Headache : Triggers and Treatments
In the present times’ everyone is focused on keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy. Health experts, and everyone else is emphasizing boosting our immunity. No doubt we should keep our immunity strong and should maintain social distance to avoid contracting infection, however, the current circumstances are not only affecting our physical health but they are also negatively affecting our mental wellbeing.
Headaches are a common health issue that we encounter in our daily lives, most of us cannot pinpoint the exact cause of headache. Recently, it has been reported that there is a sudden surge in people who are suffering from unwanted and sudden headaches, it is not surprising as many types of headaches are triggered by stress. Since the COVID situation has started it has affected a lot of people and caused severe stress conditions, leading to sudden and severe headaches. Though we cannot control the external circumstances, we can surely prevent headaches even during these challenging times.
The common questions people have regarding headaches are:
• How should I know that they are suffering from a headache or a migraine?
• Do certain foods trigger headaches?
• How can we alleviate headaches?
• Are over-the-counter medication safe?
• When should I consult a doctor?
What is the type of headaches?
Headaches can be classified into various types, but the most common ones are tension headaches and migraine headaches.
Tension headaches are usually triggered by stressand lack of sleep. The emotional, physical, or mental pressure due to our work or personal life can cause anxiety and headaches.
The symptoms of tension headaches are mild to moderate and can be controlled by taking over the counter medication in most cases. The headaches also can go away when the cause of stress is resolved. However, there is a certain type of Tension headaches that can become chronic and their symptoms can be experienced consistently over a period of time. In such cases, one should consult a neurologist or a headache expert as with the right treatment, this can be easily managed.
Migraine is usually is a headache with throbbing and pulsating pain usually on the one side of the head accompanied by Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can usually be triggered by several factors including stress, lack of sleep missing meals, etc. They typically last for 4 to 72 hours. Migraines, when severe, can affect the quality of life and are a well-known cause of disability world-wide.
With proper treatment of acute symptoms, preventive medications and lifestyle changes, migraines can be controlled.
What Causes of Headaches?
Headaches can be triggered by various factors including external and emotional stimuli, some of the common causes of headaches are:
Stress: It can trigger headaches by cause’s contraction in the muscles around shoulders and neck and move up the head till the temples.
Diet: Certain food especially processed foods that include nitrates, sugar substitute, caffeine, and foods that one may be allergic to can cause severe headaches. It one experiences headaches after taking a certain type of food, that information however vague should be provided to the doctor at the time of consultation for proper diagnosis.
Alcohol: Hangovers are a common cause of headaches as our body tries to recover from the effects of alcohol our body immune response may cause headaches. Red wine and beer are known to frequently cause migraines.
Environment: Change in weather, and seasonal allergies can also cause headaches.
Hormones: Mostly women suffer from hormone-related migraines, changes in estrogen levels can lead to severe migraines. They are treated with hormone therapy and they seem to subside post-menopause.
Lack of Rest: Lack of rest can also trigger headaches as normal bodily functions get affected due to exhaustion. And people normally feel respite after resting for a while.
How to Avoid Headaches?
As stated above headaches are associated with particular triggers, if we can avoid those triggers or address the cause of stress, our headaches usually subside. Home therapies such as meditation, head massage, etc, can also provide respite from headaches.
- Keep yourself properly hydrated and limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Take proper rest.
- Try pranayama, meditation, yoga etc.
These will help you in avoiding common causes of headaches.
Making a headache diary can help you identify your triggers and make changes accordingly.
For treating headaches, do consult a neurologist or headache expert if they are affecting your quality of life professionally and personally.
Should I take over-the-counter medication?
Over-the-counter remedies are usually safe, but they do not address the root cause of headaches that is the trigger. One should consult a doctor if a headache persists for proper treatment. Sometimes headaches are also symptoms or other underlying diseases. We at Metro Hospitals have an experienced team of neurologists and Headache specialists who can assist you lead a headache free life.
Dr. Sonia Lal Gupta
Sr. Consultant Neurology
Director – Metro Group of Hospitals