Category: Headaches

5 Types of Headaches Explained

Closeup of young man touching temples with fingers as if suffering from severe migraine, feeling sick, isolated on gray background; Blog: Types of Headaches

 

Headaches are a strikingly common medical complaint that nearly all of us have experienced at one point or another. They are quite often described with vulgar language while individuals experience extreme discomfort during an episode. 

Before going into some of the more common types of headaches that individuals face, it is important to state that one should always seek medical attention following any type of trauma affecting the head, neck or spine that causes severe pain or neurological deficiency. This may be indicative of a much more severe problem than a typical headache and could be life-threatening if not addressed quickly.

Despite how common they are, there are a number of complexities that differentiate each episode from one another based on the mechanism of onset, presentation of symptoms, location of pain and potential management for the condition. Below are five of the more common types of headaches that people commonly face:

1. Tension Headaches

Tension headaches affect approximately 3 out of 4 people at some point in their lives and can be brought on by a number of different reasons. Often, they result following emotional distress, stress or strong emotional distraught, or general tension in the neck and shoulders. The pain will usually be focalized in the back and sides of the neck as well as the base of the neck, especially when the muscles of the neck and shoulders start to spasm. Management is best done using over the counter anti-inflammatory medication or heat on the back of the neck. These headaches usually do not persist for long.

2. Migraines

 Migraines are less common than tension headaches but are widely considered to be much more severe in both symptoms and duration, lasting up to multiple days at a time with little to no relief. While they are not as well understood as other types of headaches, there are a number of triggers that can lead to an episode, such as stress or missing meals. Often there may be visual disturbances along with intense pain on one side of the head. Management is often addressed with medication, either over the counter or prescribed, removal of triggers and escaping to a dark, quiet room.

3.  Sinus Headaches 

Sinus headaches occur when pressure in the sinuses of the head build-up in conjunction with severe congestion. Often, this will occur seasonally as allergies are in full swing. Often, they will present with pain in the front of the head as well as potential earaches. Utilizing allergy medication to reduce sinus symptoms may help reduce the frequency and severity of sinus headaches.

4. Exertional Headaches

Intense physical activity such as running, jumping, heavy weight lifting n may cause exertional headaches. Often, these types of headaches result from a build-up in pressure that occurs while performing activity, causing a strain on the body as a whole but especially the head. They usually subside quickly and may be aided by over the counter medication.

5. Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are named such because they tend to recur over a period of several weeks. They usually present with pain limited to one side of the head, typically around one eye. In most cases, medication will need to be prescribed to manage the condition and make symptoms more bearable. Often, the individual episodes will last less than 3 hours.

When to Seek Treatment

If you are experiencing chronic headaches or head pain that does not line up with any of the types of headaches listed above, it is advised to seek medical attention to identify the source of your pain.  

One of the oldest neurology practices in the Bronx and Westchester, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of neurological conditions including chronic headaches such as migraines. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.

Treatment Options for Migraines

woman with migraine; treatment options for migraines

Anyone who has ever dealt with migraines needs no introduction to how painful and debilitating they can be. For those suffering from chronic migraines, quality of life is often impacted.

Migraines are considered chronic when a person has headaches on more days than not. There various traditional and alternative treatment options for migraines that may be available to offer relief and restore your quality of life.

1. Medications

Medications are a very common treatment option for those who suffer from migraines. This method is normally are broken up into two categories: pain relief and prevention.

  • Pain relief medications fall along a spectrum of options depending on the severity of the migraines. Over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used alone or in combination with drugs such as caffeine to help alleviate the symptoms of more mild migraine attacks. However, most individuals who suffer from chronic and severe migraines may receive little to no benefit from these options as they are less potent and do not have long-lasting effects. Medications, such as those for anti-nausea, may be prescribed to help patient’s manage the adverse symptoms commonly associated with migraines.
  • Preventative medications are commonly prescribed for issues aside from migraines but may help with the symptoms associated. Some of these include medications for hypertension, depression, seizures, and so on. As they all have a number of side effects and intended actions, it should be discussed carefully with one’s physician.

2. Botox

While most known for use in cosmetic procedures, Botox is FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic migraines in adults who are age 18 and older. A form of botulinum toxin, Botox works to prevent migraines before they start by entering the nerve endings around where it is injected and blocking the release of chemicals that are involved in pain transmission.

3. Nutrition  

Adequate hydration and nutrition is often the most overlooked aid in relieving symptoms associated with migraines. When the body is dehydrated, migraines will often be more severe, especially in those who have a prior history. By ensuring proper hydration, the blood stream’s concentration is at a more ideal level, allowing for adequate flow to the brain and the body as a whole. If water intake is greatly increased, be sure to add in electrolytes so as to maintain the body’s natural balance.

In addition to water, there are a number of foods that have been shown to help relieve the painful symptoms of migraines. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, have anti-inflammatory properties and help with metabolism at the brain. This can help to reduce the pain levels associated with more severe migraines.

Your physician may recommend that you work with a registered dietician as part of your treatment plan for chronic migraines.

4. Acupuncture

Based on eastern medicine and the concept of meridians, this method utilizes different trigger points to alleviate migraine pain. Case studies have shown some degree of success depending on the patient and their pain. According to the American Migraine Foundation, the frequency of headache is dropped by 50% or more in up to 59% of individuals receiving acupuncture and this effect can persist for more than 6 months.

5. Psychotherapy

Some individuals have found that working with a therapist has helped them learn how to interpret and understand their pain better, which has allowed them to gain an understanding of their condition and better control their perception of pain. A form of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy can also aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression, which are extremely common in patients suffering from chronic pain conditions.

6. Meditation

Meditation can be effective for individuals whose migraines are triggered by stress, anxiety and tension. The idea is that by alleviating the underlying cause of stress, mind-body techniques like meditation can help relieve headaches and potentially prevent them from occurring in the first place. Some brain wave and imaging studies suggest that the practice of mindful meditation can actually modify brain structure and activity.

When to Seek Help

Whether you suffer from minor or severe pain caused by migraine headaches, the physicians at Regional Neurosurgical Associates can help you live a normal, pain-free life. Our goal is to determine what is triggering your migraine and provide long-term solutions to help prevent future cases. Call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment today.