A headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. Serious causes of headaches are very rare. Most people with headaches can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax, EIMS, Massage Therapy, and sometimes by taking medications.
The most common headaches are likely caused by tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp, and jaw. These are called tension headaches. They are often related to stress, depression, or anxiety.
Overworking, not getting enough sleep, missing meals, and using alcohol or street drugs can make you more likely to get them. Headaches can be triggered by:
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
People who drink caffeine can have headaches when they don’t get their usual daily amount.
Other common causes include:
• Clenching or grinding your teeth
• Exerting yourself too much
• Holding your head in one position for a long time, like at a computer, microscope, or typewriter
• Poor sleep position
Tension headaches tend to be on both sides of your head. They often start at the back of your head and spread forward. The pain may feel dull or squeezing, like a tight band or vice. Your shoulders, neck, or jaw may feel tight and sore. The pain is usually persistent, but it does not get worse with activity.
Migraine headaches are severe headaches that usually occur with other symptoms such as vision disturbances or nausea. The pain may be described as throbbing, pounding, or pulsating. It tends to begin on one side of your head, although it may spread to both sides.
You may have an “aura” (a group of warning symptoms that start before your headache). The pain usually gets worse as you try to move around. For more information on this type of headache, see: Migraine.
Other types of headaches:
• Cluster headaches are sharp, very painful headaches that tend to occur several times per day for months and then go away for a similar period of time. They are far less common than other types of headaches.
• Sinus headaches cause pain in the front of your head and face. They are due to inflammation in the sinus passages behind the cheeks, nose, and eyes. The pain tends to be worse when you bend forward and when you first wake up in the morning. Postnasal drip, sore throat, and nasal discharge usually occur with these headaches.
Headaches may occur if you have a cold, the flu, fever, or premenstrual syndrome.
If you are over age 50 and are getting headaches for the first time, a condition called temporal arteritis may be the cause. Symptoms of this condition include vision problems and pain that gets worse when you chew. There is a risk of becoming blind with this condition, so you should get treatment right away.
Rare causes of headache include:
• Brain aneurysm — a weakening of the wall of a blood vessel that can break open and bleed into the brain
• Brain infection like meningitis or encephalitis
• Brain tumor
• Stroke or TIA
What to expect at your our clinic
We will take a medical history and will perform an examination of your head, eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, and nervous system.
The diagnosis is usually based on your history of symptoms. A “headache diary” may be helpful for recording information about headaches over a period of time. Your doctor may ask questions such as:
• Is the headache located in your forehead, around your eyes, in the back of your head, near your temples, behind your eyeball, or all over?
• Is the headache on one side only?
• Is this a new type of headache for you?
• Would you describe the headache as throbbing?
• Is there a pressure or band-like sensation?
• When does the headache occur?
• How long have you had headaches?
• How long does each headache last?
• Does the headache wake you up from sleep? Are the headaches worse during the day and better at night?
• Did other symptoms begin shortly after the headaches began? Do headaches occur repeatedly?
• Does the headache reach maximum intensity over 1 to 2 hours?
• Are the headaches worse when you are lying down? Standing up?
• Are the headaches worse when you cough or strain?
• Do they occur at a specific time related to your menstrual period?
• What home treatment have you tried? How effective was it?