Most headaches are caused when there is muscle spasm in the neck and back of the head. Emotional stress, or holding the head in one position for too long can cause spasms. Sometimes the pain can be so severe that it feels like the head is in a tight band. Massage, hot showers, heating pads, or cold packs can help relax tight muscles, as well as biofeedback and muscle relaxation training.
Some people find relief using non-traditional methods like acupuncture or hypnosis, but non-prescription pain relievers can often be used to treat occasional headaches. Sometimes prescription pain relievers such as acetaminophen and aspirin may be helpful in severe cases. Prescription analgesics can be dangerous as they can lose effectiveness, encourage dependence, and cause “rebound headaches” after the effects wear off.
Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and Imipramine may be less addictive and more effective. These medications affect the brain’s pain pathways. These drugs must be taken for at least two weeks before they take effect. There are usually no side effects, as lower doses of pain medication are required. If taken at the first sign that you feel the headache is getting worse, drugs that constrict blood vessels can also be used to relieve pain.
What are the different types? There are many types of headaches. Nearly 150 diagnostic categories of headaches have been identified.
- Tension headache: Also known as chronic non-progressive or chronic daily headaches. These headaches are the most common, and they can affect both adults as well as adolescents. These headaches occur when the muscles contract, causing mild to moderate pain that can last for a long time. Although the exact cause of migraines is unknown, it is believed that they are caused by blood vessel contractions and other brain changes. The pain can range from mild to severe and can be described as a pounding, throbbing sensation. The pain can last from 4 hours to 3 days, and usually occurs between 1 and 4 times per month. Migraines can also cause sensitivity to light, noise, or odours, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, or abdominal pain. Children who suffer from migraines often feel dizzy, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset. Recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms are a common symptom in pediatric migraine patients. In this case, vomiting is the most common symptom. These migraines are also known as abdominal migraines.
- Mixed headache: Also known by transformed migraines, mixed headaches are a combination migraine and tension headaches. This type of headache can be experienced by both adults and children.
- Cluster headaches: A cluster headache refers to a specific group of attacks. Cluster headaches are the most common and severe type of headache. They can be described as intense, with a burning or piercing sensation that is either constant or intermittent. Cluster headaches can be so severe that it is difficult for sufferers to remain still. They are often found pacing during attacks. The pain is usually located behind one eye or around the eye region and does not shift sides. These headaches usually occur between one and three times per day and last anywhere from two weeks to three months. Sometimes, the headaches will go away for months or years. However, they may recur once in a while.
- Sinus headaches: This is a condition that causes constant, severe pain in the cheekbones and forehead, bridge of the nose, and can be exacerbated by sudden head movements or straining. It is often accompanied by other sinus symptoms such as nasal discharge, facial swelling, fullness in the ears, fever, or feeling of fullness.