28 Mar Basics of Headache Treatment – from a Maryland pain clinic
Headaches are one of the most common complaints of pain. Many people experience them at least one time in their life, regardless of age, gender, or race. A headache can affect one portion of the head (such as the top), or pain can occur all over the head.
A wide range of different conditions can cause secondary headaches. These include:
- Hangover (alcohol-induced)
- Brain tumor
- Blood clots
- “Brain freeze,” or ice-cream headaches
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Overuse of pain medication, known as rebound headaches
- Panic attacks
According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of headaches among adults is around 50%, which means they are quite common. Around 63% of adults age 18 to 65 years in the world have experienced a headache during the past 12 months. Among those who have headaches, 30% are affected with migraines. When headaches occur 15 or more days each month, it is chronic daily headache, and these affect around 3% of the general population.
Symptoms and Types
A headache can occur in any part of the head, on both sides of the head, or just in one location of the head. A headache can be sharp, throbbing, or dull, appear gradually, or come on suddenly. The pain may last from less than an hour up to several days, and it can radiate across the head from a central point or have a vise-like quality. Below are two headache types:
- Primary headaches. Primary headaches are stand-alone illnesses caused directly by the over-activity of, or problems with, structures in the head that are pain-sensitive. This includes the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of the head and neck. These headaches may also result from changes in chemical activity in the brain. Common primary headaches include migraines, tension type, and cluster headaches.
- Secondary headaches. These headaches are symptoms that happen when another condition stimulates the pain-sensitive nerves of the head.
There’s also many different types of headaches within primary and secondary. These are:
- Tension headaches. These are a common form of primary headache. The person can feel as if they have a tight band around the head, with a constant, dull ache on both sides. The pain may spread to or from the neck. Such headaches normally begin slowly and gradually in the middle of the day. Tension-type headaches can be either episodic or chronic. Attacks are normally a few hours in length, but can last several days. Chronic headaches occur for fifteen or more days a month for a period up to three months.
- Migraine headaches. This is the second most common form of primary headache, and it can have a major impact on the life of an individual. It is known to be one of the highest disability reasons worldwide. A migraine can last from a few hours to between 2 and 3 days. A migraine headache may cause a pulsating, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. The aching may be accompanied by blurred vision, light-headedness, sensory disturbances, and nausea.
- Cluster headaches. These are a less common form of primary headache. Without warning, they strike quickly, one or more times a day, around the same time, and often. They can last between 10 minutes to many hours, and they can linger from six weeks to many weeks. The pain caused by cluster headaches is severe, often described as sharp or burning, and it is normally located in or around one eye. The affected area may become red and swollen, the eyelid may droop and the nasal passage on the affected side may become runny and/or stuffed up.
- Rebound headaches. Commonly known as over-use of medication headaches, are the most common secondary headache. They stem from an excessive use of medication to treat headache symptoms. They usually begin early in the day and persist throughout the day and may improve with pain medication, but tend to get worse when medication runs its course. Rebound headaches can cause a range of symptoms, with different pain each day. Rebound headaches can cause restlessness, neck pain, a feeling of nasal congestion, and reduced sleep, along with the headache itself.
It’s always a good idea to keep a diary account of headache pain in order to present it to your doctor. This way the doctor will have a good idea of when your headaches occur and how long they last. Also, state what type of headache you feel you are having by explaining it in detail. Then, he/she will be able to make a diagnosis on what particular type of headache through a description of the condition, the type of pain, and the timing and pattern of attacks.
- Rest and pain medication are the two best ways of treating a headache.
- Medications for migraines may include prophylactic medication and/or abortive medications.
- Over-the-counter pain medication will help in many cases. Be careful with overusing over-the-counter meds, due to the possibility of rebound headaches. If this happens, stop the medication. If the headaches persist, see a doctor.
- Heat or ice packs may help certain headaches, especially tension-type.
- X-rays and scans. The doctor will be able to see any fractures, deformities, or swelling using these imaging tests.
- Ice packs/heat therapy. Apply the packs to the back-neck area for a short amount of time. Don’t overdo any ice or heat treatments, and never let it get too hot.
- Eat and exercise daily. Move around, and focus on regular meals.
- Don’t stress situations, and avoid stressful life circumstances when possible.
- Interventional pain treatments may include
- Medial Branch Block
- Cervical facet joint injection
- Occipital Nerve Block
- Radiofrequency ablation of the occipital nerves.
- Electrical stimulation
All Star Pain Management in Maryland with Dr. Zamfirov offers exceptional headache treatment. Dr. Zamfirov evaluates each patient individually, and customizes treatments which may include medication management, interventional procedures, and possibly a combination. Most insurance is accepted at All Star Pain, call today for the top headache specialist in Maryland!