What are headaches?
Headaches rank amongst the most common and frequent ailments. A headache is not a disease, but may be indicative of other underlying problems. Although common and generally not serious, headaches are common in about 50-75% of all teens. However, recurrent headaches can upset and worry an individual to a great extent. The most common types of headaches that people in their teens and early twenties have are tension headaches and migraines. In some cases these problems may require a visit to a medical provider.
Treatment of an uncomplicated headache is usually symptomatic with over-the-counter painkillers although, headaches like migraines, may require specific treatment. The occurrence of migraine headache could also be the result of particular allergic triggers like stress or some unambiguous foods which should then be avoided.
There are three types of primary headaches: tension-type (muscular contraction headache), migraine (vascular headaches), and cluster. Cluster headaches are sharp, extremely painful headaches that tend to occur several times per day for months and then go away for a similar period of time.
Some other rare types of headaches include:
Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (headache with visual symptoms due to raised intracranial pressure)
Brain freeze (also known as: ice cream headache)
Coital cephalalgia (also known as: sex headache)
Rebound headache (also called medication overuse headache, abbreviated MOH)
Red wine headache
Spinal headache (or: post-dural puncture headaches) after lumbar puncture or related procedure that will lower the intracranial pressure
Hangover (caused by heavy alcohol consumption)
What are the causes of headaches?
The vast majority of headaches are non-malignant and self-limiting. Some common causes of headaches are said to be tension, migraine, eye strain, dehydration, low blood sugar, hyper mastication and sinusitis. In addition, we have some very rare headaches that are a result of some life-threatening conditions like meningitis, encephalitis, cerebral aneurysms, exceptionally high blood pressure, and brain tumors. If head injury is the cause of a headache then the reason is usually quite evident. In women, a large percentage of headaches are caused by their ever-fluctuating estrogen levels during the menstrual years. This can occur prior to or mid-cycle.
If anyone over the age of 50 experiences a headache for the first time, a condition called temporal arthritis may be the cause. Headache symptoms include impaired vision and pain aggravated by chewing. Because, there is a risk of becoming blind, it needs to be promptly treated by a doctor.
Brain aneurysm, brain tumor, stroke or TIA, and brain infection like meningitis or encephalitis are some rare causes of headaches and can be serious.
What are tension headaches?
Often related to stress, depression, or anxiety, tension headaches are due to contraction of the muscles in the shoulders, neck, scalp, and jaw. Overwork, insomnia, missed meals, and use of alcohol and drugs can make one more vulnerable to headaches. Some foods can also trigger a headache including, chocolate, cheese, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), and flavor enhancers. A deviation from the usual fix of caffeine can also result in headaches.
Tension headache can also result from performing an activity with the head held up in one position for a long time. This can generally happen from using a computer, microscope, or a typewriter, sleeping in a cold room or in an abnormal position, overexerting oneself, and clenching or grinding the teeth.
Tension headaches tend to occur on both sides of the head, often starting at the back of the head and spreading forward. The pain may range from a dull or squeezing ache to a feeling of a tight band or a vice around the head. The muscle tension generally begins in the shoulders, neck, or the jaw before it gradually extends to the head. Therefore, these areas also feel tight and sore.
Where does the pain during a headache occur?
Pain, during a headache, occurs in the tissues covering the brain, as well as in the muscles, network of nerves and blood vessels around the scalp, face, and neck. The brain itself is insensate to pain because it lacks nociceptors. Headaches often result from traction to or irritation of the meninges and blood vessels. Dura mater, the membrane surrounding the brain and the spinal cord, is innervated with nociceptors. Any kind of stimulation of these dural nociceptors is thought to produce headaches. Types of headaches are classified separately of which the three most common headaches are :
Tension or muscle contraction headache
Apart from these types, it is not uncommon for some people to experience a combination of the above mentioned headache types.
What are migraine headaches?
A severe, recurrent headache that is generally accompanied by visual disturbance or nausea is a common symptom of a migraine headache. This type of headache tends to begin on one side of the head, although the pain may later spread to both sides. Migraine headache generally starts with an “aura” (warning symptoms before the actual onset of the headache) that is usually accompanied with a feeling of throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain.