It is thought that over 10 million people in the UK are regular headache sufferers.
While they are a very common health complaint, the majority are easy to treat and not serious.
Like so many things in life, there isn’t a one size fits all headache or remedy.
Some headaches are due to a virus, hangover or dehydration. However others fall into various categories and today we are looking at the types of headaches you may suffer with, why they happen and how to deal with them.
The most common headaches are tension headaches and which is hardly surprising giving the pressures and strains of modern day life. These everyday headaches tend to feel as if a tight band is stretched around the head and can last from a few hours to days but they can be treated with ibuprofen and paracetamol. A lack of water and fresh air, poor diet and stress can also lead to tension headaches, so avoid these whenever possible and look at making small lifestyle changes that can reap big rewards.
Many women suffer with headaches that are caused by their hormones, and these can be linked with periods. The pill, menopause and pregnancy all mix up your hormones and can trigger headaches. Reducing stress levels (yes, we know), sleeping well and eating a well balanced diet can all help manage your hormones and in turn, your headaches. You might want to keep a diary of these headaches in tune with your cycle and if a pattern is occurring, speak to your GP.
You hear people talk about migraines a lot, but they aren’t as common as tension headaches. The pain of a migraine is severe and tends to be located at the front or side of the head and they can prevent you from carrying on with everyday life. Migraines last for several days and are also known to cause nausea and vomiting as well as light and sound sensitivity. Fun, not. In many cases rest, water and regular painkillers are enough to deal with migraines but if the attacks are frequent and severe, we suggest speaking to your doctor about prescribed medication.
Cluster headaches are rare. They occur, as you would imagine, in clusters for a month or two at the same time of year. They tend to cause extreme pain around one eye, which can go watery and red, and can be accompanied by a blocked or runny nose. Everyday medicines don’t tend to touch these headaches but your GP can prescribe drugs that will help with the pain and potentially reduce attacks in the future.
While we take medication to ease the pain, sometimes the side effects can be the cause of a headache. Taking painkillers for too long, rather than exceeding the recommended dose, can actually cause the pain they are meant to be treating. ‘Painkiller headaches’ tend to clear up a week or two after stopping the medication but as with most things, they might get worse before the get better.
If you are ever concerned that a headache is something more serious, we would always advise you seek immediate medical advice.
Next week we will be looking at other ways to ease the pain of headaches and live a pain free life.