Nearly everyone gets headaches, even if it’s only occasionally.
Some get headaches more than others. Headaches come in different forms. These include severe migraines and sinus head pain. A headache also occurs when you’re hungover or when you have other forms of sickness.
When a headache strikes, most people only need to rest and drink some water. If the headache is severe enough, you may need to take some over-the-counter painkillers or use natural pain relief methods.
But when should you worry about headaches? Here’s how to tell if your chronic headaches are normal and what you should do if they’re not.
What Causes Headaches?
There are many types of headaches and they all have different causes. In addition, no one really understands what causes headaches.
The most popular theory is the blood vessels in the head and neck signal pain. The brain’s surrounding tissues and the nerves can also signal a throbbing headache.
Some headaches occur as a result of another bodily change or even an injury. Common examples include hormonal changes, hormonal instability, and brain injury.
The best course of action is to discover any triggers that cause headaches.
For most people, these triggers include a long night of drinking, not eating enough vitamins and minerals, not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, dehydration, exposure to light, and stress.
Other reasons may include poor posture and eating foods that contain nitrates.
Some headaches have specific purposes. For example, if you have clogged sinuses, it’s normal to feel head pressure and pain around your sinuses.
The Most Common Types of Headaches
Most headaches have similar causes and triggers. But these headaches still differ. They impact certain parts of your head, signal different blood vessels or nerves, and these factors impact the severity and duration of the headaches.
Tension headaches usually occur on both sides of your head. The pain is typically mild; you can perform normal tasks, but the pain will cause a nuisance. Some pain is more severe and causes the person to lay down and rest.
Tension headache pain is also not pulsating or throbbing. Rather, it feels more like pressure than pain. The sensation is also described as tightening.
Those who are prone to migraines usually experience something that triggers migraines. This can include stress, lack of sleep, and too much exposure to light.
Like tension headaches, migraines usually affect one side of the head. Severe migraines can affect both sides of the head. But migraines are more severe than tension headaches.
The pain is powerful enough to make anyone lay in bed all day, specifically in a dark room.
The sensation is described as a throbbing pain; if you put your fingers on the area the migraine is affecting, you can feel the throbbing.
Migraines can also cause other symptoms. This includes nausea and sensitivity to sound and light.
Many migraine sufferers get an aura before the migraine. An aura is a warning sign that a migraine is coming. Examples of common auras include getting tunnel vision and even hallucinating flashing lights.
Migraines typically last one day but severe migraines can last longer. While there are over-the-counter and prescription pain medication options, most migraine sufferers experience relief only after they fall asleep.
Cluster headaches are rare but serious. They also occur more in men than in women. Patients usually only get these headaches at the same time every year.
They will get frequent headaches, lasting a few days to a few months. The headaches themselves are usually a short duration, lasting no longer than an hour.
The sensation is similar to a severe migraine. The patient will experience a severe throbbing sensation met with nausea, sensitivity, and even a drooping eye.
The sensation is similar to a typical tension headache; you feel them on one or both sides of the head and the sensation is described best as pressure rather than pain.
However, the individual gets these daily or almost daily. Some individuals experience symptoms of a migraine when they have these headaches. These include sensitivity to light and sound as well as nausea.
These headaches are similar to migraines; but unlike traditional migraines, they offer no relief.
The individual feels constant pain on one or both sides of the head. The pain is usually moderate; however, the individual can have times of severe pain.
These headaches can also come with migraine-like symptoms, such as nausea.
Over time, the individual can experience other health issues related to their hemicrania continua. This can be as mild as sinus issues or as severe as pupil narrowing.
Hemicrania continua sufferers can take prescription medication to reduce the pain.
Hemiplegic migraines are very rare but serious types of migraines that are mainly genetic. These migraines are similar to traditional ones but also cause a range of additional symptoms.
These include numbness and weakness. The most severe cases can even cause paralysis.
If you have this type of migraine, seeing a specialist is necessary to help prevent a stroke.
Uncommon Migraines and Headaches
There are many types of migraines that are more uncommon than the ones mentioned previously. These include:
It’s recommended that users read the side effects and prepare themselves if the medication they’re taking can cause a headache.
Existing migraine sufferers are the most at-risk and taking certain medications can result in more severe migraines.
Ice Cream Headaches
These headaches occur when you eat something cold and go beyond the typical “brain freeze.”
This type of headache pain is sudden but extremely sharp. The pain doesn’t last very long but it’s recommended these individuals stay away from cold food.
These headaches are caused by lots of movement, such as exercise and even sex.
These headaches are harmless but it’s recommended these individuals limit their range of movement to prevent a headache. These attacks are more common in men, specifically during sexual intercourse.
High Blood Pressure Headaches
Hypertension typically doesn’t cause headaches unless your blood pressure is extremely high. These individuals should regularly see a doctor to treat their hypertension and control their headaches.
