Headaches are a frustrating fact of life. For those of us not suffering from migraines, they’re more of a nuisance than anything. In most cases, headaches are not serious and can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, some people suffer from chronic or severe headaches that require more aggressive treatment.
What Is a Headache?
A headache is defined as pain or discomfort that occurs in any part of the head, including the temples, forehead, back of the head, or neck. There are many different types of headaches, but the most common are tension headaches and migraines.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, accounting for around 78% of all headaches. Migraines, on the other hand, are more severe and can last for several hours or even days.
What Causes Headaches?
There are many different things that can trigger a headache, including:
- Lack of sleep
- Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders
- Hormonal changes (in women)
- Certain foods and drinks (including alcohol, caffeine, and MSG)
- Weather changes
- Bright lights or loud noises
- Strong smells
If you suffer from chronic or severe headaches, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. In some cases, headaches can be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a brain tumor, aneurysm, or infection.
Now, we’ll take a look at some common types of headaches.
Common Types of Headaches
As we mentioned, tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are often caused by stress, dehydration, or muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.
Tension headaches usually feel like a dull ache or pressure around the forehead or temples and can last for 30 minutes to a few hours.
While they can be unpleasant, tension headaches are not typically severe enough to interfere with your daily activities. If you suffer from tension headaches on a regular basis, there are several things you can do to help prevent them, including:
- Practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as yoga or meditation
- Getting regular exercise
- Taking breaks during periods of extended mental or physical activity
- Practicing good posture
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Taking OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
If your headaches are severe or chronic, it’s important to get in touch with a doctor to rule out something more serious.
Cluster headaches are less common than tension headaches or migraines, but they can be quite severe.
Cluster headaches typically come in “clusters,” meaning that you may experience several headaches per day for a period of weeks or months, followed by a headache-free period.
The pain from a cluster headache is usually concentrated on one side of the head and can be described as sharp, piercing, or burning. Cluster headaches can also cause redness or tearing in the eye on the affected side as well as a runny nose.
Cluster headaches are often triggered by changes in sleep patterns, alcohol consumption, or stress.
If you suffer from chronic or severe cluster headaches, you may need to see a doctor. Treatments can include oxygen therapy, injections of sumatriptan (a migraine medication), or even surgery to prevent these headaches from recurring.
Sinus headaches are caused by inflammation of the sinuses, which are the cavities around your nose and eyes. Sinus headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, and facial pain or pressure.
Sinus headaches are usually the result of a sinus infection, but they can also be caused by allergies, changes in weather, or altitude changes.
If you suffer from chronic or severe sinus headaches, you may need to see a doctor for more aggressive treatment. This can include antibiotics, decongestants, or corticosteroid nasal sprays.
What Are Migraines?
As we mentioned, migraines are more severe than tension headaches and can last for several hours or even days. Migraines typically cause throbbing pain on one side of the head as well as other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraines can be triggered by many of the same factors that trigger tension headaches, including stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and certain foods and drinks. If you suffer from migraines, there are several things you can do to help prevent them, including:
- Avoiding the triggers mentioned above: stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and certain foods and drinks
- Taking preventive medications, such as anticonvulsants or beta-blockers
- Applying a warm or cold compress to the affected area
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation
- Resting in a dark or dimly-lit environment
What Is a Migraine Aura?
While not all migraines are accompanied by an aura, around 25%-30% of people who experience migraines will also have an aura. An aura is a visual or sensory disturbance that typically occurs 10-30 minutes before the onset of a migraine.
Migraine aura can take many different forms, but the most common form is visual disturbances, such as flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots. Other less common forms of migraine aura include:
- Sensory disturbances, such as tingling or numbness in the hands or face
- Difficulty speaking
- Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
In addition to being signs of a migraine, if you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical help immediately, as they could also be signs of a stroke.
Ketamine Therapy for Headaches and Migraines
While there is no known singular cure for migraines, there are treatments that can help to relieve the pain and other symptoms. If you suffer from migraines, ketamine therapy is a powerful treatment option.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that ketamine was an effective treatment for chronic migraines, with participants experiencing a significant reduction in pain, aura attack severity, and other symptoms. If you would like to learn more about ketamine therapy or schedule a consultation, please contact us today.