Head ache and Migraine Care and Treatment
Headaches and migraines affect women, men and children across the country. They are both conditions that cause varying degrees of pain and discomfort, and can be debilitating to the point that they affect a person's professional and social life. The effects of migraines and severe headaches can be difficult for people to understand, particularly if they have not personally experienced them. Often, people do not fully understand what it means to be a migraine sufferer, or they do not realize that not all headaches are the same. When someone cares for or lives with a person who suffers from either of these conditions, it is important that they understand what both headaches and migraines are and that they learn as much as possible about them.
The Difference Between Migraines and Headaches
People who are unfamiliar with migraines often do not understand their severity because they do not realize that they differ from headaches. Although migraines are a type of primary headache they have characteristics and symptoms that other headaches do not. In fact, some health care professionals categorize migraines as a type of neurological disorder. The best way to understand the differences between headaches and migraines is to understand what they are. A headache is pain that occurs along a person's head, upper neck and face. It can last for as little as an hour or it can last for several days, depending on the type and cause of the headache.
With migraines, not only is there head pain, but there are also additional symptoms and characteristics that occur along with the pain. People who suffer from a migraine will also experience at least one other symptom, such as nausea, sensitivity to smells, light or sounds, dizziness, vomiting or some form of visual change or phenomena. Migraine pain also typically occurs on one side of the sufferer's head and can continue for as little as four hours up to 72 hours, or in some cases it may last longer. The throbbing pain of migraines is also more intense than the pain felt with many other types of headaches, and it can occur two to four times a month.
- What is the Difference Between Migraine and Stress Headache?: A brief explanation of the difference between migraines and stress headaches on the University of California, Irvine Center for Pain Management website.
- Migraine Research Foundation: About Migraine: An article that provides information about migraines, including migraines of children and women, treatment, and migraines as a neurological disease. The article explains how migraines are more than just headaches.
- Mayo Clinic: Migraine Basics: The migraine section of the Mayo Clinic that provides basic information about migraines. The link takes the reader to the definition section, which also includes additional links to basics about the causes, symptoms, treatments and lifestyle remedies for migraines.
- What is a Migraine?: A PDF document from the American Headache Society that explains what a migraine is.
Triggers and Characteristics of Migraines
Migraines may be triggered by a number of factors that range from dietary to environmental. These triggers vary and what causes one person to experience a migraine may not necessarily have an affect on another migraine sufferer. In some cases it may be a combination of factors that cause a migraine. Examples of common migraine triggers include alcohol, chocolate, foods that contain monosodium glutamate, or MSG, certain odors or scents, extreme stress, smoking and hormonal changes.
Migraines typically occur in stages, or phases. These phases may include a premonition or prodome phase, an aura phase, a headache phase, and a headache resolution or postdome phase. Each of these phases are accompanied by certain characteristics. In the premonition or postdome stage, a person will experience a symptom that warns them of an impending migraine. Mood changes, cravings or other changes in appetite, bowel problems or increased urination, or excessive yawning are just some of the characteristic symptoms of this stage. Characteristics of the aura stage include changes in ones speech ability, hallucinations, or numbness. This stage typically occurs right before the migraine headache begins. The headache phase is characterized by throbbing head pain and accompanying symptoms such as fatigue and sensitivity to light, sound and motion. The final phase, which is the postdome phase, is characterized by a lesser, lingering pain, irritability and a feeling of fatigue. In some cases the migraine sufferer may experience difficulty thinking or concentrating for several days.
- New York Times Health Guide: Migraine Symptoms: Readers will find common symptoms that are associated with migraines. The article also includes residual symptoms that may follow a migraine. Further on the page there is also information on causes, exams and treatments.
- Migraines: A section on the UC Davis Neuro-Ophthalmology website that discusses migraines. This section focuses primarily on ocular symptoms of migraines, and ocular migraines more specifically.
- Migraine Headache Causes: This article discusses what the common causes and triggers are for migraines.
- Migraine Fact Sheet - Causes: A page on the Womenshealth.gov website that discusses causes of migraines. It includes a list of triggers and explains how to keep a diary to help determine triggers.
Headaches and their Symptoms
There are different types of headaches that a person can experience. These headaches fall into one of two categories - primary and secondary. Primary headaches are the category in which migraines are classified, but it also includes tension and cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not related to health conditions that a person may have. A cluster headache is a reoccurring, sharp, and intensely painful type of headache that appears suddenly and typically on one side of the head. When people experience this type of headache they have clusters of, or a group of, headaches that can last for several days or months and occur several times a day during that time. The type of headache that is the most common is the tension headache. This type of headache is not as severe as other types of headaches and typically feels like a band around the head. This type of headache is associated with stress and occurs on both sides of the head. Symptoms associated with tension headaches include difficulty falling asleep, waking up with a headache and irritability.
