Headaches: A Survival Guide to Understanding Brain Pain
Pounding, throbbing, and relentless - headaches are the unwelcome guests that can turn our days upside down. Almost everyone has or will experience a headache at some point. Did you know there are many different types of headaches, distinguished by their origin and unique set of symptoms? Some are minor, lasting only a few minutes, and some headaches are severe ordeals that stretch on for hours or even days. They are even categorized as either primary or secondary: Primary headaches occur when head pain is the condition, whereas secondary headaches result from something else in the body. Keep reading to understand the types and causes of headaches and uncover effective prevention and relief strategies.
Tension headache: This type of headache is often triggered by stress. It may feel like a dull, aching sensation all over the head.
Cluster headache: The cause of cluster headaches is unknown. They can cause severe, piercing pain and usually occur behind one eye or one side of the face. Cluster headaches occur in a series, and people can expect 1-4 headaches in the course of a day.
Migraine headache: Migraines are more intense headaches and can significantly affect the ability to carry out daily activities. They usually occur on one side of the head, and symptoms can include sensitivity to light and nausea. Some causes of migraines include family history, PTSD, poor sleep, skipped meals, dehydration, certain foods, hormones, and chemical exposure.
Hemicrania headache: This type of headache accounts for about 1% of headaches and is much more common in women. This headache lasts for at least three months.
Ice pick headache: Ice pick headaches are sharp, intense stabbing sensations in the head lasting only a few seconds. They can occur multiple times in one day with no warning.
Thunderclap headache: Characterized as an extremely severe headache that comes on rapidly. It reaches peak intensity in under 1 minute. This type of headache can be a symptom of an underlying condition, so it is recommended to see a doctor.
Allergy or sinus headache: Allergies can sometimes trigger a headache in the sinus area and front of the head. You may feel pressure in your eyes, forehead, and cheeks. Migraines are often misdiagnosed as sinus headaches. People suffering from seasonal allergies or sinusitis are more prone to getting sinus headaches.
Hormone headache: This type of headache is linked to hormonal fluctuation. Pregnancy, menstruation, and birth control all affect estrogen levels, which can lead to headaches.
TMJ Headache: TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is the hinge connecting the jaw to the skull. If there is something wrong, it can sometimes cause headaches. TMJ problems can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as teeth grinding or injury.
Caffeine headache: Many of us reach for a cup of coffee to help us get through the day. Some actually need that cup of coffee to get through the day. That’s because caffeine changes brain chemistry, and when you don’t get that expected daily dose of caffeine, withdrawal kicks in, and it may trigger a headache.
Exertion headache: This type of headache is caused by intense physical activity. It is believed that activities such as running or weightlifting increase blood flow to the skull, which can lead to a headache. They don’t usually last too long.
Hypertension headache: Having high blood pressure causes this type of headache. It happens when blood pressure is extremely high.
Does Diet Affect Headaches?
Yes! You may be surprised to learn that certain foods, especially if you are sensitive to them, can trigger a headache. If you frequently experience headaches after eating, it’s good idea to keep a record of the foods you consume. Over time, you may identify patterns and potential triggers. Some foods reported to cause headaches include:
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Caffeine (lack of caffeine can cause a headache, but so can too much caffeine!)
- Cheese and yogurt
- Aspartame sweetener
- Foods containing tyramine, such as beans
- Processed meats
- Foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), such as Chinese food or canned soup
If you notice unpleasant symptoms after eating certain foods, it’s best to steer clear of them. Although some food sensitivities are not fully understood, listening to your body is always the way to go.
Headaches can make it difficult to accomplish daily activities and sometimes can be debilitating. Luckily there are ways to relieve some headache symptoms. Some tips include:
- Drink water: Dehydration is often the cause of headaches.
- Take a nap: If you’re sleep deprived, try taking a nap. Hopefully, the headache will be gone when you wake up.
- Try essential oils: Diffusing essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, or jojoba oil can promote headache relief. You can also rub a small amount onto your temples.
- Use a cold compress: Cold compresses can promote decreased inflammation, slow nerve conduction, and constrict blood vessels which can help reduce headache pain.
- Over-the-counter pain relief medication: OTC medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to relieve a pesky headache. However, excess use of pain relievers can lead to other health complications.
- Try feverfew: Feverfew is often referred to as “medieval aspirin”. It contains various active compounds, including parthenolide, believed to be responsible for its potential health benefits. Some research suggests that it may promote reduced migraine headache symptoms such as pain, nausea/vomiting, and light sensitivity.
Headaches aren’t always preventable. After all, life happens, stress happens, and late nights up happen. But certain lifestyle habits can help minimize the risk of frequent headaches. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and managing stress are fundamentals of good health and headache prevention.
Supplements for Headaches
Headache supplements offer a gentle yet effective alternative to over-the-counter medications, providing relief without unwanted side effects. Check out our curated list of headache supplements to find the natural support for your needs:
Magnesium is a major mineral vital for several bodily functions. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to mild to moderate headaches as well as migraines. Some research has shown that women with adequate magnesium report fewer migraines compared to women with inadequate levels. You can try different forms of magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate or magnesium chloride.
Relax™ is the answer if stress is the culprit of your headaches. This natural supplement promotes stress relief and a healthy nervous system. It can also support healthy sleep.
Vitamin D3 may help prevent and relieve headache symptoms since Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of experiencing them. This could be because Vitamin D plays a role in reducing inflammation. Vitamin D also aids in magnesium absorption, which is also associated with headaches.
Coenzyme Q10 contains antioxidant properties that can promote protection against oxidative stress associated with headaches. It may also reduce levels of enzymes that lead to inflammation during a migraine. It is believed that combining coenzyme Q10 with other supplements such as feverfew, magnesium, and L-carnitine can promote the relief of migraines.
Curcumin Extract or Glucosamine & Chondroitin may be effective if your headaches are caused by problems with TMJ. Turmeric promotes anti-inflammatory effects, and glucosamine supports joint health. Together, these may relieve tension and promote reduced headache symptoms.
Your Hispanic American Health Store
Health Hispanica® is a Hispanic-American health store specializing in supplements from Hispanic-American-owned brands such as Natura-Genics® and Yerba Farma®. We strive to provide quality and innovative supplements at fair prices and educate our clients and community on healthy living.
The statements above have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.