Although there are more than 200 types of headaches documented, health experts are of the opinion that they can be classified into three categories.
As the name suggests, headaches are best defined as a pain which originates in the region of the head or the neck. As the brain has no pain fibers, the pain usually originates in the surrounding structures such as the muscles and the periosteum that surrounds the skull in addition to the neck tissues, ears, eyes and the sinuses.
The International Headache Society has classified different headache types.
Different types of headaches and their symptoms:
- Primary Headaches
- Cluster Headaches
- Tension Headaches and
- Secondary Headaches
- Rebound Headaches
- Allergic Headaches
- Cranial Neuralgias
- Facial Pains
- Other types of headaches
Primary headaches are far common than secondary headaches, over 90 percent of all headaches are primary. They usually do not have any underlying cause. They are also known as idiopathic headaches. The predominant school of thought is that primary headaches could be due to interplay of environmental, genetic or developmental factors.
Thus, it is not surprising that there are no tests which can help arrive at a diagnosis. The good news is that primary headaches are seldom life–threatening.
Statistics indicate that the type of primary headaches continues to be cluster headaches and tension headaches.
Cluster headaches are not new to healthcare, considering that they were first diagnosed way back in the 17th century. However, it came to be known by the present name only in the 20th century.
One of the simplest headaches to diagnose, it typically begins and is limited to one side of the face. Specifically, cluster headaches originate around or behind the eye and could vary in intensity from mild to severe.
Although, an attack may last from 15 minutes to 3 hours, it can occur to a max of eight times a day, thus making it a very disruptive condition.
Cluster headaches are relatively rare and men in their early twenties are more prone to such headaches as compared to women and children.
Cluster headache treatment
Treating cluster headaches can be a challenge, and some of the more effective home remedies may include:
One of the most effective home remedies for treating cluster headaches is using peppers. To illustrate the case in point, when peppers are consumed regularly, it significantly lowers the risk of recurrence. This could be attributed to the fact that peppers have an active chemical ingredient called capsaicin which can reduce the level of substance P in the blood stream. Substance P is instrumental in relieving pain as it is a powerful pain sensation transmission chemical ingredient.
The melatonin option
A disturbance in the sleep and wake pattern can trigger off cluster headaches. This pattern is usually regulated by a specific hormone known as melatonin. In instances where melatonin levels are depleted in the bloodstream, observational studies indicate that administering melatonin supplements helps in reversing the condition.
Stress and stress like conditions invariably trigger cluster headaches; hence it is not surprising that stress busting techniques like meditation and yoga are known to help.
Although, seldom life threatening, primary headaches like tension and cluster variants can severely compromise the quality of life that one leads. This could be attributed to the fact that the severity and intensity can be high and may even obstruct day to day functioning.
Stress headaches or tension headaches, as they are more commonly connoted, are arguably the most common type of primary headaches. 88% of all women and 64% of men experience at least one episode of tension headaches in their lifetime. This is standing evidence of the fact that stress headaches exhibit a gender bias with women being more commonly afflicted as compared to men.
Headaches are periodical and when they occur for less than fifteen days in a month they are called episodic and connoted as chronic when they persist for more than fifteen days in a month.
As per stats 30 to 80% of Americans suffer from a tension headache at any given time, which makes it a relatively common headache variant.
Some of the major triggers which could start or aggravate a tension headache may well include factors like:
- Inadequate rest
- Enhanced anxiety states
- Altered mental equilibrium like depression
- Losing a job or getting a new one and
- Getting married or having a baby
Thus, any unusual occurrence or major milestone in life can trigger an attack, that this is categorized as one of the most frequent types of headaches that one may encounter in a lifetime.
Although over the counter or OTC medications can help control the symptoms, headaches are best treated by minimizing or reversing the triggers through counselling and advocating.
Alternatively, some of the effective home treatments which have proved to be particularly beneficial may include:
An ice pack is applied to the affected or painful area which could be in the region of the forehead, temples or the strained muscles of the neck. The preferred duration being 15 minutes and it invariably results in instant relief.
Physical therapy exercises are particularly helpful if you are experiencing a persistent contraction of the muscles in the region of the neck.
Rest and massage
Resting or taking a nap helps when the trigger is overexertion or lack of sleep. On the contrary, when there is excessive stiffness of the muscles of the neck, gentle massage of the area is effective.
As the name suggests, secondary headaches are usually secondary to a primary cause like an underlying illness or even an injury. Alternatively, medication overuse can trigger a specific type of secondary headache known as rebound headaches.
When you reach out to the medicine cabinet every time you get a mild headache, you are creating a trigger for a rebound headache in the future. In simple terms, when one treats every single episode of headache with pain relieving medications, there comes a stage when withdrawal of the drug can lead to yet another headache which is known as a rebound headache.
Rebound headaches are easy to diagnose, considering that there is a history of taking pain relieving medications frequently. Concurrently, this is one type of headache which is accompanied by symptoms like nausea, irritability, inability to concentrate and low energy levels.
