Treating headaches

Treating headaches

stressed? Headaches are often a manifestation of stress.

Treating headaches

Stress, a common word we hear very often, has several repercussions that affect a person at least once in their lifetime. One of the most common ways it manifests is in the form of headaches.

Long working hours, overuse of gadgets and exams are some of the factors that
induce headaches not only in adults, but among many children as well. Hence, it is considered as one of the most common types of stress.

Headache is the most common reason for patients to seek a neurologist’s opinion. Nine out of 10 adults experience a headache sometime in their life and nearly two out of three children experience headache by the age of 15.

The frequency and severity of pain varies from person to person. Some may experience headaches once or twice a year, while others may experience it more frequently. Some may experience symptoms like nausea and increased sensitivity to light when headaches increase in severity and at times, it can hamper one’s daily activities.

The two types
There are two kinds of headaches, primary and secondary. At times, these can occur  simultaneously:

n Primary headaches: These headaches occur independently and are not caused by a medical condition. The most frequent type of primary headaches are migraines, tension-type headaches and cluster headaches.

n Secondary headaches: These cause pain-sensitive nerve endings to be pressed or pulled or pushed out of place. They may result from underlying conditions such as nerve disorders, infection, medication overuse, stress or emotional conflict, high blood pressure, head injury or trauma, stroke or tumours.

The diagnosis
How and when a person experiences a headache is very important information for diagnosis and complete treatment. In most cases, a physical exam, medical
history and headache history provides information to diagnose the type of headache and determine treatment.

However, in some cases, additional tests like CT scan or MRI of the head may be ordered to detect irregularities in blood vessels and bones, certain brain tumours, brain damage from head injury, brain haemorrhage, inflammation, infection and other disorders.

In some cases, home remedies may be effective, especially for mild headaches. These include simple relaxation techniques such as resting with your eyes closed and head supported. A massage or heat applied to the back of the upper neck can be effective in relieving tension headaches. Over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may also be helpful.

If these remedies do not work, consult a doctor. A holistic and comprehensive
approach will not only help in determining the exact cause of headache, but also in getting an effective treatment.

(The writer is consultant, internal medicine and headache specialist, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru)

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