Headaches: More than Just a Head Case

Headaches can be a real mystery- whether you’ve been stressed at the office or you’ve been busy “Whipping your hair back and forth” like Willow Smith, we all get them. Headaches can mean different things for different people, but they are usually defined as any type of pain in the head or neck region, and can last for a variable amount of time depending on what is causing them.  When you think of your own headaches, it’s important to consider a few things: how long do they last, how long have they been going on, what triggers them, are they related to other things in your life (stress, sleep, diet, etc.), and what does it take to make them go away.

Migraine Headaches: These are headaches that can be pounding, severe, and even debilitating. They may last for a few hours but some persist for up to 3 or 4 days. Typically they are throbbing or pounding and can affect your vision, make you nauseated, or feel sensitive to light or sound. These can sometimes be hereditary, and children can also get them.  Migraines usually respond well to modifications in triggers (if you know what they are), or medication that is taken immediately after the onset of your headache. If you wait until the headache is pounding and you’ve barfed up your lunch, it might be too late to see the effects.

Tension or Stress Headaches: These are common amongst both men and women. These headaches are often described as a band of pressure around the head, often accompanied by an aching feeling in the neck and back muscles. As the name implies, they can be brought on by stress at work or home, depression, hunger, or even abnormal posture (if you’re stooped over your desk all day, your $1,000 ergonomic chair can only help you so much).  For many of you, your days usually end after 12 hours in high heels and a business suit, or after chauffeuring your children to soccer and ballet. You don’t have to wait until you realize you forgot to pay your water bill to know that you are stressed. Make an attempt to reduce your stress by prioritizing your “to-do’s” and don’t kill yourself if you don’t finish everything in one day.

Lifestyle:  Always eating on the go, getting very little sleep, or drinking significant amounts of caffeine (or trying to cut back) could all be a cause of your headache. You may think Spicy Cheetos are saving you at 3pm when you crash, but in reality packaged foods usually contain significant amounts of sodium and preservatives, which are both linked to increased blood pressure and headaches. Lack of restorative sleep can also lead to headaches throughout the day. Additionally, make sure you are well hydrated. If water never hits your lips, until you’re sweating at spin class, you are depriving your body of essential hydration that can keep you energized and potentially headache free. Dehydration alone can be a common culprit of recurring headaches.

Medications: All pills aren’t created equal. Even vitamins or natural supplements can contribute to headaches. Medications such as birth control pills, blood pressure medications, antibiotics, and even prenatal vitamins can all cause headaches. If this is the only addition to your routine since your headaches started, speak to your personal physician about adjusting your medications.

Hopefully you don’t have a headache now after reading all that info! But this is the most important part! There are a few symptoms that should not be taken lightly. If you are experiencing any of these, speak to your personal doctor immediately:

  • The headaches wake you up from sleep at night
  • You have a fever along with your headache
  • You are experiencing the most severe headache you have ever had in your life
  • You are requiring more than the recommended dosage of over-the-counter pain meds and your headache still has not improved at all

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