What Are Headaches and Migraines and How to Handle Them!

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Headaches are your body’s way of telling you to sleep well, eat food on time and drink more water.What causes headaches in the early morning? It could be insufficient or disturbed sleep or a stuffy room where there is no ventilation. There is every possibility that your throbbing headache is much more than a general one caused by eye strain (you may need spectacles), coughing, physical exhaustion or stress. One must not take it lightly especially if it recurs frequently.

Causes and Symptoms of Headaches:

The cause could be due to a single cause. It may or may not accompany with a headache on one or both sides. It may travel from side to side and appear any time of day or night with a duration of a couple of hours to a week.

It is a neurological disorder of altered vascular and/or neuronal activity in the brain. There are a large number of triggers reported by persons. It could be due to some foods, the environment, strong odors, perfumes, insecticides, paint, petrol, diesel, varnish, loud sounds, bright lights, stress, and hormonal imbalance. It would be worthwhile to note down the severity of the headache with the duration, symptoms, medication with dosage, for future use and treatment. In the case of a female the cycle of menstruation should be informed with any other related problems.

Intake of food and liquid should be on a regular timing basis. Sufficient sleep is required for the body with a minimum of 7 – 8 hours. Exercise and physical activity is a must. Stress needs to be controlled if not avoided – try drinking an extra glass of cold water, play your favourite light, soft music, phone a loved one, walk in the park, deep breathing or watching fish in an aquarium (small one in the house/office) will help to relax.

If you are smoking cigarettes or inhaling anything that is not good for the body, be considerate to yourself and your colleagues as the passive person will also have a headache.

When is a headache not a general headache?

Dehydration headaches:

The minute you suspect that you have a headache coming on, take a couple of glasses of clean drinking water. You may not realise it but you may be dehydrated. Check if you have had less water for the day or more diuretics such as coffee. Every cup of coffee must be supplemented with a glass of water.

People who are overweight, living at high altitudes, warm climate, exercising more, involved in intense physical activity or ill, can easily deplete body fluids. They would feel thirsty, weakness, muscle pain, wrinkled skin, increased heart rate and headache.

Dehydration happens when the body’s electrolytes and water content are out of balance and requires to be restored. It would be a good habit to carry water at all times. While shade would be ideal, it would be beneficial to keep sipping water and ensure that the urine is always light yellow or clear.

Substituting fruits and vegetables for fluids will not supplement fresh clean drinking water.   You must have 8 glasses or more especially if you are working directly under the sun.

Dehydration could be fatal causing unconsciousness and death in extreme cases. Therefore, consult a doctor as early as possible.

Medication headaches:

Medication headaches mean that some medicines meant to cure headaches can give a patient a ‘rebound’ headache. This is probably due to the fact that the medication meant to cure the headache independently, does not agree with the person. It may be that the individual is taking some other drug which is interacting with this medicine.

Symptomatic relief prescriptions are available over-the-counter. However, it is not advisable without a doctor’s prescription. The doctor needs to investigate the other medications taken by the person, dietary habits, life style such as sleep, and every day activity.

In the case of children, all drugs will need to be checked before administering as there are cases of allergic reactions to medicines – swelling of the face, mouth, throat, and difficulty in breathing, itching, rash and liver damage.

Thunderclap headaches:

Headaches that come on suddenly and with great intensity are called as thunderclap headaches. The pattern of narrowing of the brain blood vessels is different from migraines. Pregnant women experience thunderclap headaches.

Tension headaches:

This is the most common kind of headache. Most people experience this type. The pain is different from the migraine headache. It is like a ‘grip’ on the sides or back of the head. Light physical activity can be carried out as the pain would not be severe.

Cluster headache:

Cluster headaches usually occur on one side of the head in batches. The duration could be from fifteen minutes to a couple of hours. While some people have frequent headaches in a day others experience pain on intermittent days. Sweating on the face and forehead, nasal congestion and restlessness are some of the symptoms.

