Headaches: A Primer

When headache pain strikes, your first inclination may be to hit the medicine cabinet. But depending on the type of headache, common over-the-counter medications may not do the trick. Here are the seven major types of headaches, their common symptoms and effective treatments. Note: If you have any concerns about your headaches or suffer from them frequently, be sure to consult your physician.

1.Tension Headache. Can appear as a one-time occurrence resulting from stress, fatigue, anxiety, or anger. Commonly felt as a dull throbbing in the forehead, temples, or back of the head and neck. Best treated with over-the-counter pain relievers. Tension headaches can also be chronic, meaning they can occur every day with little relief offered by over-the-counter pain relievers.

2.Migraine Headache. A very common and extremely debilitating type of headache typically felt on one side of the head and often accompanied by other neurological or visual symptoms. Can be caused by food triggers, lack of sleep, stress, or hormonal changes. Usually best treated with stronger prescription medicines or relaxation techniques.

3.Cluster Headache. The most severe and intense type of headache, commonly felt as a series of piercing, burning, or blinding pains on one side of the head. Can be triggered by chronic smoking or alcohol consumption. Typically treated with prescription medication.

4.Hormone Headache. Experienced only by women during the menstrual cycle. Caused by fluctuations in levels of the hormone estrogen. Symptoms are similar to those of migraines and can be treated with prescription meds or relaxation techniques.

5.Rebound Headache. Caused by the development of drug dependency even with mild over-the-counter pain relievers. If you take pain medication too frequently, your body requires more medication to ease the pain during the next headache, and headaches can begin to develop when the medicine starts to wear off. The best way to treat this is to eliminate the drug dependency.

6.Sinus Headache. Usually associated with sinus infections or allergies and most often treated with over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines.

7.Organic Headache. Caused by the presence of benign or malignant brain tumors. These account for less than 5 percent of all headaches and may not be easily treatable with medications. Consult your physician if you suspect an organic headache.

8. Caffeine Headaches
Try to cut back on your daily caffeine intake. Instead of stopping suddenly, gradually reduce your consumption. Caffeine is psychologically addictive as a mild stimulant. Quitting cold turkey may lead to symptoms of withdrawal, including headaches, anxiety, irritability, and muscle aches. Caffeine itself does not cause headaches. However, caffeine does constrict blood vessels and restrict blood flow. Although heavy doeses of caffeine are harmful, caffeine is commonly added to over-the-counter pain medications to increase their ability to relieve headache pain. Limit your daily intake of caffeinated beverages. Ease off the caffeine gradually to avoid experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.

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