You are here

Help for Headaches: Causes & Cures

Moms and dads have enough metaphorical headaches. Who needs the real thing? Below are five of the most common types and how to treat and prevent them:

 

1. Tension headache

Symptoms

Related to stress and depression, this dull pain and overall tightness can occur on both sides of the head, above the eyes, or in the back of the head. The cause is tense neck, back, and shoulder muscles, which constrict and then expand blood vessels in the head.

Rx

Rest, ice packs (apply for 15 minutes every hour), aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen are recommended. In chronic cases, muscle relaxants or antidepressants may be prescribed.

Prevention

Learn to manage stress through yoga, deep-breathing, or other relaxation techniques. Biofeedback or psychotherapy can help chronic sufferers.

 

2. Migraine headache

Symptoms

More common in women, this severe, one-sided throbbing is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, cold hands, dizziness, and sensitivity to sound and light. Visual disturbances, limb numbness, and, in rare cases, hallucinations can precede these headaches.

Rx

Ice packs, aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, or Excedrin Migraine can relieve pain. In severe cases, a group of prescription drugs called triptans, which constrict blood vessels, may also help.

Prevention

Pinpoint migraine triggers, which include alcohol, menstruation, aspartame, caffeine, chocolate, birth-control pills, stress, possibly smoking, and lack of sleep; avoid all that you can.

 

3. Hunger headache

Symptoms

This generalized pain strikes after several hours of not eating and is the result of lowered blood sugar, which dilates blood vessels in the head.

Rx

Eat a meal or snack rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as peanut butter on a bagel or cereal with skim milk.

Prevention

Ward off hunger by eating three regular meals (balanced with carbs and protein) plus snacks, or four to six mini-meals a day.

 

4. Allergy headache

Symptoms

General pain due to nasal congestion and watery eyes, an allergy headache is caused by exposure to seasonal pollen or molds.

Rx

Depending on severity, treat with over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, steroid or cortisone nasal sprays, or shots to desensitize the body to the allergens.

Prevention

Get rid of pollen by washing clothes, and rinse hair before bedtime. A portable air filter (HEPA-type) in your bedroom can reduce mold and pollen counts.

 

5. Caffeine-withdrawal headache

Symptoms

Throbbing headache due to blood vessel dilation in the head, this occurs when caffeine is eliminated, making vessels constrict, then rebound to a greater-than-normal size.

Rx

Aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can alleviate pain.

Prevention

If trying to eliminate caffeine from your diet, gradually reduce intake over a week's time.

Daryn Eller is the coauthor of Diet 911.

comments