Know Your Pain: Headache – Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
By Alpro Pharmacy
September 19, 2022
I HAVE HEADACHE FREQUENTLY – AM I NORMAL?
Photo adopted from: https://www.regionalneurological.com/types-of-headaches/
Everyone will have their episodes of headache occasionally. According to the World Health Organization, about 50% to 75% of adults aged 18-65 years in the world will have symptoms of headache at least once within the last year.
Some adults may pinpoint what has caused their headache, whether it is because of a late night out, stress or even their kids can give them a headache! However, some may have recurrent headaches and are unsure what has caused it.
Let’s explore different types of headache, some management and prevention strategies as well as when a person with headache should seek immediate medical attention.
Types Of Headache
“I feel throbbing pain at one side of my head and pain is worse when the surrounding is bright or noisy” – Mr A
“I feel tight band around my head and the pain seems spreading to the neck” – Ms Z
Notice that, from Mr A’s and Ms Z’s statements above, how their descriptions of headache are totally different?
Yes, we do have different types of headaches, which can vary greatly in terms of the causes, severity of pain, types of pain, and even the pain location. Some common headaches seen in the community are tension headache, migraine and sinus headache. Table below highlights the differences between them.
Treatment & Management Of Headache
For cases of headache that are mild enough to manage at home, the following suggestions may help reduce the severity of the pain or resolve the headache:
- Rest: Often when we are having a headache, the first thing that we want to do is rest. For some people, getting enough rest can completely help remove their headache. People experiencing migraine are always advised to rest in a quiet and dark room to have faster relief.
- Painkiller: Alternatively, painkillers can also give a quick relief. Paracetamol can be bought over-the-counter (500mg-1000mg, every 4-6 hours when necessary up to maximum 4000 mg daily. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, diclofenac, ibuprofen, mefenamic acid or celecoxib may also be used to help relieve the pain. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist to determine which type of painkillers is the most suitable for you.
- Hot or Cold Pack: Apply cold pack over forehead and back of skull or apply hot pack over neck and shoulders have been found to relieve headache.
- Nasal decongestant: Sinus headache can be relieved by using nasal decongestants (such as hypertonic saline solution, oral or intranasal decongestants) to reduce the mucus accumulation inside the nasal cavity.
Prevention Of Headache
“Too many things to do today and this headache is killing me!”
For some, they can still go through their day even with a headache (albeit painfully!). But for others, it can be debilitating and the only thing you can think of is to sleep. We really, really don’t have time for this headache!
Identifying and avoiding trigger factors such as stress, may help prevent your headache.
These are some tips for you to avoid triggering another episode of headache.
- Get enough sleep – It is best to have a fixed time of getting to bed and waking up. An average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
- Limit caffeinated drinks – people prone to migraine may experience more headache after drinking coffee. In this case, it is best to limit the amount of caffeine consumption (maximum one to two cups a day) and avoid drinking coffee in the evening as it will disturb your sleep. However, some headache medications do contain small amounts of caffeine in it as it helps provide some relief as well.
- Reduce stress – easy to say but not easily done. Try to identify your source of stress. Get organized and try to plan ahead your schedule. You may also practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
Photo adopted from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-reduce-stress-5207327
- Keep a headache diary – headache diary can help you determine the trigger of your headache. For each episode of headache, include the details of when it starts, possible triggers and how long it lasts.. Below are some of the good headache applications available for download in 2022.
Photo adopted from: https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine/top-iphone-android-apps#our-picks
- Supplements – Vitamin B2, riboflavin, 400mg daily has been shown to help with prevention of headache. Consuming coenzyme Q10 150mg-300mg daily or magnesium 400mg daily for 3 months can also help to reduce frequency migraine attacks.
- Preventive medications: for conditions such as migraine or repetitive tension headache, preventive medications such as amitriptyline may be prescribed by the doctor to prevent further headache attacks.
When Should I See A Doctor For My Headache?
Occasional headaches can be easily treated with management and prevention strategies stated above. However if you are experiencing any of the red flag symptoms or conditions below, you will need to consult your doctor:
- Sudden and severe headache which you have never experienced before
- You also have fever, stiff neck, confusion, or difficulty speaking.
- You had a head injury one to three months ago
- Continuous or worsened headache despite rest and pain medication
- Headache is worse when you cough, sneeze, bend or lie down
- You are taking painkillers more than 10 days per month (possible medication-overuse headache or rebound headache which you can seek more information from your doctor and pharmacist)
In conclusion, headaches are very common and can be easily managed. Avoiding trigger factors, enough rest and painkillers are usually sufficient to relieve your headache. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you feel that you have been getting repetitive headaches or you are having red flag symptoms stated above to rule out other underlying medical conditions and get treated accordingly.
Dealing with Headache?
Come to Alpro Pharmacy or Consult Now!
We have PainWISE Accreditated Pharmacists who can help you to understand your pain, empower YOU in managing pain and achieve a Pain-FREE life!
Managing pain well involves multidisciplinary care, it is not only about medication.
- DOC2US – types of migraine and headache. Xoom. (2022, January 20). Retrieved August 25, 2022, from https://www.doc2us.com/types-of-migraine-and-headache
- Jewell, T. (2022, January 24). Best migraine apps of 2022. Healthline. Retrieved August 25, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine/top-iphone-android-apps#our-picks
- Medication overuse headache. The Migraine Trust. (2022, January 19). Retrieved August 25, 2022, from https://migrainetrust.org/understand-migraine/types-of-migraine/medication-overuse-headache/
- MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Headache chart: Types by symptoms, location, and causes. Medical News Today. Retrieved August 25, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/headache-chart#overview