As pain killers will further aggravate rebound headaches, it is now advocated that home remedies are the pick of options. Some of the common home cures which have returned encouraging results may well include:
This ancient Chinese treatment option works on the concept of inserting fine needles in specific locations. This helps release pain relieving chemicals into the central nervous system and hence provides instant relief.
Some of the dietary supplements like feverfew and magnesium have proved to be particularly beneficial in control and reversal of symptoms associated with rebound headaches.
One of the more popular options, biofeedback can help ‘teach’ your body and regulate your response to pain. The sessions are structured where one would be connected to numerous devices which would then monitor the heart rate, breathing rate and muscle tension.
Thus, logically rebound headaches are best prevented by avoiding misuse of pain relieving medications. The preferred option is to adopt natural remedies for headaches when viable and keep medications as a last resort option.
Allergy headaches are one of the most fiercely debated but least understood types of headaches in contemporary times.
The name is suggestive considering that headaches which are triggered by an allergic condition or food. This initiates an inflammatory reaction, releasing chemicals such as serotonin, prostaglandins and histamine and finally triggers off migraines.
Alternatively, nasal congestion is yet another medical condition wherein the nerves in the nasal passage are activated leading to sinus a headache or a migraine. Concurrently, allergens also alter the mood and may produce a depression like condition. This in turn triggers off depression headaches and may even aggravate migraine attacks.
Allergic headaches are easy to diagnose, they are usually associated with a positive history of exposure to an allergen. This is further confirmed by the presence of a throbbing headache on one side of the face and a runny nose. These symptoms are invariably associated with redness of the eyes and a congested conjunctiva.
When the trigger is a nasal congestion, experts are of the opinion that administering nasal steroid can reverse the condition. Steroids will clear the nasal congestion quickly and will concurrently inhibit leukotriene release, thus arresting migraine attacks.
Alternatively, administering allergy shots can lessen the severity of a nasal congestion and allergic rhinitis which helps to control allergic headaches. Finally, allergen foods should be removed from the diet and this would help reverse allergic headaches.
Menstrual headaches or hormonal headaches, as they are more commonly known, usually inflict women during the first two days of their menstrual period. These episodes are self–limiting, considering that they begin to recede once the periods are over.
Clinical studies have concluded that fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone levels are instrumental in triggering hormonal headaches. Thus, it is no coincidence that their frequency tends to spike during the start of a menstrual period as well as during a menopause.
The commonality in both life stages being that hormone levels tend to fluctuate during the start of the menstrual cycle and again at the start of a menopause. The mechanics are simple, as the woman approaches the stage of menopause her estrogen and progesterone levels first surge and then dip. This is then followed by a state of permanent dip in estrogen levels.
These fluctuations tend to affect the brain and leads to hormonal headaches which will subside once menopause occurs.
Hormonal headache cures
According to MayoClinic, persistently elevated as well as continuously depressed estrogen levels can lead to hormonal headaches. To illustrate the case in point, when a woman has been experiencing persistently elevated estrogen levels and then shows a sudden drop in levels, she may begin to experience a severe hormonal headache.
While estrogen dilates the blood vessels in the brain, progesterone forces them to constrict. This frequent activity of expansion and constriction of the blood vessels in the brain results in strong pain sensations and one would begin to experience hormonal headaches.
Regardless of the cause, hormonal headaches are usually due to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone levels in the blood stream. This is best corrected by adopting a lifestyle reset program.
The shift in diet plan is about adopting a gluten free diet which is low in processed sugars and red wine. The results are encouraging, as it can help reverse the symptoms commonly associated with hormonal headaches.
Nutritional deficiencies can trigger off hormonal headaches; hence it is not surprising that supplements that replace CoQ10 and Magnesium are particularly helpful in controlling this disease condition.
The Peppermint option
Peppermint is no technology breakthrough, it has been used to treat hormonal headaches for hundreds of years. A pot of peppermint tea boiled to perfection works wonders when consumed judiciously throughout the day.
High blood pressure headaches
High blood pressure or hypertension, as it is better known in medical terminology, is a silent killer and affects one fifth of the world population. Thus, it is not surprising that high blood pressure headaches are an important element of health and wellness.
If you have been experiencing a sense of dizziness and pressure behind the eyes, you must have your blood pressure monitored. You may be suffering from a high blood pressure headache which requires immediate correction.
Conversely, it could be surmised that if one has been diagnosed with a high blood pressure then it is important that even minor headaches must not be ignored.
Typically, headaches associated with a high blood pressure are best diagnosed through a clinical history wherein the patient has a history of a high blood pressure. These headaches usually occur early in the morning and are seldom experienced later in the day.
High blood pressure headache is one of the major disruptive conditions in contemporary times. According to experts, these headaches are best controlled by keeping the blood pressure within limits.