There are so many types of headaches, one hardly knows where to begin, but I’m going to give it the good old college try in the hopes that this will provide useful information so you can treat them appropriately the next time you experience one of these nasties:
Tension headaches – the most common type, feel like a constant ache or pressure around the head, especially at the temples or back of the head and neck. Not as severe as migraines, they don’t usually cause nausea or vomiting, and they rarely halt daily activities.
Over-the-counter treatments, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, are usually sufficient to treat them. One needs to always check the contra-indications, even with over-the-counter medications, as, for example, headache tablets containing aspirin can irritate one’s stomach lining. Experts believe these may be caused by the contraction of neck and scalp muscles (including a response to stress), and possibly changes in brain chemicals.
Cluster headaches, which affect more men than women, are recurring headaches that occur in groups or cycles. They appear suddenly and are characterized by severe, debilitating pain on one side of the head, and are often accompanied by a watery eye and nasal congestion or a runny nose on the same side of the face.
During an attack, people often feel restless and unable to get comfortable; they are unlikely to lie down, as someone with a migraine might. The cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but there may be a genetic component. There is no cure, but medication can cut the frequency and duration.
Sinus headaches – when a sinus becomes inflamed, often due to an infection, it can cause pain. It usually comes with a fever and can be diagnosed by symptoms or the presence of pus viewed through a fibre-optic scope.
Headaches due to sinus infection can be treated with antibiotics, as well as antihistamines or decongestants.
Rebound headaches – overuse of painkillers for headaches can, ironically, lead to rebound headaches.
Culprits include over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, as well as prescription drugs.
One theory is that too much medication can cause the brain to shift into an excited state, triggering more headaches. Another is that rebound headaches are a symptom of withdrawal as the level of medicine drops in the bloodstream.
Migraine headaches – migraines can run in families and are diagnosed using certain criteria:
- At least five previous episodes of headaches
- Lasting between 4–72 hours.
- At least two out of these four: one-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate-to-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activity.
- At least one associated feature: nausea and/or vomiting, or, if those are not present, then sensitivity to light and sound.
A migraine may be foreshadowed by aura, such as visual distortions or hand numbness.
Last, but certainly not least, there are what I’ve coined as water headaches. A water headache isn’t, as one would think, a headache brought about by drinking ice cold water or eating ice cream, but headaches that occur precisely because we’re not drinking sufficient water.
Yep, can you Adam and Eve it – nasty, painful headaches can easily be brought on by not drinking enough water. Of course if you bash your head (or bash your head after falling down from imbibing too much alcohol, that’s a double trouble problem), and you’ve a sore head, drinking water isn’t going to help reduce that soreness, sorry for you.
But if you find that all of a sardine you’re experiencing more headaches than usual (and you haven’t bashed your head or pulled muscles and you’re not prone to migraines), there really is a simple and inexpensive solution to test the theory, dearie: up your water intake. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the result.