When Should You Start Worrying?
Even if you do have daily or constant headaches, your doctor may only recommend pain medication to keep them at bay. But there are times when you should start worrying and you should start seeking medical care.
A Change in the Headache Pattern
Daily or constant migraine sufferers can identify a pattern with their headaches. But of the pattern goes off course, this is a time to worry. These pattern changes can include a new pain sensation, duration change, or a new headache cause.
Headaches That Develop When You’re Older
Most migraine sufferers experience their first migraines between the ages of 30 and 40. Some experience their first migraine attack when they’re younger, in their teenage years.
If you never suffered from migraines until after 50, this can signal hormonal issues, especially if you’re going through menopause.
Personality or Mental Health Change
Even though migraines are a nuisance, they usually shouldn’t interfere with your mental stability. If your migraines become an interference with your whole life, it’s essential you seek treatment.
Most of these personality changes are emotional, such as increased anger. Some mental changes can impact your functioning, such as confusion.
These are all symptoms of a brain tumor, as well as losing sensation in your arms and legs.
It’s common to get red-eye and eye drooping when you have a migraine. However, this shouldn’t occur with every migraine and the results shouldn’t be permanent.
Changes to your eyes can be a sign of increased nerve activity. If you let these nerve issues persist, you can get high blood pressure and other serious ailments.
Some migraine symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and nausea, are common and don’t signal any hidden issues. However, there are symptoms that signal a more serious issue.
These symptoms can include:
- Stiff neck
- Decreased memory
- Decreased alertness
- Slurred speech
- Visual disturbances
Migraines with these symptoms may mean there are other problems. These include ailments of the bones, nerves, and muscles. Some of these symptoms also put you at a higher likelihood of a stroke.
When to See a Doctor
Even though the migraine symptoms and signs mentioned in the previous section are causes of alarm, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to see a doctor. But some cases require a doctor’s visit or regular doctor’s visits.
You Require Pain Medication for Every Headache
As stated previously, most migraines go away on their own. Even though those who get constant migraines may resort to resting in bed rather than taking pain medication.
But the most severe headaches will only go away with pain medication or the patient needs medication to control their migraines.
In this case, a regular doctor’s visit is necessary. Your doctor will either provide a prescription or will monitor your OTC pain reliever use.
You Have a Couple of Headaches a Week
Most migraine sufferers experience multiple migraines in a short period of time. This doesn’t signal anything is wrong with your health. But even experiencing a couple of migraines a week can interfere with your life.
Your doctor can help prevent and treat migraines so you experience them less frequently.
Your Headaches Are Getting Worse
As stated previously, most migraine sufferers identify migraine patterns to help prevent them or can identify warning signs when one is approaching. However, these patterns shouldn’t change or get worse.
If they are, there are likely other complications. It’s best to get evaluated by your doctor.
Your headaches shouldn’t cause any change in your physical or mental health. Mental health changes are defined by emotional issues, such as increased anger, and mental functioning issues, such as confusion and memory loss.
Physically disability from headaches is mainly identified by your daily limitations. This can be as minor as not having the energy to leave your bed and as severe as paralysis.
There are usually underlying issues with these disabilities, such as a brain tumor.
Headache and Migraine Treatments
There are many types of headache treatments, regardless of the type of headache you have and the severity. Most headaches you can treat DIY. Here are the most common examples.
Most migraines aren’t serious. Patients usually need to make lifestyle changes to prevent migraines.
Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water will help control the migraine impulses. Exercise also increases feel-good chemicals in the brain, helping keep migraines at bay.
It’s also best to target the trigger. Many patients experience migraines due to stress. Stress management methods such as meditation will keep your mind calm, preventing a migraine. The same goes for those with sleep issues.
Before using pain medication, including OTC painkillers, it’s recommended patients try natural remedies.
This includes taking supplements to control nerve activity, such as magnesium, and supplements that prevent pain, such as curcumin/turmeric.
Other natural pain relief methods include CBD, essential oils, hot compresses, acupuncture, and plenty of sleep.
If you tried these two methods and aren’t experiencing relief, pain medication will soothe existing migraines.
OTC medication is the most common. But your doctor can provide more potent pain medication as well as prescription medication that can prevent a migraine.
Hormonal issues can cause migraines. For these patients, hormone therapy is recommended. For women, birth control methods are the most common option and can stabilize hormones.
In severe cases, your migraines may require surgery.
If you have severe migraines daily or almost daily, surgical decompression in the nerves can reduce the frequency and intensity of your migraines.
This operation is performed by a specialist called a neurosurgeon at a location such as the Brain and Spine Center.
Treat Your Chronic Headaches
Chronic headaches are a nuisance but don’t always signal a severe issue. Understanding the migraine dangers and knowing when to act can prevent a more severe ailment.
For more health advice, continue reading our blog.