Types of Migraines

Migraines are very severe forms of headaches caused by a temporary disorder in brain functioning.  This pattern of abnormal brain cell activity then spreads to the rest of the brain as a wave and causes severe pain and aura that are symptomatic of migraine attacks. When the blood flow in the brain is restored, the brain cells return to normal.  A proper blood circulation maintained in the brain will help to avoid migraine headaches.

Migraines could be hereditary.   Children, adult men and women could be victims of migraine. The pain could be pulsating or throbbing due to the multiple mechanisms related to the blood circulatory system.

Sinus migraine:

This headache could be a problem of the sinus giving trouble whereby the person is not able to breathe and therefore has not slept soundly or has a cold with phlegm which is yet to manifest.

The most common home remedy to get rid of sinus headache is try inhalation of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water with a towel over the head to trap the steam.

Pediatric migraine:

It is not easy to detect migraine headaches in children but there are some signs. Some children may have cyclical vomiting episodes.   Between bouts of migraine, they might experience nausea and vomiting which could last between 1 hour to 3 days, making them lethargic and pale. This condition could be very hard on them. Boys normally outgrow these headaches but girls tend to keep getting these headaches due to hormonal fluctuations.

Children exposed to physical abuse, sexual abuse and witnessing parental domestic violence could possibly manifest migraine headaches during adulthood. This area needs to be looked into through counseling.

Vertigo migraine:

Adults and children suffer from vertigo migraine. The patient feels giddy although there is no obvious reason for giddiness. It could happen even when lying in bed. The giddiness goes away without medication. However, the person should not get out of bed until the giddiness subsides.

Chronic Migraine:

Headaches over a period of three months accompanied by nausea or being sick in the stomach could be symptoms of chronic migraine. Light and sound may bother the person. It is advisable that they attend to these headaches immediately. It could have an adverse affect on the quality of life, especially if employed outside the home.   Considerate employers need to be kept informed of the condition.

Migraine is a form of severe headache that is a common health problem seen across the globe. Actually it can have symptoms more severe than a headache. Each patient has different symptoms. Obesity in women seeking weight loss could end up with chronic migraines with longer duration and more severe depression and anxiety. In some women the headaches are unmanageable, especially before menopause due to hormonal disorder. Women need to clearly advise the doctor the stage in which they are in their life such as pregnant, lactating, menopause.

What Are the Different Stages of a Migraine?

Migraines have different stages. It is necessary to personally identify each stage and study the reaction.

The episode can begin 24 hours before hand (the prodrom phase) with intense euphoria and irritability in some cases. There could be change in sensations and local weakness in limbs.

The aura phase is where the warning signs of migraine will be. There could be sensitivity to sound and light. The person may visualize strange patterns or temporarily lose partial vision as well. The next type is a migraine without aura – there will be no symptoms of migraine that give a specific indication.

The headache phase is usually the longest phase of a migraine. The person experiences pulsating or throbbing headache that can last from 3 hours to 3 days. Pain is experienced in the region above the eyes but can also occur in other parts of the head as well. In case a person leans forward the sensation of pain might increase.

Some persons can experience some of the symptoms of migraine but without headache. Headaches differ from person to person. The severity of headaches are debilitating while the general headaches allow you to carry on with your daily chores.

The fourth stage (the postdromal phase) the persons may feel tired, sluggish, confused owing to the intensity of the headache.

How to Manage Your Headache or Migraine

Every headache is not a migraine and usually migraines show some warning symptoms. The pain and symptoms of migraine is unique from one person to another. According to medical science, once you experience signs you are having a migraine, you must watch your lifestyle.

By understanding the reasons for migraine, it will be easy to handle and avoid the onset of a severe headache. Unfortunately, most people fail to find the trigger factors of migraine. If you notice any signs you are having migraine, take action immediately to consult a doctor.

Medication when administered will be for either acute (seeking immediate relief) or preventive treatments (with the aim to reduce the frequency, severity of attacks, reduce the disability in the person and improve the quality of life) taken over a period time. Get the right vitamin supplements.

It is possible that some patients would require physical therapy along with oral medication. However, migraines could be managed with the right guidance.

Get yourself educated on your headache to prevent or keep it under control.

Additional Reading:

Simple Holistic Methods to Cure Headaches 

Headaches: An Overview

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