Relieving a Headache

The initial step for people that suffer from frequent headaches is to determine what type of headache they have. In some instances, a headache can be a symptom of another condition or disease whereas others may have no clear cause.

Attention should be paid to the signs and symptoms of a headache. Some may find that keeping a headache diary helps them determine what type of headache ails them. Note when the headache occurs, the related symptoms, and any potential triggers such as changes in sleep, stress, or food.

Headaches fall into several types and sub-types. One sub-type are chronic daily headaches which occur 15 or more days per month. Migraines and tension-type headaches are other common sub-types that can be chronic but are not always. Other types of chronic headache are:

* Hemicrania Continua: occurs on one side and can feel similar to a migraine.
* Primary Stabbing Headache: occur several times a day and last a few seconds.
* Primary Exertional Headache: headache caused by physical exertion or exercise.
* Chronic Paroxysmal Hemicranias: sharp, one-sided headache that can cause nose congestion or tearing.
* Medication Headache: cause from overuse of pain medication and occur a minimum of 15 days per month.
* Cluster Headaches: characterized by severe pain on one side of the head. Occur off an on for weeks over a few months and are often accompanied by nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and tearing that occur on the same side as pain.

Tension Headaches and Related Treatment

The most common type of headaches, tension headaches:

* May feel like a dull ache, pressure, or tight band of pain around the head
* Pain may be mild to moderate and occur on both sides of the head
* Vary significantly in frequency; may be occasional or more than 15 days per month (chronic)
* Last as little as 30 minutes to as long as a week


Occasional tension headaches can often be treated easily using over-the-counter pain medications such as:
* Aspirin
* Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
* Ibuprofen (Advil)

For chronic tension headaches, prescription medication, such as tricyclic antidepressants, can be taken daily. Therapies designed to relieve stress can also be helpful. They include:
* Cognitive behavioral therapy
* Biofeedback
* Massage therapy
* Acupuncture

Migraine Headaches and Related Treatment

Another common headache type are migraines that affect women three times more than men. Symptoms of a migraine typically include:
* Moderate to severe pain
* Pulsate, throbbing sensation
* Sensitivity to sound or light
* Nausea
* Vomiting
* Can affect one or both sides of the head
* Worsen with physical activity
* Last between four to 72 hours if left untreated


The goal of migraine treatment is to both relieve symptoms and prevent additional occurrences. If a patient is able to identify what triggers their migraines, they can take measures to avoid the triggers and learn how to better manage or prevent migraines. Treatment could include:
* Resting in a dark, quiet room
* Applying cold or hot compresses to the neck or head
* Massage
* Caffeine – in small amounts
* Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin
* Prescription medicine like zolmitriptan and sumatriptan
* Preventative medicine like propranolol, metoprolol, topiramate, amitriptyline, and divalproex

When Should I Be Concerned About Headaches