Most of us experience headaches from time to time. Headache is the most common form of pain. It's a major reason for people missing work/school or visiting their doctor.
Headaches may occur on one or both sides of the head, be isolated to a certain location, radiate across the head from one point, or have a band-like quality. A headache may appear as a sharp pain, a throbbing sensation or a dull ache. Headaches can develop gradually or suddenly, and may last from less than an hour to several days.
The most common type of headache is a tension headache. It is due to tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw.
Other common types of headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches.
What causes headaches?
Tension headaches are often related to stress, depression or anxiety. You are more likely to get tension headaches if you work too much, don't get enough sleep, miss meals, or use alcohol.
People with migraines and other headache disorders have a greater risk of thyroid disease (known as hypothyroidism), celiac disease and obesity.
Dietary triggers are commonly reported by patients with a variety of headaches, particularly those with migraines. Some foods trigger headaches within an hour, while others develop within 12 hours post ingestion. Alcohol (especially red wine and beer), chocolate, caffeine, dairy products such as aged cheese, food preservatives with nitrates and nitrites, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame have all been studied as migraine triggers in the past.
What can you do to alleviate these issues?
The treatment as always includes the following:
1) Lifestyle modifications:
Stay on the regular schedule, go to bed and wake-up at the same time, to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep
Learn relaxation techniques, meditate to relieve the stress
Maintain a healthy weight
Find your food triggers
Ask your doctor to run a blood test on your sensitivity to different foods (available thru our office, but sometimes not covered by insurance), and eliminate them from your diet
Stay on low sodium diet
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Eat plenty of nuts, especially almonds
3) Supplements for prevention and treatment:
Avoid overuse of over-the-counter painkillers, like Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve. Frequent use of these medications can potentiate a rebound headache
Talk to your doctor about prescription medications, if needed
5) Complimentary approaches:
Not all headaches require a doctor's attention. But sometimes headaches are a warning sign of a more serious disorder.
Let your health care provider know if you have sudden, severe headaches or have experienced a recent change in your headache patterns.
Get medical help right away, if you have a headache after a blow to your head, or if you have a headache along with a stiff neck, fever, confusion, loss of consciousness, or pain in the eyes or ears.
For more information on causes and treatment, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000, www.newtowninternalmedicine.com