woman holding her temples due to headache

Oh My Aching Head: What to Know and Do About Headaches

In my medical practice, headaches are a pretty common complaint. Men, women, and children all suffer from headaches. Some people experience them often and others rarely. A headache may be mildly annoying or intense and even painful. There are various types of headaches, and remedies of all kinds, from over-the-counter medications to herbs and hot or cold packs.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. A feeling of pressure often begins at the temples or the base of the skull. In extreme cases, it might feel like a vise gripping your entire head. A tension headache rarely causes nausea or vomiting, and most people can continue their daily activities while experiencing one. It often starts later in the day or during times of stress. Some people experience this type of headache only on workdays.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches occur when your sinus cavities become inflamed and painful. The inflammation may be caused by an allergy or a viral, fungal, or bacterial infection. People experience this type of headache in the cheeks or forehead or both, and it may continue throughout the day. People can generally continue their normal activities when they have a sinus headache.

Migraines

While considered a headache, a migraine is actually in a category of its own because of the other symptoms associated with it. Migraine pain tends to be one-sided, but can spread to the entire head, and may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting as well as light and sound sensitivity, and even changes in vision. People who have recurrent migraines may experience a warning sensation (aura) just before it begins, such as a change in vision, hearing or smell, or even numbness in their extremities. They typically need to seek a quiet and dark place to rest, with the migraine lasting 4-48 hours.

Frequent Headaches and Medication

People who have frequent headaches often use medication to control the pain, but when painkillers are overused, they may experience a rebound headache when the medication leaves the body. This can occur with both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Rebound headaches can be severe and make it difficult to continue normal activity.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are less common and occur in cycles with relief between episodes. They tend to come on suddenly, with debilitating pain on one side of the head. Sometimes they are accompanied by nasal congestion or eye watering on the same side of the head as the pain. Restlessness, pacing, and inability to get comfortable are common with these headaches.

If headaches are new for you, see your naturopathic physician for diagnosis. While most headaches are minor, some can be an indication of other, more serious health issues.

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