Managing Your Headache

A headache can be chronic, recurrent, or occasional involving the network of nerve fibers in the tissues, muscles, and blood vessels located in the head and at the base of the skull.

Tension-headaches (often related to stress, depression, or anxiety) are the most common type caused by tight, contracted muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp, and jaw.

Overworking, not getting enough sleep, missing meals, and using alcohol or street drugs can make you more susceptible to them.

Other common Causes include:

  • Holding your head in one position for a long period of time like at a work station, microscope, or computer.
  • Poor sleep positioning.
  • Overexerting yourself.
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth.

Sinus-headaches cause pain in the front of your head and face due to inflammation in the sinus passages that lie behind the cheeks, nose, and eyes. The pain tends to be worse when you bend forward and when you first wake up in the morning.

Most people successfully treat themselves with over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve) to control tension and sinus headaches.


Cluster-headaches are a rare type of primary headache occurring in clusters over a period of days, weeks, and sometimes months, separated by pain-free periods of months or years. They may disappear and then recur during the same season in the following year.

The cause of cluster-headaches is uncertain. It may be that parts of the brain begin to malfunction for an unknown reason with some characteristics including:

  • They tend to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic role.
  • May be triggered by changes in sleep patterns.
  • May be triggered by medications.
  • Each episode of pain lasts from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.
  • Attacks tend to occur at about the same time every day and often awaken the patient at night from a sound sleep.
  • The pain typically is excruciating and located around or behind one eye.
  • Patients tend to be restless often pacing the floor, banging their heads against the wall or taking other drastic measures for relief.
  • Much more common in males than females.

Cluster-headaches may be very difficult to treat and it may take trial and error to find the specific treatment regimen that will work for each patient. Consult with your doctor as some medications used for migraine treatments seem to work well along with other prescribed medical treatments.


A migraine headache usually is severe and occurs with other symptoms such as visual disturbances or nausea.

The pain may be described as throbbing, pounding, or pulsating, tending to begin on one side of your head, although it may spread to both sides.

You may experience an "aura" (a group warning symptoms that start before your migraine) and the pain usually gets worse as you try to move around.

A migraines may respond to over-the-counter medications. If you cannot control your pain, talk to your doctor about possible prescription medications such as; Cafergot, Midrin, Maxalt, Relpax, Axert, and Zomig.

Sometimes medications to relieve nausea and vomiting are helpful for other migraine symptoms as well.


Take the following symptoms seriously. If you cannot see your health care provider immediately, go to the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • This is the first time you have ever had one in your life and it interferes with your daily activities.
  • They come on suddenly and is explosive or violent.
  • You would describe this is as "your worst ever", even if you are prone to headaches.
  • It is associated with slurred speech, change in vision, problems moving your arms or legs, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss.
  • It gets progressively worse over a 24 hour period.
  • It is accompanied with fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting.
  • It occurs with a head injury.
  • It is severe and localized to one eye wit redness in that eye.
  • You are over 50 and your headaches have just begun, especially with impaired vision and pain while chewing.

The following healthy habits can lesson stress and reduce your chance of getting a headache:

  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stretch your neck and upper body, especially if your work involves typing or using a computer.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Learn proper posture.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Learn to relax using meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or other techniques.
  • wear proper eyeglasses, if needed.

There are many causes for a headache including environmental issues, skeletal structural problems, nerve disease, a brain aneurysm, tumors, strokes, or brain infections. Don't ever take your pain lightly it could be signaling a more serious issue and always seek professional advice when in doubt.

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