually associated with a stuffy or runny nose and watery eye. The location of cluster headache is behind or around one eye or one side of face. It lasts from a few minutes to few hours. Prescription drugs and nasal sprays help with this type of headache.
- Recognizing and avoiding the trigger factors is most important. Identify pattern of headache and maintain a headache diary or journal, noting the trigger factor, location of pain, severity and how long did it last.
- Warm or hot compresses.
- Gentle massage by rubbing over temples, forehead and back of the head.
- Take rest and stay well hydrated.
- Managing stress is crucial.
- Lifestyle modifications like regular sleep schedules and meal times are important.
- Medication prescribed by your doctor.
- Exercises to promote muscle relaxation and to relieve stress. It lifts the mood by releasing endorphins. Biking and walking are good aerobic options. Putting legs up the wall and the child pose of yoga also helps.
- Deep breathing to promote relaxation and increased oxygenation levels. Sit in a quiet and comfortable place and take in slow, rhythmic breaths for 5 seconds and then out for 5 seconds.
- Biofeedback and acupuncture are also found to be effective in headaches.
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