What do we know about headaches (and how to help ourselves when we have a headache?)
Any pain is an unpleasant but useful signal of danger, in fact the evolutionary ability of the organism, which can not be ignored. It is classified, analyzed and researched. In particular, we know more than 200 types of headaches, and thousands of other associations patients are imagining. Not surprisingly, given its prevalence, 50% of adults have complained about having headaches in the past year.
Who has the most headaches?
50-75% of the adult population from 18- to 65-year-olds have suffered from headaches in the past year. More than 30% of them reported migraines. 1.7-4% of the world's adult population suffers from headaches for 15 days or more per month.
In the Global Burden of Disease Study, updated in 2013, migraine itself was the sixth leading cause of disability (YLD) in the world.
What are the types of headaches?
According to the International Classification of Headaches, it is globally divided into:
- primary (headache as an independent disease)
- secondary (headache is a symptom of some other disease).
Primary headache includes: tension headache, migraine, autonomous trigeminal cephalgia and other rare types of primary headache.
The secondary include headache, which occurs against the background of other causes (trauma to the central nervous system, infectious lesions, vascular pathology).²
The division into primary and secondary headaches is important in further treatment tactics. And in this diagnosis an important step is to keep a headache diary.
Yes, it may seem too simple, but the diagnosis of Primary Headache is made clinically only (the doctor diagnoses it by analyzing your complaints, the characteristics of the headache). And the headache diary which allows to find out localization, the characteristic, intensity of a headache helps to deal with it; the factors that cause it, the symptoms that accompany it and many other important issues. And, if on the basis of these collected data the doctor needs, the specialist directs you to additional methods of examination (not always only MRI of the brain, in some cases may be a routine general blood test, a number of biochemical blood tests or hormone tests are needed) and consultations with other specialists.
Tension type headache (TTH) - this is exactly what you are facing
If you experience a headache in the evening after a hard day's work, usually bilateral (pressing or expansive), in addition to neck muscle tension, then this is the type of headache you have experienced. An important diagnostic point is the reduction intensity of headache after doing exercises for the cervical spine or neck massage.
Muscle tension is considered to be the probable mechanism of TTH, so often patients can even palpate (test by touch) spasmodic muscles in the neck or face. Therefore, at the end of the working day after a long sitting at the computer, and even under the influence of stressful situations, you can feel this pain.
How to prepare for a doctor's appointment?
To help yourself and your doctor deal with your type of headache as soon as possible and start the right treatment, you should prepare for the appointment. Remember and answer the following questions:
- How often does a headache occur (approximate number of episodes per week, per month) and when did it first appear?
- What is the duration of headache episodes (seconds, minutes, hours, days)?
- What can most often provoke the development of headaches?
- What helps to cope with a headache (non-drug methods or what medications help)?
- The most common localization of headache and foreignness (unilateral or bilateral).
- Is the headache accompanied by additional symptoms and if so, what kind of symptoms?
- Does the headache change when you are changing body position or during exercise?
- Is the headache accompanied by a rise in body temperature or a rise / fall in blood pressure?
- What is the intensity of the headache (on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is minimal and 10 is pronounced)?
- Did you lose consciousness during an episode of headache?
- Are there any concomitant diseases?
- Has anyone in the family suffered from headaches?
If there are any results of additional examinations, they should be prepared for the doctor.
Tips on how to deal with a headache without medication
Before starting medical treatment, here are some tips that may come in handy:
- Drink water (dehydration can cause headaches), try herbal remedies (some herbs, including feverfew and butterbur and tansy, can reduce headache symptoms), drink ginger tea (ginger root contains many beneficial compounds, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances). Limit alcohol, avoid foods high in histamine (aged cheeses, fermented foods, beer, wine, smoked fish and dried meat products), avoid nitrates and nitrites (nitrates and nitrites are common food preservatives that add to products such as hot dog, sausages and bacon to keep them fresh while preventing bacteria from multiplying). You can try an elimination diet: studies show that food intolerance can also cause headaches in some people (try to exclude from the diet foods that are most associated with headache symptoms, especially, aged cheese, alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits and coffee)
- Avoid strong odors (perfumes and detergents).
- Use essential oils (essential oils of mint and lavender are especially useful, you can apply a few drops on the temples).
- Provide comfortable conditions (darkness in the room, warmth, silence), you can use cold compresses (Applying cold compresses to the head reduces the release of inflammatory substances by slowing nerve conduction and narrowing blood vessels, which in turn helps reduce headaches)
- Try acupuncture (acupuncture is a technique of traditional Chinese medicine, which involves inserting thin needles into the skin to stimulate certain points on the body)
- Yoga (Yoga practice is a great way to relieve stress, increase flexibility, reduce pain and improve overall quality of life)
- Perform physical exercises (exercises for the cervical spine, post-isometric relaxation techniques)
- Perform self-massage (circular movements of the fingers for 5 seconds in each direction of the muscles of the cervical spine, occipital region, parietal, temporal and frontal)