When was the last time you had a headache? Overall, it is estimated that almost half the population has had at least one headache in the last year. This equals to about 50% to 67% of adults between the ages of 18 and 65 world-wide have had a headache in the last year and about a third of those also reported having a migraine in the time period. Suffering from a headache on 15 or more days a month affects 1.7% to 4% of the adult population and migraines affect over 28 million Americans. Headaches are affecting a large percentage of our population, disrupting our work, sleep, and quality of life. Therefore, we should all know more about headaches, the possible causes, and ways in which we can lessen their effects on our lives.
Not All Headaches are the Same
There are 150 different types of headaches. The most common types of headaches include:
Migraine: This type of headache is typically moderate to severe intensity one-sided pounding, pulsating, throbbing pain lasting from 4 hours to 3 days with a frequency of one to four times a month. People may also experience other symptoms, including sensitivity to light, noise, or smells, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and upset stomach or abdominal pain. Migraine are more common in women, usually by a factor of about 2:1, because of hormonal influences.
Tension-type: The most common headache among adults and teens causes mild to moderate pain in the head, neck and/ or behind your eyes, and the pain comes and goes over time. Some describe this pain as a band around their head. This type of headache often begins in teenage years and also affects women more then men by a ratio of 3 to 2. The mechanism tends to be stress or musculoskeletal dysfunction in the neck.
Cluster: These headaches are the most severe and tend to happen in groups (one to three headaches lasting 15 minutes to three hours per day which may last two to three months). Sufferers describe this headache as an intense burning, piercing throbbing, or constant pain behind or around one eye. Eyelid drooping, eye redness, smaller pupils, tearing eye, or the runny/stuffy nostril on the side of the pain can be symptoms. These headaches may awaken one from sleep. In this case, men are 3 to 6 times more likely to get them than women.
Chronic daily headache: This headache is present 15 days or more a month for longer than 3 months. Some are short while others last more than 4 hours.
Sinus: With this type of headache, a deep and constant pain in your cheekbones, forehead, or on the bridge of your nose is present. These headaches occur when the sinus cavities get inflamed. Other symptoms including runny nose, fullness in the ears, fever, and a swollen face, which often occur in conjunction with this type of headache. A true sinus headache is a result of a sinus infection, thus drainage from the nose is typically yellow or green.
Post traumatic: These headaches usually start 2 to 3 days after a head injury and include symptoms of a dull ache that gets worse from time to time. Symptoms often include vertigo, lightheadedness, trouble concentrating, memory problems, tiring quickly, and/ or irritability. These headaches may last for several months.
While these are some of the typical headaches many suffer from, there are several other types of headaches that affect people everyday.
Possible causes of headaches
Because there are so many different types of headaches, there are also many possible causes for each type. Causes can range from illnesses and fatigue to stress to certain foods and alcohol. While not all possible causes affect each person the same way, it is good to be aware of possible triggers in case they are an underlying cause of your own headache. For instance, did you know aged cheese may be a headache trigger for some people?
Other possible causes for headaches include:
- Skipping meals
- Sleep patterns or lack of sleep
- Second hand tobacco smoke
- Strong smells, including household chemicals or perfumes
- Weather changes
- Family history of headaches
- TMD: temporomandibular joint dysfunction: incidence of headache in this population ranges between 48% and 77%. Headache is the most common symptom of TMD. It is suggested that 70% of headache patients also had clinical confirmation of TMD
- There is also growing evidence that inflammations plays an important role in migraine headaches
- Poor posture
- Muscle/Structural imbalances/strains
- Myofascial dysfunction
If you do suffer from headaches, there are treatment options to help you treat and, in some cases, prevent future headaches. In each case, working with your doctor and physical therapist can help you realize if it is your headaches are the likely result of poor posture or food choices, etc.
Below are some treatment options to consider and speak to your doctor and physical therapist about:
- Set up an appointment with a Roper Physical Therapy headache specialist today! To contact us, please click here
- Keep a Headache Diary: Headaches triggered by food can occur up to 24 hours after trigger exposure thus keeping a detailed headache diary for several months may be useful in detecting relationships between certain foods and headaches
- Diet modification/ elimination diet
- Eating on a regular and consistent schedule without skipping meals or going too long without food
- Sleep hygiene: Be sure to go to bed on time and do not oversleep
- Avoid fatigue by pacing activities during the day as well as over the course of the week
- Stress management
- Regular exercise
- Essential oils: lavender and peppermint can help ease the pain of headaches
- Improved posture, especially in the work place for those who spend a large portion of their day at a desk
- Buckwheat pillow
While you may be unable to completely eliminate headaches from your life, understanding your headaches, the possible triggers, and following treatment options may help to improve your condition and quality of life! With awareness, there is choice!
To learn more and talk to a physical therapist at Roper Physical Therapy about your headaches and what you can do about them, please click here