Sunday, September 20, 2009


So you get Migraines?

            One of the most common terms thrown around by people is Migraines. A lot of people actually don’t know that a Migraine isn’t synonymous with the term headache. A migraine is just one out of the hundreds of headaches which are discussed by the International Headache Society. In fact there are many different characteristics which go into determining the type of headache you have. It can depend on the number of attacks, the nature of the headache and even its location. .

So when is my headache something serious or just a headache?

            Research and doctors have different opinions on what is warranted as a “red flag” for indication of a serious headache. Firstly, any new headache in someone over the age of 50 should be considered to be looked at by their doctor. Another thing to watch out for is any abnormal changes which occur to your common headaches. For example a headache that occurs 5 times a week but has just recently started to be accompanied by a lose in your peripheral vision. Such changing characteristics can be an example of a brain tumor which grows over time and different symptoms start to evolve. Any headache with neurological signs should definitely be examined by a professional as well. This can involve losing your vision before a headache comes on, “feeling like the rooms spinning” or numbness along the face. Headaches with a fever and a stiff neck should also warrant an emergency situation with the possibility of it being meningitis. Lastly and most importantly any headache which comes on after head trauma definitely be sent to the hospital. Such examples could include a fall from a sports injury or a car accident. Headaches occurring after a head injury can indicate a concussion or internal bleeding. This is often seen as the cause of death in many who experience fender benders and continue their day as if nothing serious has occurred.

So my headache doesn’t appear serious, what causes my everyday headache or migraine?

            Research has examined the cause of headaches and migraines for years to only find there is not one simple answer. The most common method used by Medical Doctors, Neurologist and people in the alternative health care field is what’s called a headache diary. In this diary a person writes down characteristics of their everyday headache and life. When their headache started, how long it lasted and its intensity. Headache diaries as well can help pinpoint activities, food, drink and even social situations which may be causing a person’s headache. Things that stimulate the onset of a headache are called “triggers”. Common triggers consist of different foods like chocolate, cheese, bananas and even foods with high levels of MSG like Chinese food or bologna. When it comes to beverages the most common triggers are red wine, high caffeinated and diet drinks as well.  However, not eating or drinking enough can also bring on headaches when people are dehydrated or skipping meals. One of the big areas in research with headaches is the involvement of hormones. Evidence for this can be seen with women experiencing headaches almost twice as much as men. Also, headaches that appear with relevance to their menstrual cycles, during pregnancy and menopause. Changes in barometric pressure due to flying or the weather can also be a trigger. Even more confusing is what’s called a “rebound headache” brought on by headache medication. That’s correct, taking medication to help your headache can actually on occasion cause more headaches. When one takes a lot of medication for a headache that has established itself as a regular occurrence they may expose this headache to a transformation. This means that your 5 day a week Migraine may now get transferred into a 7 day a week tension headache.

So what do I do for my headache?

   If any signs are present which are mentioned above I strongly recommend seeing your family doctor or a neurologist regarding the problem. If your headache appears to be relatively “benign” meaning nothing too serious there are many options. For a common headache try some over the counter medication. However, if you are a chronic headache sufferer it is good to consider a combination of things. First, taking a headache diary is a good help to any health care provider to determine what is causing your headache. Lay outs for these diaries can be found online. Secondly, trying to avoid the many “triggers” mentioned above should help eliminate some of the options of things that may be causing your headaches. Third, depending on your current health status talking to your doctor about different medication options and being screened by a neurologist may be of help. In addition, seeing alternative health care has also been shown to be effective with headaches. This can range from anything such as a good diet layed out by nutritionist or naturopath, exercises, massage and other options from your local chiropractor. Chronic headaches often have a high association with depression, sleep problems and substance abuse as well, so consulting a councilor may be important. There are even migraine support groups online where people share information.

1 comment:

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