Secondary headaches are headaches that are associated with a secondary problem that is usually a health condition or disease. These are the headaches that accompany the flu or when a person has a hangover. Secondary headaches are also associated with serious conditions such as brain tumors or brain aneurysms. A sinus headache is an example of a secondary headache because it is a result of sinus cavities being congested and inflamed. Symptoms of a sinus headache may include a constant pain around the sinuses, nasal discharge, fever, and ear discomfort.
- Headaches: A PDF document that provides information about headaches such as what they, types and common causes. The PDF also discusses when a doctor should be seen and treatment for headaches.
- Wexner Medical Center - Headache: An informational page on headaches. The provided information includes what areas hurt during a headache, causes and types of headaches, and the most serious symptoms. In addition the page tells the reader how headaches are diagnosed and what is involved in their treatment.
- Headache Symptoms: Symptoms associated with common forms of headaches are listed on this WebMD web page. Migraine symptoms are also listed on the page.
How Sound Affects Migraines and Headaches
When it comes to migraines and headaches, they are both potentially affected by sound. In fact, sound is commonly associated with migraines. Some migraine sufferers may find that sound is a trigger for their migraines. During their migraine attack, sound may seem unbearable and louder than it actually is. For certain people, it may even worsen the pain associated with the migraine. In terms of headaches, people who are sensitive to sounds or loud noises may find that they cause headaches to occur or that loud noises aggravate the pain.
- Migraine - More Than a Headache: A PDF article that provides information about migraine headaches, including how sound can be a trigger for migraine headaches and how it may be difficult to tolerate during a migraine attack.
- Sensitivity to Sound: A brief discussion about sound and how it affects migraine sufferers. Examples of different forms of sound sensitivity are given.
Statistically, migraines and headaches are a common and costly problem. In the United States, approximately 4 percent of people have headaches that last more than four hours. Forty five million people have headaches that are chronic and 78 percent experience tension headaches. Headaches lead to health care costs of over $31 billion a year with $4 billion spent on over-the-counter medication. In terms of migraines, every year there are 28 million people who suffer from them, with 70 percent of them being women.
- Could Your Headache Be a Migraine?: An article that discusses migraine symptoms. At the bottom of the page there are also migraine statistics.
- Neurological Disorders – Migraines: A University of New England PDF that provides information about migraines. The brief migraine section of the document gives a few statistics about migraines as well information about symptoms, causes and treatment.
Treatment of Migraines
Migraines can be treated with either over-the-counter medications or with prescription medications that are administered by a physician. Medications can be preventative and taken at the first signs of an impending migraine, or they may be pain relief medications that a person can take during the migraine. Anti-nausea medications may also be given to migraine sufferers to help reduce the symptoms of nausea and/or vomiting. When preventative medications and treatments are given, they are typically for people who experience multiple migraines monthly. Preventative medications may include certain anti-depressants, cardiovascular drugs, and even Botox injections. Non-medicated treatments are also an option for people who prefer to avoid chemicals. This type of treatment generally involves making lifestyle changes and understanding what causes migraine episodes. Lifestyle changes can include eating regular meals, avoiding known triggers such as stress or certain types of food, or a consistent sleep schedule. Herbal remedies, such as feverfew, are also treatment options, but care must be taken, particularly if the person is pregnant or taking certain medications. Other migraine treatment options include massage, acupuncture or acupressure, and biofeedback therapy.
- Migraine Treatment: A page on the ACHE website that reviews common treatments for people who suffer with migraines. Commonly used acute migraine treatments are reviewed as are preventative treatments.
- Guide to Managing Migraines: A PDF guide that explains migraine treatment and prevention strategies. The beginning of the PDF explains what migraines are and their characteristics.
Treatment of Headaches
The treatment of headaches is similar to the treatment of migraines in that it can be preventative or it can be a pain reliever to be taken during the actual headache. In addition, non-medicated treatment methods can also be effective for headache sufferers. The type of medicated treatment method often depends on the type of headache that the person has. A person that suffers from a tension headache for example, will need to take a pain relieving medication. This may be over-the-counter or prescription. Cluster headaches however, can benefit from both pain relievers and preventative treatments. Additional treatments for headaches also include changes in lifestyle such as performing regular exercise, herbal remedies, stretching and massage, and acupuncture.
- Headache Treatment: The reader is given a number of non-prescription medicinal and alternative treatment ideas for headaches.
- Headache Treatment in Adults: A page that lists various types of treatment for headaches. Treatment types are listed by the type of headache.