Everything You Need to Know About Headaches
We’ve all had a headache at some point in our lives. Headaches can range from a mere annoyance to extremely debilitating. In the U.S. alone, more than 45 million people experience chronic, recurring headaches. But what are the different types of headaches? And what can we do to try and decrease or eliminate the pain?
The Three Main Types of Headaches
1. Tension Type Headaches:
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches, occurring in over 38% of adults. Typically they present as a band like pain that is pressing or tight and occurs on both sides of the head. Tension headaches do not pulse or pound and are not aggravated by physical activity. The cause is likely from stress and/or tense muscles in the neck and shoulders.
2. Migraine Headaches:
Migraines occur in 12% of adults and have a strong family history component. The quality of the headache tends to be pulsating and one sided. People often experience nausea or vomiting along with the pain and can be aggravated by lights or sounds.
3. Cluster Headaches:
Cluster headaches are a sudden and severe type of headache that are more common in males. They occur in less than 0.1% of adults and present as one sided stabbing pain around the eye. The person is restless and cannot sit still due to the pain. The headaches cycle with periods of remission.
Honourable mention: Caffeine withdrawal headaches can occur in 50% of people who consume more than 2.5 cups of coffee a day!
Triggers: Tension headaches are usually caused by stressful events or poor posture. Migraines on the other hand can be caused by a variety of triggers such as food, sleep, stress, hormones (often decrease in estrogen), and weather changes.
Tracking: It is important to keep a thorough record, or headache diary, when trying to figure out what is causing your headaches. Trigger foods to pay special attention to include: preservatives and additives, sulfites, MSG, aged cheeses, nuts, cured meats, chocolate, citrus, and onions. Use a simple tracker like the one found here.
Tips and Tricks:
Hydrotherapy: The use of water therapy has been around for centuries. First, be sure you are hydrated and drinking enough water throughout the day. Next, try this trick to help remove the congestion from your head: Place your feet in a warm bath & place a wet cold towel behind your neck.
Change your pillow: Proper neck alignment is important when we sleep. If our pillow is too high or too low, it not only strains our spine, but also the muscles in the area.
Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil has been found to be beneficial for relieving tension type headaches. Rub a few drops of oil on your temples and across your forehead. Not only will your headache decrease, you will also smell nice!
Epsom Salts: Often tight muscles can be exacerbated due to low magnesium. And the best way to replenish that is right at the source! Dissolve some Epsom salts in a bowl of hot water. Soak a towel in the water, wring out the towel, and place on the tight muscles on your neck and shoulders.
De-stress: Both migraines and tension type headaches can be triggered by stress. Try doing some yoga or meditation, or take some time to do your favourite hobby.
Get some bodywork done: Bodywork such as acupuncture, cupping, chiropractic and massage can help relax tight muscles AND help de-stress, which will alleviate headache pain. Two birds, one stone!
-Evaluation of headache. Clinical Key. 2011. From: https://www-clinicalkey-com.ccnm.idm.oclc.org/#!/content/medical_topic/21-s2.0-6021001
-Which pillow should I choose. From: http://www.glowphysio.com.au/blog/how-to-choose-the-perfect-pillow/