What are headaches?
Headaches are often described as a dull to severe pain in the head, often near the forehead. They can affect anyone, regardless of race or gender.
What causes headaches?
Headaches can be caused by just about anything. Some of the more common reasons people get headaches are: overuse of decongestants, excessive alcohol consumption (hangovers), stress, anxiety, bad posture, clenching your jaw, smoking cigarettes, consuming certain foods, high altitudes, caffeine addiction, sinus problems, light sensitivity, or infections. Of course, the list of triggers is nearly endless, so make sure you talk to your doctor if you have extremely bad headaches.
What are the different types of headaches?
Headaches come in a variety of forms, some more serious than others.
• Cluster Headaches: These headaches are often describes as excruciating by their patients. They can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours and are sometimes referred to as a "suicide headache" because of the amount of pain they cause. These headaches recur regularly, sometimes even multiple times daily.
• Migraines: Migraines are extremely painful headaches that are much more common in women than in men. Scientists suspect that genes play a role in migraines. Triggers might include hormonal imbalances, weather changes, seasonal allergies, stress, sleeping patterns, and eating patterns.
• Caffeine Headaches: For the millions of people who are addicted to caffeine, not getting their fix can result in headaches, vomiting, fatigue, and irritability.
• Rebound Headaches and Hangovers: These headaches occur after overuse of certain medications or over-consumption of alcohol. These usually go away within 12 hours. If not, see a doctor.
• Tension Headaches: These headaches feel like a constant throb or pressure. They are often brought on by stress, bad posture, or anxiety.
• Sinus Headaches: These headaches are often accompanied by sinus pressure, nasal congestion, and watery eyes.
• Chronic Daily Headaches: If you are experiencing headaches for at least half the days in the month (15 days out of 30 days), you're considered to have chronic daily headaches. These can be caused by a variety of triggers. Talk to your doctor if you think you have chronic daily headaches.
• Menstrual Headaches: For some women, the sudden drop in estrogen can sometimes trigger headaches or migraines.
• Emergency Headaches: If you have a headache that comes on quickly and is extremely painful, you should go to the emergency center of your local hospital. Some other worrisome symptoms include vision problems, speech change, stiffness in the neck, loss of sensation, or muscle weakness on only one side of the body.
Is it possible for someone to have multiple types of headaches?
Some people experience many different types of headaches. A common combination is migraines and menstrual headaches. These start off as a menstrual headache which then turns into a full-blown migraine.
How can I prevent headaches?
For some, preventing headaches is as easy as avoiding triggers (like certain foods or allergies). For others, it is not as simple. Check out our list on how to help prevent headaches.
• Quit Caffeine: "Caffeine addiction is arguably the most widespread drug addiction in America, and perhaps the world."* Millions of people around the world are addicted to caffeine. The only way to stop the addiction is to quit cold turkey.
• Stay Hydrated: One of the most common reasons for headaches is dehydration. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
• Reduce Stress: Stress is another common reason for a headache to occur. If you are feeling stressed, take a few minutes to calm down. Take a walk, take a bath, or talk with some friends.
• Exercise More: Exercise releases endorphins which help improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
• Get Enough Rest: People who get less than six hours of sleep tend to get more headaches than those who get enough sleep.
• Eat Healthy: Make sure you are incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Nutrient deficiency can lead to headaches.
• Try Aromatherapy: Soft scents can help relieve and prevent headaches. Some scents have been scientifically proven to reduce the effects of headaches and migraines. Try lavender, butterbur, feverfew, cinnamon, or eucalyptus.
• Avoid Triggers: Different people have different triggers. For many people, drugs are a huge trigger so try to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
• Avoid Junk Food: Limit your intake of junk food. Junk food often contains high amounts of sugar, sodium, and saturated fats which can lead to more frequent headaches.