Practical Headache Advice

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints in the UK, affecting 98% of the population at some point.

There are different types of headache. The most common is tension headache. Some headaches may indicate a wider problem - but this is rare.

Most headaches are either tension headaches, or migraines, and can be controlled with treatment.

Common Symptoms Of Headaches

There are several different kinds of headache - in fact, 150 types of headache have been diagnosed.

The most common kinds are tension headaches and migraines. Cluster headaches, sinus headaches, acute headaches and hormone headaches can also occur.

Tension headaches usually cause a feeling of pressure around the brain - a 'constricting' sensation affecting the front, top and sides of the head, accompanied by a dull ache. Stress can cause tension headaches, as can drinking alcohol, not sleeping enough, missing meals, dehydration and depression. Poor posture, fatigue and eye strain can also be typical causes.

Migraines are less common, and more painful than everyday tension headaches.

Cluster headaches cause extreme amounts of pain, which intensifies behind one eye and can occur in clusters lasting up to two months. 

Secondary headaches can be caused by a hangover, an injury, or can occur because of other illness, like flu, or because of an allergic reaction. Taking too many painkillers can also cause frequent headaches.

In women, headaches may intensify due to hormonal changes during periods. The contraceptive pill and pregnancy can also cause hormone headaches.

Practical Headache Treatments

Most everyday headaches can be treated relatively easily. Painkillers like paracetamol can help to reduce pain, while ibuprofen can be effective too if your muscles tighten around the back of the neck.

Migraines can be harder to control and may have different triggers - in some cases, specialist migraine medication is necessary.

Cluster headaches are also difficult to treat - because they can be so long-lasting, painkillers are less effective against the intensity of the pain. Drinking plenty of water will ensure you are properly hydrated and will help detoxify the body.

If you are regularly getting headaches, consider lifestyle changes - cut down on stress, get more rest and avoid alcohol and smoking.

Headaches caused by other illness, such as colds and flu, can usually be controlled using a cold medicine.

Pain from some headaches may reduce with a cool pad placed on the forehead.

If you experience hormonal headaches, be sure to eat small snacks frequently to maintain your blood sugar level, try to establish a regular sleeping pattern, and try to avoid stress.

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