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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.
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Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS
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