You can divide the world into two types of people those who get headaches and those who don’t.
Those who don’t are lucky. The others suffer in greater or lesser degrees from dull aches, throbbing temples and even nausea and vomiting.
For about five percent of the general population, headache either tension or migraine, becomes a chronic problem that can seriously curtail the enjoyment of living. The rest suffer intermittently, often without seeing a doctor, and are not always sure what brought their headache on.
The more headache sufferers know about their symptoms, the better able they are to determine causes. This has an effect on preventing or diminishing their own headaches.
Headaches come in two basic models: migraine (the eye-boggling, half-a-head splitting kind that can be accompanied by nausea), and tension.
Headaches usually develop when there’s relaxation after stress. If your environment is constant, without complete relaxation or complete stress, you don’t get many headaches. So you have to watch out for sudden changes in the internal or external environment.
Changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle can result in headache. Up to 20 percent of women aged between 20 and 40 have had migraine headaches at some time, usually when the estrogens and progesterone levels in their body drop just before their period. Hormonal therapy cannot be used as it would upset the menstrual cycle itself, creating other problems.
While the contraceptive pill may not help headache sufferers, women are more willing to put up with headaches than with unwanted pregnancies.
People who get severe spasms of the blood vessels with their migraines, or lose their vision or speech or get paralyzed down one side may be made worse by being on the Pill.
Few people suffer so drastically. Those who have tension headaches generally feel something like a pressure band or a weight on the top of their heads.
You can prevent tension headaches if you can keep on an even keel mentally, emotionally and physically.
Relaxation is the key to prevention, and people should learn how to exercise, to relax their jaw or forehead muscles by alternate contraction and complete relaxation.
There are other causes for headache that can’t be helped by relaxation: certain foods (cold ice-cream, some Chinese foods on an empty stomach) and alcohol.
Alcohol is a notorious dilator of blood vessels and dilated blood vessels are a key part of headache.
Abstention from food can lower the blood sugar level and trigger off a migraine. And there is the “benign sex headache,” which seems to be due to an increase of blood pressure from a combination of emotional excitement and muscular contraction, at or approaching climax.
People who suffer from chronic migraines are probably the most unhappy of the lot.
Migraines are commonly one-sided. They may start as a small spot, say behind the eye or temple, and build up until they cover the whole side of the head. Migraine is commonly associated with nausea and vomiting. Light hurts the eye and all the sufferer wants to do is lie in a dark room.
There is a big emotional factor in most cases of migraine.
All sufferers should let their doctors know about their headaches because the medical profession’s multi-faceted attack on both causes and symptoms can make a big difference to their lives.