Headache

Headaches inflict their misery in a variety of ways. Some start from a dull, steady ache maybe in the back of the head, maybe on the top of the head or maybe it is just a pain on the left or right side of the head. Others go straight to a blinding, throbbing pain. Nearly everyone has headaches at least now and then, but an unfortunate few experience near-frequent head pain. Common headache types include tension headaches, cluster headaches, rebound headaches, sinus headaches, and migraine.

There are a number of treatment strategies that work best for each type of headache. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen do the trick for many people. Others need muscle relaxants or even stronger medicines. Some find relief from self-help and alternative techniques like acupuncture.

Instead of waiting to be blindsided by another sudden or pounding headache, preventive strategies can be taken, such as using stress management, physical therapy, or exercise in tandem with medications. Another aspect of prevention is learning to recognize and change things that may trigger your headaches — like reducing emotional stress, changing your diet, or getting more sleep. Advances in the medical management of headache mean that relief is no longer just possible, but probable. Although some form of head pain will occasionally visit most people, no one should have to live and suffer with headaches.

Headache Articles

How to handle a headache

Intermittent tension-type headaches can usually be relieved with nonprescription pain relievers. Mind-body approaches and limiting caffeine may help prevent them. Persistent headaches require medical attention to rule out underlying conditions.  (Locked) More »

Keeping a headache diary

A headache diary can help diagnose and treat headaches, identify possible headache triggers and related symptoms, and track the dosage and effectiveness of medications. More »

Botox: It isn't just for wrinkles

Botox has FDA approval for treating uncoordinated eye movement, eyelid spasms, upper limb spasms, chronic migraine, excessive underarm perspiration, overactive bladder, and head-wrenching neck spasms. It is used off-label for other conditions. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Mistaken migraines

Headaches are not the most common symptom of a chronic sinus condition. Frequent headaches that seem associated with a sinus condition may actually be due to migraines. Migraines can be stopped or shortened with proper use of medications. (Locked) More »

Stroke and migraine: What's the link?

Individuals who experience painful migraine headaches that are preceded by the visual disturbances known as aura may be more vulnerable to stroke. The connection between migraine and stroke is complex, and researchers are still piecing together the many possible explanations for the connection. In the meantime, migraine suffers should be aware they may have a higher-than-average stroke risk and look for ways to minimize other factors that could increase their likelihood of stroke.  (Locked) More »

Acetaminophen safety: Be cautious but not afraid

For the average healthy adult, the generally recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is no more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) from all sources. But in some people, doses close to the 4,000 mg daily limit for adults could still be toxic to the liver. It's safest to take only what you need, and to not exceed 3,000 mg a day whenever possible, especially if you use acetaminophen often. More »

Different types of headache need different treatments

The most common types of headaches in older adults include tension, migraine, and sinus headaches. Knowing which type of headache one has will indicate which medications to use first. Sometimes a headache is a sign of a serious medical problem, such as a stroke or high blood pressure. People should seek immediate care for headaches that interfere with daily activities, and headaches that come on suddenly like a blow to the head or cause confusion, eye or ear pain, fever, convulsions, or weakness. (Locked) More »

Migraine

Migraine is a very common, but very particular, type of headache. Most people who have migraine experience repeated attacks of headaches that occur over many years. The typical migraine headache is throbbing or pulsating, and often is associated with nausea and changes in vision. While many migraine headaches are severe, not all severe headaches are migraines, and some episodes can be quite mild. Up to 20% of people in the United States will experience migraine headaches at some point in life. In about half of those, migraine headaches first appear during childhood or adolescence. Two-thirds of people who get migraines are women, probably because of the influence of hormones. Migraines also tend to run in families. Despite years of research, scientists do not know exactly why migraines occur. The pain of migraines is associated with swelling in blood vessels and irritation of nerves that surround the brain. But most experts don't think that this is the direct cause of migraines. The brain doesn't have pain receptors. But it processes pain signals from other parts of the body. It's the pain processing networks, or centers, in the brain that are overly reactive or dysfunctional in migraine.   More »

Migraines: Can dementia, stroke or heart attack be next?

Despite the association between migraine headaches and small brain lesions that can be a risk factor for cognitive decline, it appears that migraines will not hurt thinking skills. However, migraines with aura should be considered a factor indicating increased risk of cardiovascular disease. There is currently no evidence that treating or preventing migraine reduces future risks of heart attack and stroke. People who are concerned about the risk can reduce it by controlling blood pressure, quitting smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. (Locked) More »