A headache is a pain that occurs in any part of your head or upper neck.
It can be on one side, both sides, radiate across the head, or make your head feel like it is being squeezed in a vice. Headaches can be sharp, throbbing, or dull, with pain ranging from mild to intense. At The Pain Experts of Arizona, we have several pain-relieving treatment options for headaches. Let us help you get back to pain-free living. Learn more about headaches now or contact our team to set up your consultation.
Headache symptoms vary widely depending on the type of headache you experience. For some, pain is really the only symptom that occurs. Other headache sufferers may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Eye pain when looking into bright lights
- Pain in head or upper neck
- Extreme fatigue
- Tenderness of the scalp
- Tightness sensation in the head
Some headaches, like migraines, have several different phases that occur over several days. Others are episodic, with headache symptoms that occur suddenly or in relation to another condition (e.g., sinus headaches).
Headache Treatment Options
As with many pain conditions, the best headache treatment is prevention.
Getting plenty of rest, managing stress, and incorporating daily exercise can go a long way to prevent headaches from occurring. Drinking plenty of fluids every day and consuming a diet with few processed or packaged foods helps, too. If you find yourself in the grip of chronic headaches, here are ten headache treatments to try.
Sometimes a headache is a sign that you need to slow down and take a day or two to rest. Listen to what your body is telling you, and rest.
2. Relaxation techniques
Some headaches (e.g., stress and tension headaches) are worsened or caused by stress. Learning relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation and yogic breathing, can also help reduce stress and relieve headache pain.
3. Over-the-counter medications
While over-the-counter pain relievers are often not useful for certain kinds of headaches (like migraines and cluster headaches), they can help relieve pain for others. Take only as directed by your doctor.
4. Prescription medications
5. Dry heat, moist heat, or cold
Dry heat or moist heat therapy for headaches works well for migraines. This simple treatment can include a hot shower or steamy washcloths placed on the head. Some people respond better to cool washcloths or even ice on the back of the neck.
6. Herbs and vitamins
The use of natural remedies to treat headaches is increasing. It’s important to talk to your doctor before incorporating natural remedies to ensure there are no potential drug interactions. For example, some patients find relief with vitamins such as B2, magnesium, and vitamin D. Others swear by herbs such as feverfew, butterbur, peppermint, and willow bark for pain relief.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical treatment that has modern research support in preventing and treating headaches. In addition, it’s also a helpful stress relief approach.
8. Occupational and physical therapy
Occupational and physical therapy work to address the root cause of headaches and to help you correct them in your body. For example, cervicogenic headaches originate with a problem in the neck. This might be caused by poor posture over time. An occupational therapist will work to help you correct poor posture, while a physical therapist will help you strengthen the muscles you need to maintain it.
9. Nerve blocks
Some people benefit from nerve blocks and other injections into specific areas to help relieve inflammation and reduce pain.These are often a good diagnostic step before surgery, too.
Surgery is generally a treatment of last resort for chronic headaches and should only be undertaken if other treatments have failed. Often, surgery involves relieving pressure on the nerves around the skull, which can provide pain relief and prevent future headaches.
Persistent Headaches Diagnosis/Tests
To properly diagnose headaches, a documented history of your headaches is helpful to start. Start tracking anything that seems to trigger your headaches and when and how often the headaches occur. From there, your doctor will take a medical history and conduct a physical exam. Other tests to help with your diagnosis could include:
- Blood tests (to rule out underlying causes)
- CT scan
- Eye exam
- Neurological examination
- Sinus X-ray
- Spinal tap
Types of Headaches
Headaches can occur gradually or suddenly, and they can last from a very short period up to several days.
Chronic headaches are those that occur for half (or more) days of a month during a period of three months or more. There are well over 100 kinds of headaches, broken down into two main types.
These headaches are not caused by other conditions. The headache itself is the condition. Examples of primary headaches include tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines.
Secondary headaches are caused by other conditions, including headaches caused by hangover, concussion, dehydration, teeth grinding, and stroke. Other kinds of headaches include:
- Altitude headaches
- Cervicogenic headaches
- Chronic daily headaches
- Pressure-related headaches
- Rebound headaches
- Sinus headaches
- Spinal headaches
- Thunderclap headaches
- Cluster headaches
Causes of Headaches
As noted, a headache may be the symptom of another disease or condition.
For others, there is no clear cause. In general, headache causes can include:
- Ear infection
- Emotional distress
- High blood pressure
- Medical disorder
More Facts About Headaches
Worldwide, nearly half of adults will develop a headache in a year, with 90% of these being tension headaches. Despite these numbers, headaches are one of the most underdiagnosed and undertreated medical conditions across the globe.